What It’s Like to Study Singing at a Top Music College

Jacob McCaslin on the microphone
Jacob McCaslin is a scholarship student at Berklee College of Music and his YouTube channel has 1.5 million views.

He gives us an insight into Berklee life and tells us how to succeed on YouTube.


Jacob McCaslin using his new TC-Helicon microphone

How did you feel when you first started Berklee?
I thought I was going to be the best guitarist and singer, because I was one of the best musicians in my small little town. But Berklee is a playground of every city’s best musicians. I was pretty discouraged at first when I realized how talented everyone was. But when you surround yourself with amazing talent, it only pushes you to get better and better.

How has your voice changed throughout your time at Berklee?
My vocal range has grown immensely. I’ve had the opportunity to sing in the men’s gospel choir which pushed me to sing higher for longer. Being surrounded by so many talented singers inspires you to practice as much as possible. I was much sloppier at riffs and runs but now my intonation and precision has been fine tuned.

How can formal training benefit a musician or songwriter?
The greatest asset a trained musician has is intention. I know why certain chords make you feel a certain way; which makes song writing less of a challenge. That’s not to say you can’t be a great musician without training, but there are a lot of advantages to understanding the inner and outer workings of your craft.

A musical lesson you’ve learned the hard way
I’ve learnt so much at Berklee but I tended to jam-pack all of this into my writing and playing, and this was actually taking away from the music. I was less focused on writing meaningful music that could connect with people on an emotional level. Our job is to invoke emotion with listeners. Musicians with longevity are the ones that connect with people on an emotional level.

Your YouTube videos looks great – how do you create them?
My videos are mostly multi-angle productions. If you only have one camera and you still want that multi-angle professional quality, record multiple takes of your performance from different angles and then piece it together in post. If you nail the first or second take, you could also use the audio as playback and essentially film other angles while lip-syncing.


Record multiple takes of your performance from different angles and then piece it together (Adapted from Facebook)

A tip on ‘performing’ in the YouTube venue?
Good lighting, sound, and video quality all play a major role in making a great video. That being said, no high-value production can save a bad performance. Sometimes you’ll find that a great performance will still generate millions of views even if the video doesn’t have great video or audio quality. The performance trumps all other factors.

What’s the key to getting loads of subscribers?
Keep up with YouTube analytics – get to know your audience! What are your viewers searching when they find your videos? How long are they watching each video? Which videos of mine are driving my subscriber count? The answers are all in the stats.

What’s your top piece of advice for other singers?
If you wanna make it as a singer or musician, you have to be listening to a lot of new music, constantly. If you’re not inspired, you’re never going to reach for new heights. I find that I perform so much better if I listen to my favorite artist right before I play a gig or record a new video.

Jacob bio

Jacob McCaslin is an award winning vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. While only 21 years old, he is recognized as a gifted guitarist by respectable guitar players and dubbed a virtuoso singer by vocal authorities. Jacob currently studies at Berklee College of Music, as a scholarship student.

Website | YouTube | Twitter