Pro Tip #19: 10 Tips To Becoming A Professional Musician

By Sam Wilder

So you always wanted to be a professional musician? See your name in magazines, your band logo on album covers or postered all over town, hear your songs on the radio, and don’t forget that rock star life you dream of. But without a doubt there are a ton of challenges on the path to becoming a professional musician. Here are some tips to help you reach your goal.

1. Practice, Practice, Practice
Let’s start with the obvious. If your dream is to be the next Van Halen or Satriani but your legato or tapping techniques leave a lot to be desired. Or you are an aspiring drummer who doesn’t know diddley about mastering their paradiddles. Don’t worry! Whether you’re a beginner or advanced you can always progress with regular practice or with the help of an experienced instructor.

2. A Little Patience
The ability to play complex melodies, difficult chords or super fat grooves right off the bat is pretty rare. So it pays off to have patience… especially with yourself. This includes the boring repetitive exercises of going up and down scales or playing that solo over and over for the millionth time to nail that perfect take. Keep in mind that all your idols went through the same process.

3. Perseverance
The previous tip leads us to another good one, perseverance. Set your goals and stick to them. Real pros do not throw in the towel in the face of adversity. While others become dissapointed when problems come up you will be already looking for solutions to move forward.

4. Handling Criticism
As a budding musician, you’ll need “thick skin” to deal with comments and criticism from fellow musicians as well as the general public. They will always have an opinion and different tastes than yours. But Pros know how to use criticism and make it constructive, whether from fans, critics or crappy comments on social media.

5. Guidance
Seeking guidance in a mentor is often critical for growth as a musician. A mentor should be someone who already reached the goals you have set and may often have the relevant advice and contacts you need. Not only will they be able to tell you what works or not, they’ll know all about a musician’s life on stage and in the studio saving you from numerous career disasters.

6. The Pursuit of More
As a professional there’s a lot to learn. Not only in terms of musical skills and theory, but also in the basics of business related issues. Although it’s best to have an expert repair your equipment or get a lawyer for legal issues, a little know-how in these matters as well as promotion know-how can be super helpful.

7. Handle With Care
As my momma always said “take care of your stuff”! A professional musician is aware of the importance of their investments, their equipment, their accessories and the maintenance of all of it. This ensures that their instruments are always ready for use and are reliable for years to come. For example learn how to change your strings, make minor neck adjustments and for the love of God buy a guitar stand. Nothing hurts more than watching your favorite axe crash to the ground because you leaned it against your amp.

8. Be Prepared!
If you’re well prepared for rehearsals, shows and recording sessions you’re already thinking and acting like a pro. And even if you can’t predict everything in advance, it’s a good start. Is there a new set of guitar strings ready in the rehearsal room? Do you carry spare batteries for your wireless system? If so, you’re on the right track.

9. Punctuality
Punctuality is a true professional trait. Arriving ahead of time at the rehearsal room is an indication that you take your professional goals seriously. This is a quality often overlooked by amateurs and it’s certainly not advisable to start in this business with a bad reputation.

10. The Courage to Take Risks
Between all your practice, planning and preparation you should always be willing to take risks. No need to stage dive off the lighting rig or subs but a bit of madness and surprise always pumps up the crowd. An improvised solo, an open jam session, a perfectly timed scissor kick, whatever. Just do your thing!

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