The music industry has always been competitive, and many new musicians wonder if they have what it takes to “make it.” Making music for fun isn’t so hard, but turning that passion into a career is a whole different ball game. Though there’s some luck involved, becoming a professional musician is equal parts dedication, patience, and practice. If you’d like to become a pro someday here are five things you can do right now to become a better musician.
Have a Patient, Persistent Attitude
This might be the most important thing on the list, which is why we’re giving it the top spot. A career (of any kind!) doesn’t happen overnight, so you can’t expect the same from the arts. Even famous musicians who seem to appear out of nowhere have been carefully planning and working towards that time for years, sometimes decades. Whether you play the violin or want to be a singer, make small steps to improve your craft each and every day. If you constantly seek out new opportunities, it’s completely possible that a particular gig or jam session may put you in a more stable position. The bottom line: focus less on the “big break” and more on growing your talent and career gradually.
Learn How to Improvise
Improvisation is a huge part of being a professional musician–some professionals spend more time improvising than playing music from a book! It’s also one of the scariest and most difficult tasks to learn. To start, ask your teacher to help you improve your improvisation skills. When it comes to improvisation, it’s important to remember that different musicians improvise in different ways. For this reason, it might be beneficial to seek improvisation advice from a variety of different musicians, your teacher included. After all, what works for one musician might not work for you, and vice versa.
Never Stop Learning
Some of the best musicians make the mistake of thinking they’ve learned everything they can possibly learn. This is untrue, even of award-winning musicians who sell out the biggest arenas around the world. True artists never stop absorbing knowledge and ideas that enrich their minds. Read, listen, watch, ask questions, and immerse yourself in music whenever possible. Don’t discount unconventional sources of wisdom, either. Who’s to say you won’t learn a thing or two from a veteran. Even if they’ve never held an instrument before, they know quite a lot about discipline. Always take what you learn in your personal life and see how you can apply it to your life as a musician.
Staying committed to your art is essential for earning respect from your colleagues, your family and friends, and ultimately your fans and the industry as a whole. It can be super tempting to skip out on practicing in favor of spending time with your friends or getting some extra sleep, but always remember that without practice you simply won’t progress. If you’re finding it hard to stay motivated, ask your teacher for some pointers. Most teachers are accustomed to students who lose interest or have difficulty staying dedicated, making them a valuable resource. You can also check out this article for more tips on how to stay motivated.
To put it simply, there is no substitute for real-world experience. If you don’t perform regularly with your music program, find a local open mic night and try to perform once a week. Some open mic nights specialize in promoting beginner musicians, so you won’t have to worry about being “good enough” to perform. The more you put yourself out there and perform in front of others, the more comfortable you’ll become with interacting with a crowd. Learn to communicate with the audience, work on your timing, and most importantly, relax and have fun. Open mic nights are supposed to be fun for performers and audience members alike. If you do make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. Take a deep breath and keep going–the show must go on!