Whether you are just starting out or you have been playing for a couple of years and have decided that you would like to make a living as a professional guitarist, there is a long road ahead of you. Some people never get beyond jamming to backing tracks in their bedroom, some play in bands that appear at local bars and clubs, but very few reach the point where they are able to make enough money from their playing to live comfortably. Below, I take a look at some of the factors that can make all the difference between being an enthusiastic amateur and a highly polished professional.
1. Practice – if you only ever pick up your guitar at the weekends and play the same old blues licks for half an hour before heading out to do the weekly grocery shopping, you are never going to make it as a professional. This may sound a little harsh but it is better to face the truth now than to kid yourself otherwise. You need to learn your instrument inside out in order to play for a living and that is not going to happen without regular, focused practice sessions.
2. Dedication – if you only play for fun and you come across a technique that is hard to master, the chances are you will simply skip it and move on to something less demanding. However, if you are determined to play professionally, you will need to find the dedication that is necessary to keep on trying when you face setbacks or when you seem to have hit a brick wall, technically speaking. There are many excellent publications you can buy that outline difficult techniques and plenty of free tutorials online so no matter how much or how little money you have to spend on your passion, there is no excuse for not gaining complete mastery over your instrument.
3. Equipment – a good guitarist can make almost any instrument sound good but there are limits and if you want to play for a living, you will be expected to own at least one good quality instrument, preferably more. Whether you are a confirmed Gibson fan or you cannot wait to get your hands on one of the fender electric guitars that are hanging in your local music shop, investing in a high quality instrument is something that you should seriously consider if you are determined to realize your dreams.
4. Creativity and style – whilst you might be able to make a basic wage playing covers in local clubs, if you want to rise to the top you will need to come up with your own distinctive sound. Instead of learning other guitarists’ solos note for note, try to come up with your own. Study the various scales and modes that accomplished players use, as well as the chords over which they can be played, and practice the art of improvisation. This is one of the hardest steps towards becoming a professional but, in my opinion, an absolutely essential one. When people can immediately tell that it is you playing, just by listening to a recording, then you know that you are making real progress.
There is much more involved than this but if you practice regularly, have the dedication to overcome issues with your technique, invest in good quality equipment and develop your own style, you will be a lot closer to meeting the criteria for playing professionally than many guitarists. As with most things in life, a healthy dose of good fortune will not go amiss when trying to make it as a musician.
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