I often get asked what it takes to become a professional guitarist. I would begin by asking what your goal is as there are many options. Do you want to be a recording artist, a studio guitarist, a touring guitarist, a teacher, a composer and so on?
Guitar as a career can be very seductive. A career as a guitarist can seem like the dream life. Lets take the guitar hero idea. The fantasy of many young aspiring guitarists is that rock stars have a life full of excitement. Travel, adoring fans, fame and fortune. While this is indeed sometimes the case many of these young guitarists overlook the sacrifices that come as part of the deal. A life on the road may seem exciting at first but it should be understood that it is often hard work. I spent more than a decade playing the live circuit in it was no holiday. A typical day meant practicing in the morning, preparing for the gig at around lunch time, driving sometimes for hours to get to the venue, setting up the gear and doing sound checks prior to the venue opening its doors (before 6pm), doing the gig through till midnight or later, packing up and then driving home in the early hours of the morning. Most days were 12 or more hours.
If you do a tour you can expect an enormous amount of travel which is very tiring as you are sitting in buses, planes, trains or cars for many hours at a time on an almost daily basis. Don’t forget that as you become more successful you are constantly in the spotlight and much of your privacy is lost. I am not trying to put you off here but rather preparing you for it.
Becoming a pro-guitarist
The bottom line is you are a product and you need to develop and market your product. In other words you must be offering something that people want and you need to find your audience. Lets explore this in more detail.
Your skills – Developing means refining both your skills and your sound. Its important to keep improving the quality of your playing because it gives you more confidence and more options. Why limit yourself? In the G4 GUITAR METHOD we help students develop the 7 essential skills because these 7 skills are the basis to almost everything you will need as a professional guitarist.
Your sound – At the end of the day if you want to stand out you need a uniquely identifiable sound. When we think of Hendrix, Angus Young (AC/DC), Van Halen we instantly recognise their sound. Developing your sound means being the best you! Every player has role models and influences so don’t be afraid to take your ideas from those who you admire but just remember to be aware of your own sound. We don’t need another Hendrix. Jamming with lots of different players is also a good way to improve your own sound as each player adds a few ideas to the mix.
Marketing yourself – Try to audition and play live as much as possible. At first anything will do but as the demand for your services increase you need to be more selective about your gigs. Having a clear career goal helps you to navigate in the right direction so try to write down goals.
Teaching – I have always believed teaching is a great option because it is a way of giving back. If you do decide to teach avoid doing just for the money. If you don’t actually enjoy teaching then don’t do it. You are better off working in a supermarket. Apart from the fact that teaching is very satisfying your students often become your biggest and most loyal fans. They along with many of their friends will turn up to your gigs.
Hope that helps to get you started but feel free to email me any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
David Hart – Program Director
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