Assuming that you have been learning how to play the guitar as an instrument with good instructions, tips, and examples, there are a few things you need to be professional. By that I mean, find a sustainable way to play guitar to make a living.
Skills needed to be a professional guitarist
- Learn how to record yourself, even if you don’t want to become a recording engineer.
- Learn to operate some basic DAWs like Reaper, Cubase, logic, etc.
- Learn the jargon for other instruments. This will help you communicate with other musicians better.
- Be flexible in playing a variety of things on the guitar. Learn the basics of many different genres.
Learn to follow other’s instructions even if you disagree with them. Music is collaborative and you will not always be in a position to call the final shots.
- Establish a musician’s network and know the pros and cons of a variety of musicians around you.
- Learn allied skills like Video editing, background score, jingle writing, etc.
- Learn to play what is needed. On most occasions, the best chops and licks in your bag might not be useful.
- Learn a new instrument or learn to sing. As there is a surplus of guitarists everywhere, find more and more things you can do. Add hard to acquire skills. Be multifaceted.
- Buy good equipment. Let’s face the truth here. Music is technology dependent and having good gear is necessary to be self-reliant as well as creditworthy to your clients. So, if you don’t have good gear, save and buy some good gear. Overdoing big purchases is not necessary but having completely reliable high-quality gear is essential. After all, the gear is your tool in making music.
- Learn to listen to music from other instrument’s point of view. Be welcome with toying around with a lot of different styles.
- Learning to record is covered in point 1. Learn to record tightly. You can be professional and make a living only if you are a rock-solid guitar player who does whatever he/she can with perfection.
- In a professional setting, “I am trying to learn this and will get better soon” is NOT a valid excuse. You’ll be paid to do things correctly. It’s better to stay simple and be tight instead of doing complicated things sloppily.
- Ask for money and justify it just like a lawyer or a software engineer would. You will essentially provide a professional service so you need to be compensated for it. There is general shame around musicians that musicians won’t earn money well. The fact of the matter is that musicians should also not settle and be ok with substandard (un)professional interactions. Try hard enough and you will certainly find a way to earn money. Use your allied skills to the fullest.
- Finally, always learn new things. You may just have an advantage over your competition by getting more creative or finding the sweet spot to charm your audience. Keep exploring.
Hope you make it as a professional guitarist! Are you interested in pushing your limits as a guitarist? Use these neuroscientific techniques to be the best guitarist you can be!
Aditya Shukla is an applied psychologist from Pune, India. He loves to design ways to implement psychological research to improve as many things as possible – learning instruments, product design, online learning, experiences, writing, etc. He is also a professional guitarist & mentor. Loves Sci-fi & Coffee. Can’t whistle.