1. Practice, Practice, Practice
Professional musicians often begin their careers without knowing it at an early age. If you’re past that point, there’s hope. Take lessons with a professional instructor and practice as often as possible. If you’re a university student, depending on your level, consider playing an instrument in a band or orchestra. Use any opportunity you have to practice. Here’s a tip: record yourself frequently and listen. You’ll be amazed at what you hear when you listen to your recorded work.
Here’s another idea: consider studying at a conservatory — a school that offers specialized training for aspiring musicians. Studying at a conservatory requires that you practice frequently, and audition well — your acceptance depends on it.
2. Study Music Theory or Music Performance
Get your bachelor’s degree in music theory or music performance. Earning your undergraduate degree is a requirement if you want to become a music director or composer. Even if you don’t want to be either of those things, getting your degree is still a good idea. Here’s why: credibility. Any interested employer who sees that you have an undergraduate degree in music will take you seriously. Check out London’s Institute of Contemporary Music Performance.
If you go, make sure your program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music — this requires at least one audition (See #1). With both degrees, you’ll study music education, modern popular music, music culture, and music history. In addition to the chance to specialize, you’ll have the chance to study conducting, performance, orchestration, and methodology. The programs at the University of Northern Iowa and Greenville University offer music programs that might just be what you’re looking for.
3. Work Ethic and Coping Skills
Working as a professional musician requires that you have what it takes: a work ethic and the ability to work under pressure. In other words, being a professional musician means you must have grit.
Learning anything — especially an instrument — takes commitment. Preparing for auditions, which are a requirement in the field, takes practice and dedication. Rehearsals and practice will become a part of your life. Professional musicians do not have nine-to-five jobs—you take your work with you wherever you go.
Learning how to take criticism—which comes with the territory — means you’ll have to have coping skills. Professional musicians must have a way to cope with the stress of critics and occasional failures.
4.KEEP IT FUN
While it’s important to work on your scales and other (more boring) techniques – don’t forget to keep your practice sessions fun! Learn your favourite songs and work on new material around your more regimented exercises to make sure you feel fresh and enthusiastic about your instrument. The worst thing for a musician is when playing becomes a chore, rather than an enjoyable experience.
5.MOVE OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE
It’s often tempting to stick with what you know, but as a musician, you should try to leave your comfort zone as often as possible, discover new ways to play and constantly challenge yourself. Yes, it can be frustrating, and yes it’ll be hard work, but the rewards mastering something brand new are worth it. In a year’s time, you’ll look back with pride to see how far you’ve come!