“You couldn't not like someone who liked the guitar.” - Stephen King, The Stand
There are millions of guitarists all over the world but very few of them are paid to play their favourite instrument. It can be difficult to make a career out of playing guitar. It’s a pretty unique job, too. Every guitarist’s career is different and there’s no career path set in stone that you have to follow.
In this article, we’ll be looking at how to make a career out of playing the guitar.
Playing Guitar Professionally in an Orchestra
It can be difficult to get a job in an orchestra. There are a few around the country but places are scarce. Generally, you’ll have to have had a lifetime of learning your instrument in conservatoires or music schools to stand a chance.
Conservatoires are often considered to be the best establishments in the country for learning music, especially classical music. Children can attend from as early as six months old and by the time they reach degree level, they’ll be experts in music. Even if you’ve spent your whole life in conservatoires studying how to play the guitar and are amazingly talented, you might still struggle to get a place in a national orchestra.
In an orchestra, you’ll earn a wage as you play along with other musicians. The established career path is to work your way up to soloist. There you’ll have the chance to an acoustic or electric guitar. Your wage will generally adjust per your seniority in the orchestra.
Find out more about playing guitar professionally.
You can also teach others how to play music as a music teacher. A lot of musicians want to share their knowledge and passion for music with aspiring musicians and guitarists. Similarly, there are plenty of people who want to improve their guitar playing or just learn how to play guitar. Teaching guitar comes in many shapes and forms and whether you're a guitar teacher in a school or offering private guitar lessons, each comes with its pros and cons.
In State Schools
To teach in British state schools, you’ll usually need qualified teacher status (QTS). Usually, to do this, you’ll need a degree in music and a teaching qualification.
As a teacher, however, you won’t get to spend that much time playing your guitar. Generally, you’ll focus on teaching students about music in general, the culture surrounding music, and music theory. They’ll be more interested in reading sheet music than fretting a guitar. At a higher level, you may be helping students with their music GCSEs and A Levels.
Newly qualified teachers will start on £24k (£30k in inner London). The pay ranges can go up to as high as £121k for a headteacher in inner London.
There’s a different type of teaching in conservatoires. Generally speaking, the higher your seniority, the more you’ll earn.
There are options to teach aspiring musicians of all ages. Conservatoires also teach undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses. Over time, you can increase your earnings.
In Private Music Schools
How much you earn and your career prospects will depend on the school that you’re working for. You might start by teaching beginners before moving onto more advanced students. If you’re teaching in a private music school, your wage will be subject to supply and demand rather than national policy.
As a Private Music Tutor
You can always teach aspiring guitarists in private tutorials. You could start easy with a beginner's guitar lesson before moving towards more advanced tutorials. The more students you teach, the more experience you’ll gain and the more you can charge for your tutorials.
Bit by bit, you can increase your rates. However, private guitar tutorials aren’t a walk in the park. You need to stay competitive.
For example, as a guitar teacher, whether you teach classical guitar, jazz guitar, or beginner guitar lessons, you can make yourself a Superprof profile and start reaching more potential students.
Similarly, you can offer face-to-face music lessons or online music lessons. Students can learn to play the guitar either in-person or remotely thanks to the internet. You can teach plenty of different types of guitar lessons.
Private lessons take careful planning and every guitar instructor, whether they're teaching blues guitar, rock guitar, or just some basic chord progressions, should take the time to carefully plan their guitar instruction.
Learn more about the advantages of being a professional guitarist.
Playing Guitar in a Band
You might fancy forming a band to play rock, jazz, folk, or blues, for example. This is a great way to gain experience as a guitarist.
That said, being in a band is a lot of work. You need to be a professional musician, composer, and entrepreneur at the same time. To get gigs, you’ll need to be business savvy and have a knack for networking.
Looking After Your Image
Most bands include a singer, bassist, drummer, guitarist, and sometimes a pianist, cellist, violinist, trumpet player, etc. The first thing you need to work on is your band’s music and then your band’s image. After all, your band is a brand. There are a few things that you’ll need to think of:
- The name.
- The music.
- Branding: logo, photos, etc.
- The names of your albums.
- Your message.
- How you’re going to promote your music.
While the music if your main marketing tool, you’ll also need to think about how you’ll get the word out. Make sure you make use of the right marketing channels. Perhaps you’ll create a YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram account, or a SoundCloud account.
Learn more about how to become a professional guitarist.
Don’t forget that the guitar is at the centre of everything you do in terms of your career. Don’t rest on your laurels and make sure that you keep working on learning new techniques and staying sharp.
If you’re not a whiz with social media but your drummer is, let them take care of it. In a band, each person should work to their strengths. You might be better at playing the guitar than finding gigs, for example.
Take the time to talk to your drummer and bassist about your goals.
You could have the following goals:
- Rehearsals or practices: practise X times a month.
- Writing songs: write X songs.
- Finances: earn X per month for your group or an amount to record an album, for example.
- Social: get X followers on social media, etc.
- Promotions: film a video, send albums to X number of record labels.
- Concerts: play X concerts a year.
Find out more about how much guitarists can earn.
Measuring Your Success
There’s no point in setting goals if you have no way to measure whether or not you’ve achieved them. You need to be able to evaluate to what extent you’ve achieved your goals. You’ve done X concerts, X songs ready for the album, and X songs recorded in a studio, etc.
By regularly measuring how things are going, you’ll be more motivated.
Just because you’re in a band, it doesn’t mean that you can’t go solo. You don’t have to leave your bandmates behind but you can also record your own stuff. You never know, you might be asked to perform on TV.
As you’ll have understood, your career as a guitarist depends heavily on the route you decide to take and the opportunities that you get along the way.
If you'd like to learn more about the guitar and how to play it, consider getting help from one of the many talented tutors on Superprof. There are several ways you can learn to play the guitar and there's something for every level and every budget.
Face-to-face tutorials are between you and your tutor and you'll enjoy lessons that are tailored to you and what you want to learn. While these tend to be the costliest type of tutorials, they're also very cost-effective as every minute is spent helping you to improve your playing.
If you can't find any tutors near you, there's always the option to learn how to play the guitar with online private tutorials. Thanks to video conferencing software, you can now be taught by tutors all over the world. Online tutorials tend to be cheaper than face-to-face tutorials.
Finally, if you're looking to save money, group tutorials are usually the cheapest per student per hour as you're all paying for the tutor's time. However, you won't get the personalised service you would expect from the other types of tutorials.