The future of music

How to Become a Musician: Comprehensive Guide

December 29, 2023
how to become a musician

There’s no doubt about it – if you want to become a professional musician, you’ll have to put the work in. 

But in this digital age of streaming platforms and music distribution services, releasing music and growing an audience has never been easier.

And regardless of what type of musician you want to become, there’s a way to start your journey the right way. 

So in today’s article, we will take you through all the steps on how to become a musician, but we will also tell you how to achieve your goals and get yourself noticed. 

What Do Musicians Do?

Before digging deeper into specific steps on how to become a musician nowadays, let’s clarify what being a musician really means.

By definition, a musician is a person who plays a musical instrument or is musically talented.

A musician can refer to any individual who is connected to music, from singers and songwriters to instrumentalists, composers, and conductors. 

So, there are different types of musicians, based on their field and skills.

But musicians (especially singers) can also be independent or have a record deal.

Furthermore, musicians can embark on a solo career, or they can join a band or an orchestra.

That being said, musicians can participate in a variety of tasks and creative processes, including:

  • Performing in front of an audience
  • Composing music
  • Writing songs
  • Touring
  • Recording in a studio

It all depends on your goals and abilities.

How to Become a Musician – 6 Steps 

Regardless of what type of musician you want to become, being a professional musician is so much more than playing notes on an instrument or singing melodies. 

Being a musician means communicating and connecting through music.

The thing is, anyone can learn how to play an instrument.

But developing musicality and intricate music skills takes time.

Now, many professional musicians (mostly those who play an instrument) have a music degree, but formal music education is not a prerequisite.

After all, even if you have a degree, you’ll have to back it up with good music and prove your skills.

Regardless of your previous experience and goals, these are the steps you’ll have to take if you want to become a musician: 

1. Choose Your Path

If you want to start a music career, you first need to decide what type of musician you want to be.

You should choose a path based on your goals, skills, and interests.

Skills are probably the most relevant factor here, although that also depends on the profession.

Conductors, composers, and musicians who are part of an orchestra usually start with music lessons at a young age.

A person playing piano in front of a crowd.

On the other hand, some singers didn’t necessarily take piano lessons when they were a kid.

The truth is, it’s never too late to take music lessons and start enhancing your skills.

But you need to set realistic goals nevertheless.

With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to consider your skills and experience when choosing the music path you want to take.

2. Pick a Genre

The next thing you should think about is the music genre and style you’re interested in.

If you want to become a singer, you can choose from a variety of genres, including pop, rock, jazz, country, opera, folk, and so on.

If you’re not sure what direction you should take, you can consider the following factors:

  • Your voice type (whether you’re a bass, soprano, alto, etc)
  • Your vocal range 
  • Your timbre (what makes your voice unique)
  • Music genre you feel most comfortable with

And the same goes for other professions – you’ll just have to consider different factors.

If you’ve been taking both piano and guitar lessons, try to determine which instrument suits you better.

And if you’re starting your musical journey from scratch, explore all of your options and pick your instrument carefully.

Consider the music you want to play and your goals.

If you’re interested in classical music, you can choose from a variety of brass, woodwind, and string instruments. 

And if you want to join a band or write your own songs, it would be best to go with a piano, guitar, or bass guitar.

Either way, picking a direction and music genre early on will help you get through the next steps.

3. Improve Your Skills

One of the best things you can do to become a musician is to practice regularly. 

Regardless of which instrument or singing style you chose, practice is essential.

Having a natural talent for music can certainly help you in your journey of becoming a successful musician, but it’s not the only thing that will determine the level of your success.

Let’s take singers as an example – people who are born with a naturally pleasing voice need to learn how to control it. 

And many would agree that singing is more of a learned skill than a natural talent.

It’s a similar case with playing an instrument –  some students develop skills on a musical instrument much faster than others, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to work hard to become skillful musicians.

Musical skill is a matter of aptitude, and it’s a result of years of hard work.

That said, even if you already have certain skills and experience, you should keep practicing and expanding your knowledge. 

woman playing the guitar while singing

But how can you become a better musician and improve your skills?

3.1. Take Music Lessons 

One of the best ways to become a better musician is to take music lessons.

Even if you dream of becoming a singer or songwriter, taking piano lessons would be very beneficial for you. 

And if you want to focus on a specific instrument, you should keep expanding your knowledge and reach for more advanced levels.

Luckily, there are many amazing options for learning these days.

Thanks to online learning, you can even learn and make progress from the comfort of your home, which means you’re not limited by your location or your budget. 

You’ll only need your voice or your instrument and an Internet connection. 

There are many great online learning options you can explore and choose a method and program that fits your abilities, goals, and learning habits. 

You can choose from: 

  • Online music programs – subscription-based programs that usually offer linear lessons and useful online learning tools
  • Music learning apps – apps that usually feature gamification elements and short, engaging lessons
  • Online music lessons – private virtual classes with a qualified music teacher or vocal coach

Online lessons and apps are usually very flexible, affordable, and effective.

That said, you should take advantage of all the learning options you have at your disposal.

3.2. Improve Your Voice 

If you want to join a band or an orchestra, having good singing skills is not necessary.

But it’s definitely helpful.

And if you want to become a professional singer, having a good singing voice and technique is a must.

Regardless of your goals and current abilities, we suggest you enhance your skills.

To improve your singing voice, you can:

  • Learn how to control your voice
  • Learn how to sing on pitch
  • Expand your vocal range
  • Explore different vocal registers and singing techniques 

Learning how to sing well takes time and practice, and that’s why you should integrate vocal warm-ups and exercises into your daily routine.

Even 15-minute vocal practice a day will bring you results.

But ideally, you should practice at least 30 minutes every day. 

woman playing ukelele while looking outside

If you want to bring your singing skills to another level, you need to structure your practice effectively, and you should make it versatile. 

For instance, you can sing high notes and scales, practice using your head and chest voice, practice hitting the correct notes (singing in pitch) and singing in key, and so on.

And don’t forget to warm up your voice first. 

All of these singing exercises will help you extend your vocal range and hit the notes you never thought you could.

If you’re a singer, your voice is your instrument; and that’s why sticking to a regular practice schedule is so important.

You need to keep your voice in the best shape possible.

But you also need to take care of it (just like your instrument) – while practicing and doing vocal exercises, make sure you’re not straining your voice; you might damage your cords otherwise.

Nevertheless, practicing regularly and gradually improving your voice is the key.

If you want to start your career as a musician, you should approach it as you would approach starting any other career: with dedication and study. 

3.3. Learn to Read Music

As an aspiring musician, you should also learn the fundamentals of music theory.

Most working musicians read music and are familiar with basic music theory.

So if you want to become a well-rounded musician, becoming musically literate will take you there.

Even if you want to become a singer, familiarizing yourself with standard notation and music theory will help you on your journey.

Music theory will help you understand important concepts and terms such as tessitura, vocal weight, timbre, musical phrasing, and so on.

And if you’re learning how to play an instrument, studying music theory will simply be a part of your course (if you opt for a well-structured, thorough learning program.)

Theory lessons include reading notes and learning about rhythm, melody, expression, dynamics, scales, harmony, and so on. 

Music piece on a keyboard

All traditional music school curriculums include music theory lessons – that’s simply something every music student has to go through.

Knowing how to read notes is an essential skill for every player.

Whether you’re interested in classical music or punk rock, music theory knowledge can only help you out.

Music is a language, and understanding its written form is the only way to start a band, join an orchestra, and so on.

On the other hand, many performers don’t know how to read music.

There’s even a rumor that the Beatles never learned music theory.

But learning music theory (at least how to read music) will not only help you understand the structure of the piece, but it will make your learning process easier in the long run. 

There’s no doubt about it – learning music theory will ultimately make you a more complete musician.

3.4. Explore Different Styles and Fields  

Another way to improve your music skills is to explore different music genres and styles.

If you want to become a rock guitarist, of course, you’ll mostly play rock songs.

Getting to know the rock genre will be your purpose and your passion.

But getting out of your comfort zone and trying other styles and genres will help you develop as a player.

And the same goes for singing and any other profession.

Also, you never know – maybe you’ll discover a new passion or skill.

Either way, switching up your practice routine and expanding your repertoire will help you with your primary choice.

headphones on top of a speaker

Besides listening and trying out different genres, you can also expand your knowledge about different music fields.

For example, if you’re a singer or a songwriter, it might not be a bad idea to learn more about music production.

Music production is a multi-stage process of creating a song from start to finish, and it includes songwriting, arranging, recording, mixing, and mastering.

Getting to know what all of these production stages involve could certainly be helpful and interesting.

Plus, this kind of skills and knowledge can certainly give you an edge over your competition.

Also, if you want to make it in the music industry, you can take marketing classes or simply read or watch tutorials about different aspects of being a musician. 

There are so many things to learn if you want to enter the music industry, including how music royalties work, what is copyright, how to promote your music, and so on.

That said, focus on the topic that might be relevant to your field of choice and start learning!

4. Work on Your Musicality

As we mentioned earlier, natural talent doesn’t really matter in the bigger picture.

Of course, the ability to master skills and music techniques more easily is indeed helpful, but it’s not a prerequisite for becoming a good musician.

On the other hand, there’s something that can truly help you out – musicality. 

Musicality is arguably some of the most important qualifications for becoming a musician.

And although musicality might sound like something innate, it can be developed. 

Generally, musicality refers to a set of “inner skills” that allow you to express yourself in music. 

A person who is considered musical can perceive and reproduce differences in aspects of music (such as pitch, rhythm, and harmony) on some level. 

But musicality also involves general sensitivity to music.

And that’s something that can be nurtured, taught, and learned. 

man with long hair playing guitar

Becoming musically literate can help you work on your musicality.

Music theory will give you a deeper understanding of how music works.

But developing musicality can also involve:

  • Learning how to play by ear
  • Learning how to sing in tune
  • Listening to music you identify with
  • Playing songs 
  • Improving your rhythm 

5. Connect With Other Musicians 

Becoming a musician can be a lonely process – it involves a lot of practicing by yourself.

But if you want to enter the music industry or simply become a better musician, you should reach out to other musicians.

For instance, if you play guitar, bass guitar, piano, or drums, you can join a band.

This could mean anything from forming a band with your friends to joining an established band.

It all depends on your skills and goals.

Either way, it’s important to form industry connections because that can help you get new opportunities. 

But meeting fellow musicians will also make you feel more connected and confident. 

You should also try to surround yourself with musicians who are more experienced or skilled than you are.

That way, you can get valuable advice, and you can even receive constructive feedback.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of networking.

The music industry is a very network-oriented business, and forming good connections will help you get your music heard.

If you want to become a singer, making connections with fellow singers is just as important as meeting producers, promoters, and other relevant people from the music industry.

So, whether you want to work in a theater or headline music festivals, connecting with the right people is important.

6. Record Yourself

Finally, if you want to know how to become a better musician, you should start recording yourself.

That will give you an idea of how you sound while you sing or play an instrument.

But recording your music is important for another reason – it will allow you to share your music.

If you record your performance, you can send it to someone experienced and ask for feedback – this way, you’ll know what you need to improve.

You can even make a music demo.

A demo is a draft version of a song or performance recorded to demonstrate your skills and showcase what your music is all about.

Artists make demo tracks and send them to record labels and music publishers.

A demo can also help you audition, book gigs, pitch your song, and so on.

And since demo tracks aren’t meant to sound like a finished record, you can easily record them at home.

man voice recording on laptop

With basic recording equipment, you can make a good quality demo recording without hiring a professional.

Some of the things you’ll need include:

  • A Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)
  • A computer or laptop
  • An audio interface
  • A microphone
  • Headphones 

If you want to record songs in the future, you can also invest in a home recording studio.

Building a home recording studio can be expensive, but you don’t have to get high-end recording equipment to produce good beats, at least not in the beginning.

But purchasing basic recording equipment or setting up a home studio will also help you boost your creativity.

And creativity is one of the most important assets of every musician.

That said, try to compose or write a couple of songs – explore different songwriting methods and composing techniques and try to turn your vision into music. 

Another activity that will help you boost your creativity as well as help you improve your overall music performance is improvisation.

You don’t have to record your improv sessions, although that can also give you insight into your performance and help you track your progress.

Is It Hard to Become a Musician?

A musician is usually defined as a person who plays an instrument or is musically talented.

But as we pointed out in this article, being a good musician implies so much more than simply being able to play notes or sing.

And that’s especially true for people who want to become accomplished musicians.

So what does it take to become a professional musician?

First of all, what qualifications you need to become a musician depends on the specific path you want to take.

Musicians who want to join a symphony orchestra need to show exceptional playing skills and in-depth knowledge of music theory.

On the other hand, musicians who dream of becoming rock stars will have to make great music and work on their image and performance skills.

music concert with lots of people

Either way, if you want to start earning money as a musician, you’ll have to prove your skills and stand out from the crowd. 

And that’s not a piece of cake.

Succeeding as a musician requires dedication, persistence, and practice. 

It also requires finding your own unique style. 

But if you have a passion for music and you’re ready to work hard, there’s no reason why you should not succeed in making your dreams come true.

Starting a Career in Music

Becoming a musician and building a successful music career are two different things.

You can be a musician and play for your own pleasure, or you can form a band with your friends and play at local venues.

But if you’re ready to step up your game and enter the music industry, you’ll have to be prepared for certain challenges.

1. Setting Goals 

You’re probably familiar with the fact that the music industry is oversaturated.

With streaming platforms, digital promotion tools, and social media, everyone can put their music out there for the world to hear.

But you can also turn that into your advantage.

If you want to make music, write songs, or perform, you’ll need to find a way to release your music or pitch your song to a publisher.

Now, you have two options:

  • Get signed by a record label
  • Become an independent musician

As an independent musician, you can release your music via music distribution services.

And that’s a great way to get your music heard without losing creative rights and music royalties.

You can also contact a music management company to help you out.

And if you’re playing an instrument, you should get in contact with relevant musicians, companies, agents, and promoters.

The truth is, there isn’t any single pathway to entering the music industry. 

But the important thing is to set clear, realistic goals and work on their achievement.

2. Finding Your Style 

To succeed as a musician, you need to find your own voice on your instrument or develop your own unique singing style.

If you want to get yourself noticed, you have to offer something truly unique – whether that’s your signature playing style, a song, or your vocals. 

On the other hand, something new and different isn’t necessarily something good.

That said, the best way to express yourself and build your musical identity is to be honest and authentic.

Think about the message you want to get across and add your own expression and emotion to your performance.

3. Promotion and Marketing 

Another thing you’ll have to focus on if you want to start a career as a musician is music marketing and promotion.

This is especially important for musicians who want to write and release their own music.

Man playing the electric guitar

Music marketing and music promotion are often used interchangeably.

However, music marketing considers the bigger picture (the what, the why, and the where), while music promotion services are generally focused on creating public awareness about artists and music.

And to create an effective music marketing campaign, you should think about the following questions:

  • What is the essence of your music?
  • What is your ‘voice’?
  • What is your message?

As an independent artist, you can contact a promotion or marketing company, or you can promote your music by yourself.

Either way, some of the music marketing strategies you should include in your campaign are:

  • Developing a social media presence
  • Getting radio promotion
  • Playing gigs
  • Creating a website and an email newsletter
  • Building a community around your music
  • Running paid promotions
  • Reaching out to creators and influencers

Learning about music marketing and sales will give you an edge over your competitors.

And it will ultimately help you be in charge of your success.

However, contacting a music promotion or marketing company is not a bad idea – this can indeed yield great results.

These services can release your music to large streaming platforms, and they can help you grow your audience. 

And as you keep getting more streams and fans, you’ll finally be able to earn a living as a musician.

How to Earn Money From Music 

There are several ways you can earn money from your music.

If you get signed by a record label, you can profit from:

  • Music sales
  • Music performances
  • Master licensing 

If you’re playing an instrument or composing music, you can also find a job at a theater, an artistic company, and so on. 

And if you become an independent artist, you can make money from:

1. Streaming Royalties 

Generally, music royalties are the payments generated from the usage of your songs.

They are generated by having your music available on music streaming and social media platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

One of the ways to get more streams is to reach out to playlist curators who can put your song on relevant playlists or contact a music promotion service.

music app on cellphone

2. Music Publishing 

Another common source of income for independent musicians is through music publishing royalties.

Music publishing refers to the promotion and monetization of musical compositions.

And there are two main ways to generate money this way:

  • Mechanical royalties – money you earn when your song is streamed, downloaded, or reproduced as CD/vinyl 
  • Performance royalties – money you make when your song is played on the radio/TV, in a venue, live on stage, or at any other public place

So, music publishing is the exploitation of a song’s composition copyright.

That being said, music publishing can be one of the most lucrative revenue streams for artists.

Royalty collection and management can be a bit confusing for newcomers though, so you should learn more about the whole process before doing anything (especially before signing any contracts.) 

3. Live Shows

Of course, as a working musician, you can also earn money by touring and playing gigs.

You can earn money through live performances from:

  • Ticket sales
  • On-the-door fees
  • Payment from the organizer/venue 

And if you perform your songs, you can also claim live performance royalties.

Now, how much you’re going to earn as a touring musician depends on your popularity and the type of music you play.

4. Music Sales

Despite the popularity of YouTube and streaming platforms, many artists still earn a lot of money from physical music sales.

Also, CDs are relatively cheap to make, and you can easily bring them on shows and present them as a part of your merch shop.

You can also make vinyl copies too, since vinyl records made quite a comeback in recent years.

5. Sync Licensing

When considering earning money through composition copyright, you should also take sync licensing into account.

Sync licensing includes music that is used in movies, TV shows, commercials, video games, music videos, podcasts, and audiobooks, and synchronization fees are what you’re going to earn as an owner of that piece of music.

Some music libraries offer upfront sync payments to music producers and artists, and this can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

So depending on your individual agreement and type of music, you can earn quite a lot from sync licensing too.

6. Sponsorships 

Finally, don’t forget about sponsorship and brand partnerships. 

To gain more exposure, you should consider promoting a brand that aligns with your own musical brand or personal values.

You’ll have to mention them on your social media or YouTube in return, but if you like the brand, that shouldn’t be an issue.

There are many other ways to earn money from your music, especially if you’re an independent artist or a freelancer.

When choosing your methods and channels, make sure you find something that’s sustainable and efficient. 

And of course, don’t forget about your music – promotion, marketing, and earning money is important, but your success will ultimately be defined by your skills and the quality of your music.

Becoming a Musician – Final Tips 

The truth is, there’s no secret to earning a ton of money from music and becoming an accomplished musician.

Every successful musician has their own story.

However, there are certain things you can do to become better at what you do and come one step closer to achieving your dreams. 

1. Practice Consistently

First and foremost, you need to practice regularly.

Developing good practice habits and establishing a practice routine will help you:

  • Improve your technique
  • Develop muscle memory (if you’re playing an instrument)
  • Expand your vocal range (if you’re a singer)
  • Boost your creativity 
lady playing the violin

Every famous musician you know went through years of hard work and practice before getting where they are now.

For some people, success happens sooner and for some later, and there will always be some things you can’t control.

But what you can control is the progress you make every day.

2. Expand Your Knowledge 

Another thing you can control on your way to success is the amount of knowledge you acquire.

As a beginner musician, you should practice a lot, but you should also get to know the field you’re interested in.

If you want to join an orchestra, familiarize yourself with local theaters, symphonies, and music companies.

And if you want to distribute your music online, learn about music royalties, music rights, and innovative music marketing strategies.

Don’t be afraid to use all the information you have at your disposal.

And also, don’t hesitate to seek advice from someone more experienced.

3. Build a Brand Around Your Music 

One of the best music marketing strategies is building a brand around your music.

But this can mean so much more than creating a visual identity or creating an appealing website.

You can build a community around your music and cultivate it, and you can keep finding new ways to reach out to your fans.

Be open, creative, and honest, and people will connect with you and your music. 

4. Write Your Own Compositions 

Whether you want to become a guitar player, composer, or opera singer, you should try writing your own songs and compositions.

This will help you improve your technique and also allow you to develop as an artist.

So, play with melodies, lyrics, guitar riffs, or whatever feels most natural and exciting to you.

5. Don’t Give Up 

Adding excitement and fun to your practice routine is important.

It will help you keep your motivation high and therefore be more productive.

And this is important because becoming a musician is a marathon, not a sprint. 

It takes time to build yourself up as a musician, and that’s why you shouldn’t expect things to happen overnight. 

Be patient and persistent, and opportunities will come your way.

How to Become a Musician – Final Thoughts 

Becoming a musician and starting a music career is undeniably challenging.

But it’s also exciting and incredibly rewarding.

To become a musician, you’ll have to choose your path and genre, take music lessons, develop your musicality, and connect with other musicians.

And regardless of what type of musician you want to become, you have to be patient and persistent.

If you keep your motivation high and work hard, your musical dreams will eventually come true. 

You may also like: How to Make Money From Music

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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