Being a musician seems to be a dream-life. When people see a soloist performing on stage, they get the impression, that what he does is almost effortless. He looks elegant and fresh, he moves with grace and seems to enjoy every note he plays, he is really ‘inside’ the music. After the piece ends, he gives a big smile, bows about a dozen times a receives a bunch of flowers. “What a talent” – can someone think – “I wish I was as talented as he is. Then I wouldn’t have to be stuck in my boring nine-to-five, I would just travel around the world and give concerts”.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. It takes more than just talent to be a professional musician. What exactly? Let’s find out.
Hours of work
Nobody is born a great musician. Of course, some kids have a big potential and can master the technique of playing an instrument easier than others. But even a talented person would not go anywhere without hours of practice.
For a child that means staying in his or her room practicing scales in the afternoon, instead of going out to the playground. For a conservatory student, it means a lot of early mornings, whole days spend at school (either practising or taking lessons), followed by late-night gigs, most of which are not well paid, if payed at all (because “they are not the professionals yet”).
For all musicians it means almost no breaks – if they want to stay in good shape playing their instrument, they cannot take a long vacation without practising. If they take a week off – that only means they would have to work twice as hard in the following two weeks. So most of them just practice during the vacation as well. Count to that hour of orchestral rehearsals and lectures on the theory of music and you will see, that being a musician is more than a full-time job.
From all those hours of work, many are spent alone with your instrument. Of course, there are lessons, rehearsals and lunch-breaks, but still – most of the time you are on your own. It can feel lonely. However, you can manage to spend time with other musicians or colleagues that are in their pursuit of becoming a great interpreter too. It is all about the time you pass engaged, trying to be better day by day. So, why not make a group and set a place to practice? For instance, The Music Range – Rehearsal Space Denver offers multiple options for you and colleagues to practice while enjoying all together
What seems to be effortless is actually the effect of hours of hard work. Hard in a physical sense as well. Playing an instrument is basically training your body to move in a way that produces beautiful sounds. For that, you have to force your muscles to do specific things, be able to tense and relax them in a proper way and stay in unnatural position for a long time.
It takes physical strength to be able to practice several hours a day, attend rehearsals and give concerts, and it can cause physical issues like back pain (for violinists and pianists), destroyed fingertips (cellists and double bassists) or respiratory problems (singers and wind players). Many musicians work out, use physiotherapist’s help or take bodybuilding supplements in order to keep their bodies in a good shape.
Music itself should be pure and beautiful, but being a part of musical society can be cruel. Almost every musician struggles with stage fright – fear of performing in front of the audience – and it doesn’t depend on how good he is playing. Even great musicians that already gave hundreds of concerts have to deal with this kind of anxiety. What’s even worse, is that the stage fright can ruin an entire concert – so it basically doesn’t matter how good you can play or how long you’ve practiced, because when you get nervous, you will play worse than you actually can.
That doesn’t give you the satisfaction of playing at all! Also, when you are studying music, you’ll most probable be compared to other students (or compare yourself to others) and have to struggle with this constant comparison. Many conservatory students have to deal with all kinds of doubts, low self-esteem and even depression. Being a musician can be really nerve-wracking.
This one is often forgotten. It’s not only the physical ability to play an instrument that makes you a musician. It’s also not only the passion that you have or your musicality. It takes a long time to learn all the theoretical basics about music, in order to perform it at the highest level. A good instructor or record company-producer contract could help enhance your music knowledge.
From the history of music (knowing the composers, the classical music eras, the different styles and techniques) to complex theoretical subjects like harmony, analysis, counterpoint and so on. Those basics underlie all the musical pieces and therefore this knowledge is crucial to be able to perform them in an appropriate way.
On the other hand, being a musician has its bright side – all in all, it is doing what you love and what you’re good at throughout your life. If you really feel the music you play and enjoy it, and if you hear the applause after the performance – your satisfaction is like no other. Performing music also gives you many opportunities, like travelling abroad. So despite all the struggles, it’s really worth it! It’s just not as easy as it seems.