There’s more to it than just skill.

There are many learnable elements to being a professional musician. It’s not just about playing well. In fact, once you have hit the minimum required standard of competence to play gigs, being a professional musician is more about your relationships with others in the industry. So let’s discuss 6 of the most important, and often overlooked aspects of becoming a professional musician.

1. Be Punctual

Do you know how to be punctual for rehearsals and gigs? Yes that’s right – punctuality is incredibly important. Being late means you’re unreliable and gives the impression you don’t care. No one wants to deal with that – especially when there are plenty of talented musicians out there who will be punctual. Just imagine the times you’ve been on the receiving end of someone who’s late – what about if they’re always late? Not a very good feeling, huh? Now apply that to a professional setting – it’s even worse and far less tolerable!

2. Personality Matters

Are you easy/fun to hang out with? Your talent can only take you so far. The way you interact with your band mates can make or break your opportunity to stick around. Let’s face it, when you’re going pro, you’re going to be spending a lot of time with the people you’re performing with. If you’re not gelling with the group, it’s not a good sign of things to come. On the other hand, if you really hit it off with everyone, you may find yourself edging out the competition.

3. Communication is Key

Are you an effective communicator & collaborator? Being part of a professional group means you need to be part of the whole process. Being able to work well with others and communicate clearly is incredibly important. If you don’t work well in a team setting, then you’re going to have a hard time being part of one. Knowing how to take criticism graciously and be inclusive of others is a very important skill for any profession.

4. Know How to Prepare

Do you know how to prepare for performances? Imagine that you’re backstage, minutes before the start of a concert: Are you feeling confident, or are you worried that things could go awry? Proper preparation is key to alleviating nerves and having a good performance. A large part of that preparation is in the way you practice.

5. Understand the Business Side

Can you help get gigs with outbound & inbound marketing tactics? Being a professional musician, especially in a band, goes a lot further than just playing music. When you’re in a band you’re expected to do a whole lot more than just rehearse, practice, and perform. Your band is a company and it’s on the whole team to help it grow. That means finding ways to get noticed, finding opportunities, and networking. If you can bring this skill to the table, you’re going to be far more valuable than someone who doesn’t.

6. Practice Efficiently & Effectively

Do you know how to manage your practice so that you don’t become one of the 75% of pro musicians with an injury? That’s right – more than half of professional musicians, at some point in their careers, endure music-related maladies that sideline them temporarily. When we musicians have piles of music to master, efficient practice strategies can enable us to be productive without exceeding our physical limits. Don’t miss opportunities because you’ve been sidelined by an injury – or worse, end up with a career ending injury.

It’s all learnable.

I learned a lot of this “the hard way”, but that means you can learn it. After being rejected from 5 music schools at the age of 18, I decided to study cognitive science and become an expert in learning. After graduating, I went to Indiana University for French Horn performance, where I didn’t just learn to play my instrumentI learned to become a pro.

In my journey from “music school reject” to recording/touring with some of the world’s top symphony orchestras, I learned so much about how to be a professional musician. I also struggled with effective practice, encountered numerous injuries, and almost went insane with frustration. I saw thousands of others face the same issues too.

The devil is in the details.

I can’t stress how important it is to focus on the little things. How much or how little talking to do in rehearsal. What the pecking order in the industry is. How to reach out for opportunities. How to audition. And most importantly, how to practice so you can reach an employable level. 

That’s how I realized the importance of effective music practice. Being performance ready is crucial for any chance at success – and the hands down best way to calm your nerves. That’s why I created Modacity – the music practice app to help musicians get organized, be more efficient, and stay motivated.


Modacity is giving prizes & sponsorships to musicians who make professional achievements using the app. In fact, you can get in touch with me if you want my personal assistance accelerating your professional journey.

Mars Gelfo

Mars Gelfo

Mars has been practicing music for 30+ years. After applying cognitive science & computer science to French horn, Mars became an internationally touring symphony musician. His experience includes teaching and performing with thousands of musicians around the world, including the San Francisco Symphony.