Learning New Skills for the Gig

People often ask what it takes to be a working musician or artist in New York City. How can you as a musician or artist be heard above the static? How can you distinguish yourself so that you are the one that gets remembered, that gets the call for the next gig and the gig after that?

Sometimes, a gig may come up that requires you to do something outside your comfort zone– it could be playing a style you’re not familiar with, arranging vocal parts, or learning new software. These are the best opportunities to gain new experience and develop additional skills that you can turn into further gigs in the future.

You’re a guitar player and a gig needs a banjo double? Now’s as good a time as ever to invest in an inexpensive banjo and learn the ropes. You’ll make the investment back in the gigs you’ll gain with this new skill in the future. (You’d be surprised…or maybe not… at how many artists don’t know a banjo player).

Learning new instruments or software can be daunting, but taking a challenging gig can be a great opportunity to develop new skills.

Or: an artist that you’re working with needs some horn arrangements. What better chance to try out some ideas with real horn players and develop your arranging chops? With Spotify or YouTube at your fingertips, you can effortlessly research idiomatic horn parts and learn on the job. The time you invest in developing your skill (and credits) now will pay off down the road in added expertise and creative opportunities.

The same can be said for any of the myriad software tools that are increasingly relevant in the music industry. The more you know about ProTools, Logic, Sibelius, Finale, Reason, Ableton Live, Serato, or any other software that comes out and changes the face of recording/sequencing/DJing/performing, the more valuable you will be as a musician, the better you will be able to communicate your ideas effectively, and the more gigs you’ll be able to get in a wider array of musical fields.

Have other ideas about picking up new skills that set you apart as a musician? Add your comments below, along with anything else you’d like to see in this blog!

Other posts in this series:
Being Over-Prepared: Tips for Musicians & Singers
Being Over-Prepared: Tips for Artists & Bandleaders
Respecting People’s Time

Justin Goldner is a bassist, guitarist, producer, songwriter, language junkie and lover of culture in all its manifestations. He hurls snarky remarks into the Twitter-void via @JusBass.

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