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Jobs for Guitar Players: Success in Strumming

Updated: Sep 13, 2023

As a musician who has played in several bands, worked as a studio artist, and now owns my own music school, I know firsthand the dedication, passion, and resilience required to carve out a career in this field. It's common for the public to perceive playing an instrument as a "cute hobby," but the truth is far from that. Pursuing a career in music, particularly as a guitarist, is hard work, but it is also immensely rewarding. It's about pushing forward against misconceptions, battling against the current, and finding joy in the creativity and connection that music brings. In this article, we'll explore the diverse opportunities available for guitarists, showcasing how this "hobby" can indeed be a fulfilling and successful career path for those willing to put in the effort. Whether it's as a Rock/Pop guitarist, Classical Guitarist, Music Educator, Guitar Technician, Composer, or more, the possibilities are vast and exciting for those ready to put in the work!



I. Rock/Pop Guitarist


A. Band Member

  • Job Description: Performing in a band, touring, recording albums, collaborating with other musicians, rehearsing, and engaging with fans.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Bars, clubs, concert halls, music labels, social media, networking with other musicians.

  • Pay: Ranges from $1 to $5,000 per gig depending on the band's reputation, album sales, and other revenue streams like merchandise. (At first, unfortunately, venues will want to pay you with "exposure". Read "The Real Cost of Playing for Exposure" to help you weigh your options.)

B. Solo Artist

  • Job Description: Solo performances, often singer-songwriters, creating and releasing original material, performing live, engaging with fans.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Music festivals, bars, online platforms like YouTube and Spotify, self-promotion through social media.

  • Pay: Varies widely, depending on fame, following, and revenue from streaming and live performances.

C. Session Musician

  • Job Description: Collaborating with other musicians and producers in recording sessions, contributing to different projects.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Recording studios, freelance opportunities, networking with producers.

  • Pay: From $100 to $1,000 per session, depending on experience and project scale.

D. Cover Artist

  • Job Description: Performing cover versions of popular songs in various venues.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Wedding receptions, corporate events, parties, bars, online platforms.

  • Pay: From $100 to $2,000 per performance, depending on venue and experience.

Typical Requirements for Rock/Pop Guitarists:

  • Education and Training: Formal training is not mandatory, but lessons, workshops, and music degrees can provide valuable skills and knowledge.

  • Experience: Regular practice, performing live, recording, collaboration with other musicians, and building a portfolio.

  • Skills: Versatility in playing different styles, stage presence, ability to collaborate with band members, understanding of music theory.

  • Equipment: High-quality instruments, amplification, and related gear.

  • Marketing and Networking: Building a social media presence, networking with other musicians, understanding the music industry.

By understanding the diverse opportunities available, aspiring Rock/Pop guitarists can align their passion with their career goals. Each path offers a unique experience, whether you're rocking out in a band, expressing your voice as a solo artist, adding your touch in a recording studio, or energizing events as a cover artist. Explore, hone your craft, and let your guitar guide you towards a fulfilling and successful career in music.


II. Jazz Guitarist


Jazz guitarists have the opportunity to showcase their improvisational skills and contribute to the rich tapestry of jazz music, whether performing as part of ensembles or as solo acts.


A. Ensemble Performer

  • Job Description: Performing with jazz ensembles, participating in rehearsals, and collaborating with other jazz musicians.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Jazz clubs, orchestras, music schools, conservatories, private events, festivals.

  • Pay: Ranging from $100 to $1,000 per gig, depending on the ensemble's reputation and the venue. (At first, unfortunately, venues will pay you with "exposure". Read "The Real Cost of Playing for Exposure" to help you weigh your options.)

B. Solo Performer

  • Job Description: Performing as a solo act, playing both standard jazz pieces and original compositions, engaging with audiences.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Jazz festivals, private functions, luxury hotels, online platforms, cruise ships.

  • Pay: Similar to ensemble performers, with additional income possible through recordings and teaching.

C. Jazz Composer

  • Job Description: Composing original jazz pieces, arranging existing works, collaborating with other musicians and bands.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Freelance opportunities, music publishers, academic institutions, film and television.

  • Pay: Varies widely, depending on the scope of the project and recognition in the field.

D. Jazz Educator

  • Job Description: Teaching jazz guitar techniques, music theory, improvisation, and performance skills to students of various levels.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Music schools, conservatories, private tutoring, online teaching platforms.

  • Pay: Typically ranging from $20 to $100 per hour, depending on qualifications and experience.

Typical Requirements for Jazz Guitarists:

  • Education and Training: A strong understanding of jazz theory, improvisation, and common jazz techniques. Formal education in jazz studies is beneficial but not required.

  • Experience: Performance experience in various jazz settings, collaboration with other musicians, a portfolio of recordings or compositions.

  • Skills: Proficiency in improvisation, reading sheet music, strong understanding of jazz styles and history.

  • Equipment: Quality jazz guitar, amplification, and related accessories.

  • Marketing and Networking: Building connections within the jazz community, promoting oneself through social media and personal networks.

The world of jazz guitar offers an exciting and nuanced journey for those ready to embrace its unique challenges and rewards. Whether your passion lies in ensemble playing, solo performance, composition, or education, there are vibrant pathways waiting to be explored. Dive into the rhythm, immerse yourself in the soulful melodies, and let jazz inspire your musical career.


III. Classical Guitarist


Classical guitarists can embrace the rich traditions and techniques of classical music, offering soul-stirring performances in various settings.


A. Solo Performer

  • Job Description: Performing solo recitals, concerts, and collaborations with orchestras, interpreting classical guitar repertoire.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Concert halls, universities, classical music festivals, music agencies, cultural centers.

  • Pay: Pay varies widely, with median salaries around $67,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

B. Chamber Musician

  • Job Description: Performing in classical ensembles, engaging in rehearsals, participating in festivals and competitions.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Universities, chamber music organizations, music festivals, collaborations with other classical musicians.

  • Pay: Similar to solo performers, depending on the reputation of the ensemble and the demand for classical chamber music.

C. Classical Guitar Educator

  • Job Description: Teaching classical guitar techniques, performance practices, music theory, and history to students of various ages and levels.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Universities, conservatories, music schools, private studios, online teaching platforms.

  • Pay: Typically ranging from $20 to $100 per hour, depending on qualifications and experience.

Typical Requirements for Classical Guitarists:

  • Education and Training: A bachelor's or master's degree in classical guitar or music performance is often required. Training in music theory, history, and interpretation.

  • Experience: A portfolio of performances, recordings, and potential competitions won. Collaboration with other classical musicians.

  • Skills: Proficiency in classical guitar techniques, sight-reading, interpreting classical guitar repertoire, engaging stage presence.

  • Equipment: High-quality classical guitar, suitable for concert performances and recording.

  • Networking: Building professional connections with other musicians, orchestras, and music organizations, promoting oneself through personal networks and social media.

The path of a classical guitarist is one filled with artistic expression, discipline, and dedication. Whether as a solo artist, chamber musician, or educator, classical guitarists have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the profound beauty of classical music, engaging audiences with performances that resonate through time. By embracing the unique nuances and demands of this musical world, classical guitarists can find personal fulfillment and professional success in a field that continues to inspire and uplift.


IV. Session Musician


A session musician's role is incredibly diverse, offering opportunities to collaborate with various artists and contribute to a wide range of musical projects. Session guitarists are behind many of the iconic guitar sounds heard in albums, commercials, and movies.


A. Studio Recording Artist

  • Job Description: Recording guitar tracks for albums, singles, and various musical projects. Collaborating with producers and artists in the studio.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Recording studios, music labels, online platforms, networking with musicians and producers.

  • Pay: Typically ranging from $100 to $1,000 per day, depending on the project and experience.

B. Commercial Session Musician

  • Job Description: Recording guitar parts for commercials, jingles, and advertising campaigns.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Advertising agencies, production companies, referrals from other musicians.

  • Pay: Generally, between $200 to $2,500 per commercial, depending on the project's size and budget.

C. Film/Television Session Musician

  • Job Description: Recording guitar for film and television scores, working closely with composers.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Film production companies, composers, entertainment agencies.

  • Pay: Varies widely based on the project, reputation, and experience, usually ranging from $300 to $2,000 per day.

Typical Requirements for Session Musicians:

  • Education and Training: Formal training or a degree in music might be beneficial but not always required. Essential is a deep understanding of different musical styles and techniques.

  • Experience: A strong portfolio of recordings, familiarity with studio equipment, and the ability to work quickly and efficiently.

  • Skills: Excellent sight-reading, the ability to interpret various musical styles, adaptability, and collaboration skills.

  • Equipment: Owning or having access to various types of guitars and equipment suitable for different recording needs.

  • Networking: Building connections with producers, musicians, composers, and agencies. An excellent reputation and reliability can lead to more opportunities.

The world of session music is exciting and ever-changing. It requires a mix of musical versatility, technical proficiency, and the ability to adapt to the specific needs of each project. As a session guitarist, you can be part of creating the musical landscape for listeners worldwide, contributing your unique touch to projects that span genres and mediums. The joy of seeing your work come alive in various forms of media can be a deeply satisfying and lucrative career for those ready to dive into this dynamic world of music.


V. Music Educator


Music education offers a rich and fulfilling career path for guitarists, providing opportunities to share their passion, expertise, and love for music with others. Whether it's in schools, private lessons, or higher education institutions, educators play a vital role in nurturing the musical talents of aspiring guitarists.


A. School Teacher

  • Job Description: Teaching guitar in elementary, middle, or high schools. Developing lesson plans, assessing students' progress, and fostering a love for music.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Public and private school

  • Pay: Average salary of $60,000 (Source: BLS).

B. Private Instructor

  • Job Description: Offering individualized private guitar lessons, tailoring instructions to each student's needs, preparing them for performances, or exams.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Music studios (Like Descant Music and Art Studio in Holyoke, MA), freelancing, word of mouth, online platforms.

  • Pay: Generally, ranges from $20 to $100 per hour, depending on experience and location.

C. College/University Professor

  • Job Description: Teaching guitar at higher education institutions, conducting research, publishing, mentoring students, and contributing to the music department's development.

  • Where to Find Jobs: Music departments in universities and colleges.

  • Pay: Average salary of $79,540 (Source: BLS).

Typical Requirements for Music Educators:

  • Education and Training: A bachelor's or master's degree in music education or a related field. Specific qualifications or certifications may be required for school teachers.

  • Experience: Prior teaching experience, performance experience, and a deep understanding of guitar techniques and pedagogy.

  • Skills: Excellent communication skills, patience, empathy, creativity, the ability to inspire and motivate students.

  • Equipment: Access to quality guitars and teaching materials suitable for different age groups and skill levels.

  • Networking: Building connections with schools, universities, other teachers, and music communities to stay updated with the latest teaching methodologies and opportunities.

Music education is not just about imparting knowledge; it's about inspiring, nurturing, and guiding the next generation of musicians. As a guitar educator, you have the chance to shape the musical journeys of countless individuals, from young children to adults, from beginners to advanced players. The connection between teacher and student, the joy of seeing progress and growth, the creativity involved in crafting lessons, and the profound impact you can have on others' lives make this career path a deeply satisfying and noble pursuit. If you have the heart, the skills, and the passion, the world of music education awaits you, ready to be explored and embraced.


VI. Guitar Technician


Job Description: Maintain and repair guitars. This involves tuning, setting up, customizing, and sometimes even restoring guitars.

Where to Find Jobs: Music stores, touring with bands, repair shops, freelance work.

Pay: Average salary of $34,000 (Source: Payscale).

Typical Requirements:

  • Education and Training: Formal training or apprenticeship in guitar repair and maintenance.

  • Experience: Previous experience working with string instruments, possibly as a musician.

  • Skills: Attention to detail, patience, manual dexterity, and a profound understanding of guitars.

VII. Composer/Arranger


Job Description: Composing or arranging music for guitar, sometimes involving multiple instruments and genres.

Where to Find Jobs: Film, theater, TV, video games, advertising, online platforms.

Pay: Varies widely, depending on projects and reputation.

Typical Requirements:

  • Education and Training: Degree or significant coursework in music composition or theory.

  • Experience: Portfolio of previous works and familiarity with different music styles.

  • Skills: Proficiency in guitar, creativity, strong musical ear, ability to work with various software.

VIII. Music Therapist


Job Description: Use guitar to help with physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs, providing therapy through music.

Where to Find Jobs: Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools, private practices.

Pay: Average salary of $47,860 (Source: BLS).

Typical Requirements:

  • Education and Training: Degree in music therapy and board certification.

  • Experience: Experience in clinical settings, possibly internships.

  • Skills: Empathy, understanding of therapeutic techniques, ability to adapt music to individual needs.

IX. Cruise Ship Guitarist


Job Description: Perform on cruise ships, entertain guests with various musical styles, and collaborate with other musicians.

Where to Find Jobs: Cruise lines, entertainment agencies.

Pay: $2,000 - $4,000 per month including accommodation.

Typical Requirements:

  • Education and Training: No formal education required but must have solid guitar skills.

  • Experience: Previous experience performing live, possibly in a band or as a solo artist.

  • Skills: Versatility in genres, ability to engage an audience, professionalism.


Captivated by the world of music and eager to explore piano, voice, guitar, or bass guitar lessons? Take the next step on your musical journey by filling out our MORE INFORMATION form, and we'll connect with you soon!


References

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Various data.

Payscale for Guitar Technician Salary.


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