Advice To The Beginning Musician

1. Don’t give up.

Music is an especially tough field to be competitive in, and more often than not you will be discouraged more than you will be encouraged.  While you are still in college you will have a wealth of help.  As soon as you enter the professional world, you will be abandoned and have to swim upstream among your competition, many of which will have quite the advantage over you.  This will make you stronger and better than you were.  You will hear more critiques than praise.  That is not the time to give up.  Negotiate the life you want, keep your integrity, and keep your chin up.  Everyone is “green” in their field at first.  It’s completely normal.  Eventually you will pull it together and achieve things you never thought were possible.  Don’t. Give. Up.

2. Everyone sucks when they start something new.

We wear our shame and defeat close to the chest.  It’s easy to think that you’re the only one struggling.  Admittedly we all get some tunnel vision when we are down and out.  I have seen my friends throughout all kinds of fields going through the same growing pains.  Any competitive career will make you feel like you’re dry heaving for a while. It may go on for years.  If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Before you assess your life and change paths, give it more time.  You would not have gotten into the race if it weren’t important to you.  You also very likely invested a lot of time, money, and effort to getting to the starting line in the first place. 

3. It will take longer than you think to “fly under the radar”.

In every job there is a “sweet spot”.  It’s the point where you can finally stop freaking out about all of the tiny details.  You’re able to get through a day without feeling like you have to drain a bottle of wine.  Your directors and colleagues will stop questioning every choice you make.  This is certainly not the end goal, but it is oh-so-sweet when you get there for the first time in your field.  Your superiors can trust you, but the pressure is not so great that you’re on everyone’s radar.  Get to the “fly under the radar” stage and take a deep breath.  Then go back to work to achieve the next tier of success!

4. Work on the small things that you can control.

The best way to keep yourself on track is to have a “checks and balances” system in place.  List all of the ways that you can improve that are somewhat easily attainable.  I usually have a LONG running list of things that I should be working on.  Progress is made one little step at a time.  When you’re just starting out, it’s easy to feel like you have an Everest of struggles to manage.  Start compartmentalizing these into digestible steps.  It is also helpful to keep a list of things you already have accomplished.  Creative personalities usually have the emotions of a roller coaster.  Sometimes you are on top of the world, and the next thing you know, you’re mood is in the dumpster.  Keep your list of positives handy so you can consult it when you are feeling low. 

5. It’s hard being a musician, but it’s even harder to give up your dream.

My entire life I have been told how hard it is to succeed in music.  I do agree with that sentiment, however I truly think it is so much harder to give up on what you love.  You need to keep doing work that will keep YOU interested and challenged.  If your creative life has to start as a side hustle, so be it, but keep working and you will see it develop into much more.  We always work better on what we love to do.  I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes that always brings me inspiration.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

-Ira Glass


Thank you for reading!  Share this blog with anybody you know that may need to hear some words of encouragement.  The struggle is real, folks! A big thank you to Mandy Mohler Photography for our cover photo. Don't forget to subscribe if you want to read similar articles!