Photo by Milena Parobczy
There are unlimited skills obtained during your years practicing, studying, and working as a musician. It’s important to know how invaluable these skills are, how they effectively cross over into any job, and how to utilize your experience and expertise in your own entrepreneurial endeavors and/or articulate to an employer. Here are 40 skills you acquire and develop as a musician that translate to any profession.
What is the first skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Building any career is a lifelong process, and a vocation in the arts may feel like a never-ending upward climb. Your self-discipline as a musician is an important driver in your success in an arts career. To be successful, you had to be your own teacher, and overcoming your weaknesses through self-discipline is what helped you create a successful profession in the music world. Self-discipline is an important skill in any job because you are able to reflect and identify tasks that need to be worked on and improved.
What is the second skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Pursuing a career in the arts is challenging, so your personal motivation is driving you towards accomplishing your personal goals, especially when there isn’t an easy or straight path already set. Work as a musician takes form in many different ways, from teaching, performing, orchestral playing, gigging, online lessons, instrument repair, arts administration, music marketing, business management, chamber music performance tours, outreach, and more. Motivation is an important skill in any job because it means you pursue interests that will help you grow, evolve, and become a more well-rounded player.
What is the third skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
3. Time Management
Working in the arts realm doesn’t usually entail the 9 to 5 lifestyle. This typical 40 hour work week inherently supports a degree of work and personal life balance with clear lines between hours worked and hours free. A lot of musicians work several jobs from teaching in the morning, to practicing and making reeds during the day, and finally to orchestra rehearsing in the late evening. A musician may also work 40 hours in one week, but these hours are distributed over each day sporadically, and every day may be different. Time management is a vital skill for musicians, and it is an important skill in any job because it means you are able to discern and prioritize important tasks over menial tasks and be efficient with getting work done.
What is the fourth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
4. The Big Picture
A lot of musicians get into the music industry because of their love of music. You love practicing, you love the creative process, you love connecting with people, you appreciate how music has helped you, and you want to share this with others. The big picture of the arts industry is creating, sharing, and connecting. The behind the scenes of your career may have entailed years of volunteering your time, relentless hard work and practicing, lots of rejections from auditions and job interviews, mental health issues, self-doubt, and daily thoughts of changing careers. These small picture obstacles have strengthened your character and helped you develop a deeper understanding of the big picture that drove you to your music passion in the first place. Seeing the bigger picture is an important skill in any job because it means you are able to keep perspective, and you’ll work through the hard times to celebrate together on the other side of achieving goals.
What is the fifth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Making music magical starts in the practice room. Addressing the details helps build a good foundation in awareness, observation, communication, and action. Musicians must be their own teachers, and being able to focus on the details will add up in creating overall positive improvement. Being detail-oriented is an important skill in any job because you are able to meticulously create to build a good, reliable, and consistent result.
What is the sixth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
6. Team Player
Musicians practice and prepare a lot on their own, but most arts jobs are primarily in group settings. From working with small chamber ensembles, to teaching students, coaching masterclasses, collaborating within your instrument’s orchestra section, band sectionals, playing in an orchestra, sitting on an orchestra committee, and public speaking with audiences at concerts, musicians are team players. Musicians also get the opportunity to non-verbally communicate as a team through instrument sounds as musicians usually sit silently in orchestra rehearsals. This is a chance to practice listening and observation skills to create an overall good sound in the orchestra as a whole. Being a team player is an important skill in any job, and as a musician you are able to work well in a group to be effective and efficient for the benefit of the organization.
What is the seventh skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
When learning a new instrument, students usually begin playing in small chamber groups made up of their own instruments. From double reed ensembles to brass groups to string quartets, beginners learn so much by collaborating together. Playing with two or more players together improves listening skills, communication skills, and playing abilities. These collaborative skills translate to any profession, and working together is important in any job.
What is the eighth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
It’s helpful to be organized in life and in your work, and one of the many ways that musicians acquire good foundations in organization is through daily and deliberate instrumental practice. Whether you are preparing for an upcoming recording project, university audition, competition, recital, or music lesson, musicians keep organized through practice logs, technique analysis, and reflection. This helps to maintain a productive schedule in achieving personal practice goals. Musicians also keep track of various concert dates, teaching times, instrument repair dates, and dynamic schedules that are constantly changing due to the nature of this community-connected profession. Organization is an important skill in any job, and a musician learns to be organized from the start of learning their instrument.
What is the ninth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Something you learn early on as a musician is that mastering a piece of music takes time. Your friends can’t practice for you and your parents can’t step in to help practice for you. It’s up to you to put in the time that you need to learn the music. Self-reflection plays a major role in planning, as musicians must be realistic in where they stand technically with the music to plan enough time to feel confident before the performance date. Planning your practice time is very individual, and being a good planner in general is an important skill in any job.
What is the tenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians have the opportunity to play many roles including audio engineer, event planner, coordinator, presenter, team player, and player of a leading part or solo line in a chamber group or orchestra setting. The musical line is constantly moving around different sections and instruments in an orchestra. Through trained musical ears and knowledge of the composition, musicians are constantly changing from their supporting role to a soloistic approach and vice versa depending on what is needed in a particular moment of the music. Musicians are also leaders of their community through sharing collaborative spirit, working together, and connecting cultural and societal ideals through art and beyond. Leadership skills are important in any profession, and a musician has crafted principal skills to rise to the occasion in any job or entrepreneurial endeavor.
What is the eleventh skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
A musician’s career and work involve the use of imagination and creation on a daily basis. Examples include designing intriguing concert programs, performance attire choices, developing varying approaches, connect with different audiences of various backgrounds, and creative freedom in music making, musicians’ jobs involve a lot of creative thought. Utilizing original ideas is an invaluable skill in any profession, and musicians excel in creativity.
What is the twelfth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians spend hours researching and applying practical techniques that show tangible results in their playing. You are a problem solver, and finding practical ways of doing things is important to be efficient with your time. Feasible approaches are desirable when deliberately practicing and working towards your performance goals. Being practical is important in any job, and a musician is very skilled in problem solving in a practical and convenient way.
What is the thirteenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Often musicians must self evaluate, and being realistic is vital when improving your craft. It takes sensibility and a practical approach to technical improvement in order to grow as a musician. There is nowhere to hide when performance or competition time comes around, and often musicians must accept that even dedicating hours of work can’t beat a bad reed. Realism is quite familiar to musicians in auditions, as well as the practice of accepting a situation as it is and being prepared to deal with it accordingly. Being realistic is important in any profession, and musicians practice this on a regular basis.
What is the fourteenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians are resourceful, and you have the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties. Whether you are in need of a last minute substitute conductor, need to change the program order around because one of the members of the chamber group are stuck in traffic, or have to quickly craft a temporary instrument key pad because the glue stopped working, you are resourceful and ready to master a challenge. Resourcefulness is very important in any job, and musicians are great problem solvers.
What is the fifteenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians are natural networkers. It’s so much more fun to share a concert with a room full of people, and you are always sharing about your upcoming events with friends and acquaintances. Advertisement starts with the large instrument you have on your back or what you are carrying around shaped like an instrument. People naturally want to inquire about what you do just through noticing you carrying an instrument instead of a briefcase. Pursuing a career in the arts is admirable, and people want to hear about your experience as a musician. This curiosity organically opens doors to share about your personal website, invite people to attend upcoming concerts, and to read more about the groups that you are performing in. It’s always fun when someone knows someone whose dad plays the bagpipes, and you probably know him too! The music community is only so big, and it’s fun to connect with people around music. Networking is a necessary skill when expanding any business, and musicians are great salespeople because they love what they do.
What is the sixteenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
The art of music-making entails unlimited non-verbal communication. A lot of young players learn music through the call and response method where the teacher will play an excerpt without explaining anything, and the student must then replicate the tone, tempo, technique, and phrasing in response, without ever speaking any words. The teacher and student will continue in this back and forth exercise while the teacher exaggerates different aspects of the music that the student doesn’t quite have awareness to yet until the student can play the excerpt in a similar quality of the teacher. There are so many non-verbal cues heard through their instrumental voices that the student and teacher are communicating to each other without ever using their voices. Body language, hand placement on the instrument, posture, amount of breath used, music dynamics utilized, the amount of vibrato incorporated, and the intensity of air needed are vital, non-verbal communications that are invaluable observation skills. The art of music making entails unlimited verbal communication skills as well. Work in the music industry is a very social environment. You do spend a lot of time practicing alone, but a lot of teaching, orchestra, and chamber music work is done in groups of people. It’s important to be able to communicate ideas and direction of the music which helps everyone make more beautiful music together. Musicians must often compromise together in order to reach the most desired sound, and discussions are often needed for colleagues to convene on the same page musically. Communication is an important skill in any job, and musicians make use of non-verbal and verbal communication all the time.
What is the seventeenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
17. Good Listener
Music is a wonderful teacher of listening. Whether you love to listen to music through your stereo speakers, play music in a string quartet, stream music on iTunes, or listen to the radio, music provides the opportunity to enjoy, critique, find favorites, share, and learn unlimited ways of making different sounds. If you listen carefully, attentively, and sympathetically, you develop skills that are prized by a good listener. Being a supportive and understanding listener is a necessary skill in any profession, and musicians are always using their good listening skills to make the best, most collaborative music possible.
What is the eighteenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians are natural entrepreneurs. From the beginning, musicians acquire instruments, music stands, repertoire to build their library, office supplies, recording equipment, repair tools, and the list goes on. This investment in quality products and equipment is a great foundation for building a business or brand while gaining experience and expertise in the industry over time. These items that you own are valuable assets to the growth of your craft, and like an entrepreneur setting up a business, you’ve taken on the financial risks of investing in yourself in hopes to profit and gain success in the entertainment industry.
What is the ninteenth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
All musicians know that the grind behind the scenes in the practice room and rehearsals can be brutal. Just like in life, accomplishment doesn’t always come easy, and you must work efficiently to achieve your goals. It may seem like everything is great on the surface level seeing fancy concert clothes and smiling faces, but we all know that the true self has suffered personally and sacrificed a lot of time and energy over the years behind the curtain. Not only from the physical exertion needed from the body for sitting or standing for long periods of time and constant repetitive movements in the hands and breathing when practicing, but also from the mental struggles. Self-doubt, depression, practice-makes-perfect delusions, and concentration issues are all common obstacles for musicians. Although, musicians understand that putting time into something you are passionate about takes consistent work, and it requires the ability to comprehend the long term picture with sympathetic awareness and tolerance in the present. Understanding is an important skill in any profession to interact with compassion and kindness with colleagues, and musicians develop a strong sense of empathy for others throughout their work in the industry.
What is the twentieth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
20. High Expectations
With so many professional recordings on the market, performers have evolved to expect technically perfect concerts from themselves, and audience members generally anticipate perfect performances from entertainers. With a musician practicing towards perfection, ideally they deliberately and rationally address problem areas in their playing and apply techniques and procedures to improve weaknesses. Unfortunately, most times this pursuit of excellence takes a toll on mental and physical health, and balance between high expectations and reality must occur to maintain your overall wellbeing. Approaching practice as making your playing permanent is a healthier way to work towards acceptable and manageable expectations, just like supporting certain expectations within any other personal or business setting. High expectations are important for achievement, but these goals must be healthfully attainable for all parties involved.
What is the twenty-first skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
enthusiasm shared by all those interested in, playing with, learning, sharing, and connecting through music is universal. Everyone can make music through the tangibility and accessibility of our own voices and bodies as instruments. Professional musicians exclusively dedicate their lives to mastering their craft with the general purpose to share with others. Whether musicians have committed to music teaching, orchestra playing, chamber music collaborations, conducting, music therapy, audio engineering, solo performances, or so many more opportunities in the music industry, most professionals have exclusively determined to spend their lives growing and improving their art and connecting with others through music. Dedication to excellence is a vital skill in any profession, and musicians share a genuine enthusiasm for their work on a daily basis.
What is the twenty-second skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Whether you are talking about the repertoire you’ve been practicing or mentioning an upcoming concert to friends, family, or the local community, musicians naturally want to share their passion with others. It’s rewarding to provide moments of presence for audience members through music, and it’s so much fun to share music with a group of people. Marketing in the music industry comes in so many different ways whether you are promoting your teaching opportunities to potential students and their parents, making flyers for an upcoming chamber music recital, recording music for CD sales, creating an online platform, getting professional photos done for an upcoming video release, or marketing your talents on social media. Musicians are constantly doing their own advertising and promotion, and this is a great skill to utilize from an employee in any business.
What is the twenty-third skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
23. Project Manager
Most orchestras around the world are non-profit organizations. Their administration teams and musicians are regularly brainstorming and launching projects to increase community engagement, youth participation, and creative opportunities. A lot of musicians form chamber ensembles to initiate specialized projects to improve accessibility to and familiarity with music for audiences. The importance to expand community engagement to prisons, retirement facilities, juvenile detention centers, and hospitals are also vital areas for connection, and managing these projects specifically for audiences that normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to hear a concert is vital. Musicians project manage through brainstorming concert ideas, organizing rehearsal times, practicing individually, rehearsing as a group, finalizing appropriate repertoire depending on the audience, allocating speaking topics, contacting venues and facilities, receiving confirmation, determining attire, coordinating transportation, and performing. Communication, coordination, planning, motivation, initiation, execution, control, and completion are all skills exhibited in organizing these specialized concerts, and being sociable and working well with a team are qualities needed in a project manager in any profession.
What is the twenty-fourth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
24. Financial Management
Many musicians are self-employed and juggle a number of jobs to fulfill financial and artistic needs. From teaching music lessons, to selling products, running a website, lecturing as adjunct faculty, or playing part-time in an orchestra, you are very aware and concerned with profitability, expenses, cash, and credit. Through this financial management, your aim is to continue your work and interests while utilizing funds and optimizing resources without burning the candle at both ends. Financial management is vital for any business to succeed, and planning, organizing, directing, and controlling finances as a self-employed musician are applicable skills to any job.
What is the twenty-fifth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Early in a professional musician’s career, you are encouraged to research teachers, schools, competitions, youth orchestras, conductors, repertoire, composers, recordings, scholarships, and so much more. From the beginning, young professionals learn the importance of doing research homework and gathering information to gain confidence and take initiative with decisions. In any job interview, it’s important to research about the company you’d like to work for, and read about the staff that you’ll possibly meet and interact with in the interview and possibly on a daily basis, if hired. With increased knowledge and education, your potential and opportunity for success in the pursuit of something that you want will grow.
What is the twenty-sixth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians maintain good short term and long term focus. When you start learning an instrument before the age of 10 years young, you aren’t necessarily thinking about becoming a professional musician. You’re thinking about how much you like playing music, and you want to practice the scales and songs that your lesson teacher gave you to learn for that week. This is a healthy short-term focus to be productive while working towards a goal. Little does this music student know that they are building a stable and grounded foundation in their playing to help them be consistent, expressive, confident, intelligent, informed, reliable, and have the endurance needed to work as a professional musician for many years to come. Completing short term goals with precision, focus, and patience in any job builds good, strong foundations for the future.
What is the twenty-seventh skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Being adaptable is important in any situation. Especially since the world’s COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has adapted to new home and work conditions to thrive. Couples and families are learning how to create spaces for connection, separation, work, and play in the same household, all day long. Businesses have adapted to staff working from home and interacting virtually. New levels of trust between employer and employee must be initiated to remain productive and viable. Meetings, phone calls, conversations, and connections are all done through the computer or phone, including video conferencing, which welcomes colleagues and acquaintances into your home in an unfamiliar and vulnerable way. Staff colleagues may go years never visiting your home, and since COVID-19, people are facing work exchanges from the comfort of their own dwellings and getting glimpses in the intimate home lives of their fellow teammates. Musicians have adapted to making music during these new lockdown conditions by creating individual videos and recording separate layers for eventual integration. Professional musicians playing in an orchestra are adapting every second as they hear different instruments, lines in the music, and tuning as they work. Music teachers are always adapting their instruction style and advice by being sensitive to what their student needs in their lessons. Audio engineers are very in tune with what instrumentalists need while recording, facilitating breaks, providing detailed feedback, sharing encouragement, changing the location of the recording microphones, and so much more. Adaptability is necessary for everyone, especially during these unprecedented times, and it’s a vital skill in any profession.
What is the twenty-eighth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Music lasts for centuries, and instrumental playing, singing, and composition are activities, hobbies, and work that you can do for the entirety of your life. From starting practice at a young age, to listening to music during your final days, music lasts for a long time. Just like with any sport, as long as you are consistent and persistent with practicing music, it’s something you can continue working on and improving every day. Persistence in any profession is important and supports infinite learning and growth.
What is the twenty-ninth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
29. Hard Worker
Hard work is just one of the many ways that you can achieve your goals. Having the passion, motivation, inspiration, ambition, drive, planning, grit, endurance, and sacrifice are other important skills to make your dreams become a reality. The bulk of music progress does require putting in hours of practice to become a master of your craft. The hours don’t necessarily need to be hard, but the practice does need to be deliberate, and it takes discipline to maintain this work ethic. Through careful and thorough practicing, and rehearsing with awareness and presence, your skills will improve over time. It takes effort to work deliberately, but the results from your hard work in music will stay with you for a lifetime, and these are skills that translate well into any other job.
What is the thirtieth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Sharing an approach to music-making with a mind receptive to new ideas is a beautiful exchange for musicians when working together. Playing music with people who are trained and skilled in their craft, and who also show openness and curiosity to different techniques and styles is refreshing, and this genuine advance in making music provides a more collaborative working environment for everyone. Being open-minded is necessary in any work environment and profession, and this valuable skill as cultivated through music translates into any industry.
What is the thirty-first skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Something learned early when starting an instrument is that your parents, friends, pet, or siblings can’t practice for you, so it’s up to you to prepare for your music lesson that week. As a child, with some encouragement from you parents in the beginning, you learn to start your practice, and undertake the assignment from your lesson teacher. Over the years, this self-starter mentality translates into completing school homework, sports training, pursuing extracurricular activities, applying for scholarships, and deciding on college applications without needing to be told or encouraged to do so. Being a self-starter is such an important skill that can be learned through music, and it is a useful ability when starting your own business, personal brand, and in creating your own reality.
What is the thirty-second skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians are true goal setters. From starting out as a student with goals like playing your Bb major scale 3 octaves, practicing 2 hours instead of 1 hour, applying for your city’s youth orchestra, or attending a music school for college. Later goals may include studying abroad, signing up to play in a masterclass with your music idol, recording and applying to competitions and scholarships, or making a career in orchestral playing. Musicians also may strive to volunteer around the community, teach a studio, or create your own business. Whether you’d like to become an astronaut or obtain enlightenment during this lifetime, being goal-oriented is an invaluable skill that translates into any profession.
What is the thirty-third skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Music connects us to the universe in ways we cannot put into words. This feeling of freedom, acceptance, and infinite love as well as sadness, pain, and desire felt through playing and listening to music is hard to describe. From enthusiastic joy to the ultimate hurt, the passion we have for music is admirable. Humanity, animals, and nature are drawn to the music from the beauty, vibrations, and energy. This intense enthusiasm towards music is universal, and this passion for life is valued in any profession.
What is the thirty-fourth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Awareness of the body as its own instrument is a vital part to having a successful musical experience. By taking things slowly, maintaining presence, and cultivating a deliberate mental space, healthy transformation is achieved. Musicians must self-invest to balance a healthy body and mind when approaching music practice, teaching, and performance. This is a necessary focus for any person, and investing in oneself is the ultimate path to finding ways to help others.
What is the thirty-fifth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
When a soloist walks on stage, it’s important that the performer have self-confidence. Through astute awareness of the many hours of preparation, acting, rehearsing, and the excitement to share, you believe in yourself, trust your abilities, and have belief in your powers to have a successful performance. Self-reliance is an invaluable skill that translates into any profession.
What is the thirty-sixth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
When learning new music or re-learning music you’ve already played, it’s important to enact systematic practice approaches in order to achieve a consistent and reliable outcome. Practice makes permanent, and structure supports a deliberate plan for success in any job.
What is the thirty-seventh skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians spend a lot of time practicing on their own. Even when performing with a group of people, each individual must take time to learn and play their individual part to the best of their ability. Since a significant amount of time is spent inside, balance must be achieved through movement and a change of environment. By pursuing activities that require different skills to musical practice, further body, mind, and soul balance is achieved. Just like any job working in a building or a small space, it’s very important to find a complementary activity in nature, walking outside, or doing some kind of movement to stay health in all parts of your life.
What is the thirty-eighth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
38. People Skills
The social aspect to music is something to be cherished. The opportunity to share an experience with a community is very special. With authenticity, and great skill, a performer allows strangers to connect intimately and creates a space for everyone to be open and vulnerable for an artistic experience. People skills are so important in music, and the ability to deal with, influence, interact, and communicate effectively with other people is invaluable.
What is the thirty-nineth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
39. Initiative Taker
When approaching individual music practice, you must know where to begin your practice and make a plan of action. Time may be wasted when practicing areas of the music that you already know, unless you are deliberately working on run throughs of the music, practicing memory, or overall endurance. It’s important to take the initiative to work on technical areas of the music that you are not proficient in to improve and move forward with your abilities. In any other profession, discernment is important, and the ability to take action on things that need to be done is a valuable skill.
What is the fortieth skill developed as a musician that translates into any profession?
Musicians are highly motivated, and they work every day towards learning, improving, growing, and sharing. This high energy and determination is an important skill that translates to any profession. Being driven to succeed is an admirable trait, and any employer would be thrilled with this drive and determination to succeed on the team.