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How Do You Know When Your Playing Is At A Professional Level?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by capnsandwich, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. I'm not sure which forum this belongs so I picked this one but if there's another one that suits this thread better then go ahead and move it.

    So, I'm talking to some people about my band and my bass playing and I get the question, "So how good are you?" I try to compare my abilities in the most descriptive yet humble and non-boasting way I can but I had a hard time explaining where I was at as a bassist. So finally one of the guys asks me, "Are you at the professional level? I mean, not by how much money you make but by your abilities?"

    I really didn't know how to answer that. I didn't know if I was or not. I mean I can play with stuff that's on the radio but I'm no Matthew Garrison or Victor Wooten. I'm just me.

    So my question is, how do you know when you're at the professional level in your playing abilities?
  2. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    That's tough to say. I mean, there are tons of people playing bass professionally who I wouldn't consider to be at a "professional level".

    To me, that would mean that you could sit in with almost any group in any genre and be able to deliver a solid performance. That means a wide knowledge of genres, the ability to read music, and the ability to lock in immediately with any assortment of other musicians.

    Basically, if anyone, anywhere could hire you if a bassist is needed, be it a jazz band, a stage musical, a rock gig, church praise and worship, funk, or even classical... THEN I'd consider you to be at a professional level. My old college band director used to call that "basic competence."
  3. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    This is simple really. You know when you are at a professional level when people pay you. End of story.
  4. biohazed


    Aug 31, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    I say your at a professional level when 2 things happen

    1.)you get paid and more than $20 for a show
    2.)You don't feel the need to as a question like "How Do you Know when you reach a professional level"

    and i'm not trying to be rude when I say that ..but the point is you'll know it when you hit it and you won't have to ask it :D
  5. I understand the financial aspect of being professional, and you're right about that, but I'm talking about in your musical/bass playing abilities. I'm not getting paid to play what I play right now but could I if the opportunity arose? Am I good enough? That's what I'm getting at. I know none of you, well some of you have, but most of you guys have never seen or heard me play so I know you couldn't judge for yourself where I'm at, but how could I judge myself? I'm just throwing out this question for some general info.
  6. xshawnxearthx


    Aug 23, 2004
    new jersey
    i'd say a professional is someone who makes a living off of playing music.
  7. +1 - to me, being at a professional level means you make a decent living from playing music.
  8. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Hmmm, yeah I will stick with what I said before. You are professional when you get paid. It's not really whether you are making a living from music or not that makes you a professional. As soon as you get paid you are earning money. Your abilities don't make you professional either, there are some crappy professionals in other fields too.

    Acting professionally on the other hand is a different matter. That involves the way you conduct yourself as a musician and how well you handle yourself when you are doing what you are paid to do. It's also about how you portray yourself even when you aren't being paid.
  9. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    When you do it for a living.
  10. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    Define "a living".
  11. brivello


    Jun 27, 2008

    +1 I agree.
  12. Yeah but this would be for a session guy type of thing. I mean, some bass players can be called pro but cannot play country or blues for example. Can we call pro a bassist that is really good within one genre only?
  13. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town. Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    This individual is slightly misusing the english language. He is searching for a way to ask you how proficient you are. It's a hard question to answer because if he's already unclear on what "professional" means, it's probably going to be very hard to describe to him how professional you are.

    Interestingly enough,one of the noun definitions ( http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/professional read the first set of definitions, not the wikipedia notations that follow) of professional is "an authority qualified to teach apprenticies" this might be a good way to reflect on your abilities. Are you good enough to properly teach apprentices?

    If playing bass is your profession (i.e. you're making most of your livelyhood playing bass), and you are good enough to pass your skills on, then the best answer in your case is probably "yes".

    In my case, I get paid to play, but it's not my livelyhood, so I would answer now. Also, I'm probably not a good enough bassist to be a good teacher of all but beginning students.
  14. mutedeity


    Aug 27, 2007
    The Oxford dictionary defines a professional as "a person working or performing for payment".
  15. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    What happens if you do it for a living and then you decide to stop? Are you no longer able to play at a "professional" level?
  16. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    Sole source of income.
  17. superfunk47


    Sep 9, 2007
    Personally, I don't think you'll get a conclusive answer, because I think it's subjective enough that one doesn't really exist.

    I consider a professional player to be one who is experienced enough that people (studios, bands looking for members, etc.) would seek their services as a player, rather than the player being the one seeking the opportunities, dig?

    For example, a semi pro or amateur athlete might show up for a tryout, whereas a pro would be recruited and offered a deal. They're the ones being sought, rather than the ones seeking.

    In the context of music, you'll have your hopeful amateur or semi pro studio musicians showing up to a lower level audition hoping for a gig to put food on the table, whereas your pro level studio cats will be getting called because the producer or musicians want them to do the cuts for their project.

    The line between semi pro and pro is how that call goes; as a semi pro, you're making the calls for work, as a pro, you're getting the calls for work.

    IMO. ;)
  18. jbassplayer


    Jul 30, 2008
    As one other had said before, as long as you can lock in with the band, read music, and basically be great at just about any and every style of music then I think you would be playing at a professional level. Also if somebody is willing to hire you to play based on your abilities as a bass player, then I would say that you are playing at a professional level.

    Hope this helped:)
  19. younggun


    Jul 19, 2008
    San Antonio
    Career= getting paid to do something for a living. Generally speaking if you do something for a living your are usually a professional at it, but its not a requirement.

    Professional refers to a level of competence or expertise, behavior, and even appearance within your chosen field. A professional has the ability to get paid for what he does, but that isn't a qualification to be considered professional.

    Getting paid for doing something does not necessarily qualify you as professional. I could go and clean someone's drain out for them and get paid for it, but it does not make me a professional plumber.

    Insofar as the specifics of being a professional bassist is concerned...do you have a thorough understanding of music theory as it applies to your instrument, and an ability to utilize that understanding in a group setting at a highly competent level? I would say that probably qualifies you as professional.

  20. flapbass


    Sep 20, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    consider the path of the psycoacoustic-spiritual circuit: it starts with a human bass player(soul>inspiration to profess an emotional value in a sonic medium>brain>imagination>intellect>the funk juice>nerves>tendons>muscles>skin/pick)> bass rig(instrument>cable>fuzz pedal>cable>amp>speaker cable>cab w/ speakers)>environment(air>space>time)>audience(ears>brain>soul>inspiration to cook, clean, dance, sleep, make love, be funky, drive, zone out, sweep, cry, laugh, smile, carry on, write music, play music, work, get drunk, listen)

    so how good are you at completing that circuit? a good physician is good at making people feel less misery, a good musician should be good at making people feel more joy.

    a few things: personality, appearance, performance and ability usually come into the picture when considering the quality of a circuit.

    music is supposed to make you feel good, that's all. if you are asking "what's professional?," ask also "what's worth professing?"

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