Making the jump from Semi to pro

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by FatPhalanges, Aug 20, 2017.

  1. FatPhalanges


    Jun 1, 2014
    New Jersey
    Hey, everyone! This is one for the more experienced and pro bass players here. I have been doing semi-pro gigging for a while now and I know I'm doing okay but I am nervous about jumping in completely before I'm ready. I know that waiting to be ready means I will never get there, but I really feel that my playing is still pretty far behind the full time working bass players. So my question is, what should I be practicing to put myself in demand for the living-wage gigs of Event/Wedding bands, studio work, and touring?

    I have been trying to really make myself a well-rounded player with reading, ear training, repertoire, etc. but It seems to me such a broad landscape of study and with an overabundance of educational bass resources, I feel like I really need some guidance to get to the important stuff. So are there any specific pieces of advice anyone can give me on mustering the salt for the full time life?
  2. dnp41


    May 10, 2016
    I'm by no means a pro, but I would suggest to get a mentor (someone you know who plays full-time). The network is often more important than how good you can play.
    Ing and swooch like this.
  3. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Remember this: on time is late, early is on time.
  4. Aeroflot

    Aeroflot Inactive

    Aug 18, 2017
    Know a million tunes, sing well, show up early, have reliable gear and transportation, don't be a dick, know the right people, and have luck on your side.

    You can't do much about the luck thing, but you can do something about the rest.
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2017
    swooch and dreamadream99 like this.
  5. Badwater


    Jan 12, 2017
    Your success will be dependent on what kind of character you have, how you network, how you look, and if you're a likable person. And, your musicianship.
  6. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Practice building relationships with the musicians already in that circuit.
    professional success is determined primarily by professional relationships.
    What one thing do pros know that amateurs don't? Other pros.
    pcake and RoadRanger like this.
  7. White Beard

    White Beard

    Feb 12, 2013
    Expand your abilities, too. Herbie Flowers played bass on a ton of records, but the story that sticks out is his work on Lou Reed's Transformer. They needed something to give "Walk on the Wild Side" a little more oomph in the bass department, so Herbie grabbed his double bass and layed down a second bass line on top of the first one, and made a sweet plus 10% on that record. He also suggested that he play tuba on "Goodnight Ladies" and "Make Up," and got another plus 10% on top of that. Union gigs do that type of stuff a lot. It's why violinists will also play mandolin and guitarists play banjo.

    I would also suggest finding music related side gigs, like blocking off a day to give lessons. Professional oboists often time also make reeds to sell (I've heard that no one manufactures double-reeds). Billionaires average seven streams of income, working musicians probably average about the same.
  8. All the players I respect and admire have these qualities:

    1. They read charts amazingly well
    2. They play by ear and listen accordingly and are adaptable
    3. They have adaptable personalities and get along with anyone, even the ******** on the gig
    4. They are grateful and confident and lift everyone around them up
    5. They don't rush their opportunities but take every one with some good consideration

    As far as resources Janek Gwizdala has all the advanced playing you could ever ask for (except slapping, but slapping has limited use on most gigs anyway) as well as whomever your favourite player is who is doing what you want to do. Get yourself out there, don't double book yourself, and always, always be prepared.
    BassChuck and Russell L like this.
  9. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    It seems like a good place to start would be to ask, In what way(s) exactly do you feel like your "playing is still pretty far behind the full time working bass players?" If you can identify specific deficiencies that you think you most need to work on, maybe someone can suggest particular educational sources or exercises. Others have offered good advice about ways to find and keep gigs, but that's getting ahead of the game if you don't think your playing is up to snuff.
    natobasso likes this.
  10. tfer


    Jan 1, 2014
    Never, EVER, talk crap behind another musicians back.

    Always be gracious, humble and supportive.

    Know your instrument inside and out.

    Be familiar enough with as many styles of music as possible, so that the day after playing a rock gig, you can step into a jazz show, that's followed by a Cuban recording, and you never stand out as someone who is faking it.

    It the professional world, reading is still required. Charts are mandatory.

    And beat the hell out of every type of social media that you can.
    Leo Smith and Russell L like this.
  11. Dug2


    Sep 24, 2011
    i hope you dont mind peanut butter and jelly. tough biz for sure
  12. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    Just to be clear you don't just get paid for the extra recording time if you double - you get an extra 10% on your hourly rate for ALL the hours you work on that session. Sweet :) .
  13. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    You make enough for both :wideyed: ?
    FatPhalanges and Dug2 like this.
  14. RoadRanger

    RoadRanger Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2004
    NE CT
    If you can actually enjoy playing "Mustang Sally" for the millionth time and not just fake it you're there :cool:.
  15. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    No matter how good you are, you must be likeable, and not fake about it.
    RoadRanger likes this.
  16. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Learn the Boy Scout code:


    Can't hurt, as a personal guide. And yes, know some folks. Got to. Bear up to lean times. Maybe have a part-time supplimental job (I taught on the side). If you're married, make sure your spouse understands, or god help her. If you have kids, do what's best for them, always, even if it means going back to playing semi-.

    Think hard, pal. It can be rough. But you might get lucky, too.
    natobasso likes this.
  17. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    BTW, I wasn't pro for long myself, mostly back in the 70's. It was quite a trip, but I decided eventually to just be semi-. No shame in that. For me, there were other things in life that meant more than living the pro lifestyle. No regrets.
  18. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I agree 100% with everything that's already been stated.

    I spent most of my life being semi-pro, and only recently started bringing home a steady paycheck that is higher than any day job I ever had. I'm still holding on to my day job, but love the fact that I don't have to. The only thing I feel I can add to what's been already said, is this:

    Play with as many people and bands as humanly possible, and make sure you absolutely nail all the material, without even a hint of complaint, every time, in every situation.

    I can't read, my knowledge of theory sucks, I can't play jazz, can't really sing much at all, and lots of 12 year olds on YouTube can play circles around me. I've gotten lots of great gigs though throughout the years, and I'm now earning my living with my bass because people know they can trust and depend on me 100%. I woodshed like a crazy person when I have to, and I make sure whoever I'm playing with is happy when I jump into a situation with them. That, smiling, and keeping my mouth shut has meant everything.
  19. blubass


    Aug 3, 2007
    Modesto Ca
    Current: Blackstar, DR strings, Nady. Previous endorsements with: GK, Rotosound, Ernie Ball, Cleartone, EMG, Dean, Dava Picks, Rebel Straps, Dickies
    It's no joke how true this is for a lot of musicians, and many of my favorite bassists.

    Learn all the theory you want, become amazing and recant and play the most obscure scales note for note forwards and backwards at the fastest tempos with pinpoint accuracy... and it still won't get you the gig in-and-of itself. Being as humble as possible, my work ethic is what makes me an in-demand player in my scene.

    There's a fine line between arrogance and confidence; if you ever cross into arrogance you may never see another gig.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  20. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    be reliable, cooperative and be willing to spend 12 hours learning a song if needed. as already said, make sure you nail every song you're going to play, because "good enough" sometimes isn't.

    and also as already said, play with as many musicians as you can, because you never know who will give you a referral or call you when they need a sub if you make a good impression personally and musically. and the more musicians you play with, the better you'll learn to work with different styles and personalities. it's a good thing all the way around. other musicians, if they like you, can also point you to the right people to talk to.

    one other thing - avoid negativity. no one wants to work with someone who makes their playing or recording time depressing.
    Russell L and Joe Nerve like this.