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Need some advice

Discussion in 'Ask Adam Nitti' started by hangar1610, May 10, 2010.

  1. hangar1610


    May 10, 2010
    Hi Adam,

    First, thank you for taking the time to read this. My name is Juan Antonio Vallejo; I’m single, 40 yrs old, no dependents and out of work. For the past 21 years I’ve worked in the customer service field from August of 1988 to 2008. In October 31st of 2008, my job was terminated due to the economic downturn and recession. I’m at a crossroads right now. I’m a bass player and would like to do something that includes music as my livelihood if that is possible in today’s ugly economic climate. I’m thinking of going back to school and study music or something related to it. The reason is music is all I know and the only thing I know well. Having stated this; what advice could you give me if I’m going back to school to study music? What should a true musician have under his belt to truly survive out there in there local community? What should one be versed in (besides playing in a band or group) to at least to gain some income on the side? Assuming that a living on music alone is just not possible anymore. Thank you so much and God bless……..

    - Juan A. Vallejo.
  2. skwee


    Apr 2, 2010
    If you are considering going back to school, I'd recommend finding a teacher that can give you good instruction AND ensure good connections. I'd also really work on being able to sight read ANYTHING. It's also good to get yourself involved in a community of musicians. Remember, other bass players are no the enemy, they can be your best allies, since if they are not available, you can fill in.
  3. adamnitti


    Nov 29, 2001
    hi juan-

    thanks for your post. first of all, i'm sorry to hear about your job. unfortunately, this is not an uncommon story these days. we are certainly in some challenging times. also, i'm going to apologize in advance for being long-winded... i did a lot of 'thinking out loud' in my reply. :D

    btw, skwee made some awesome points that i agree with, wholeheartedly. thanks for posting, skwee. now let me add my $.02, which is worth the price paid, lol...:

    it sounds like you are at a crossroads now, at which you have decided this might be a great opportunity to pursue your musical passion. i understand your desire to get an education to become more well-rounded as a musician and more able to tackle a variety of musical challenges. you are also wise to assume that making a living on music, alone has its own challenges... most of those that are maintaining any level of consistency are also maintaining a level of diversification. it is possible to make music your livelihood if you are smart about it, but even those that are diversified still experience at least a little of the 'income rollercoaster' effect that goes along with being self-employed, etc.

    i'm assuming that when you talk about going to school you are talking about enrolling in a college or university program, or music-trade school program with the intention of getting a music degree? if so, i would strongly challenge you to ask yourself why you are going to go to school, and what are the costs involved, both financial and time-related. music school and more formal music ed programs are awesome environments for concentrated studies (i went to school for several years, myself), but they are not going to offer you any job security or necessarily help you score the gig you are looking for. there is one exception where they are very helpful, though, and that is if you have aspirations to teach at a college or university, in _most_ cases you will need _at least_ an undergrad degree to even be given the time of day by the music dept. (in fact, most institutions these days are requiring at least a master's degree for consideration, if you want to score an adjunct or faculty position. another possible exception is private institutions, which are sometimes more lenient and will take into consideration things like your resume and industry credentials.)

    a little aside: i'll never forget when i was in college, one of my jazz improv professors told our class one day that he felt a music performance degree (my current major at the time) was a complete waste of time and money. i was shocked. in fact, it was his opinion that music degrees, in general had only questionable value unless you wanted to teach. in that case, he suggested getting either a music ed degree or a music theory degree to support that career path, but i digress...

    anyways, you may not be considering any of these paths but i felt it was worthwhile to at least share some folks' opinions for your consideration. here's the thing... if your goal is to be a well-rounded working bass player doing everything from cover gigs to corporate gigs to sessions, etc, you are going to have to be competent in a variety of styles, have great tone, great expression, great time and feel, read well, know tunes, etc, etc, etc... these are all things you already know.

    but the thing that absolutely matters the most, regardless of what you are wanting to do, is your reputation for skill and professionalism coupled with your ability to network and connect like nobody's business.

    contrary to what some folks might assume, musical success comes from cultivating relationships, not cultivating your skill. the music industry is unfortunately one of those sectors in which your dedication, hard work, and competence is NOT proportional to your level of success. this was the single, most difficult lesson i ever had to learn in my career, and it caused me great depression for several years. keep in mind that people you potentially will work with and for are already going to assume you can play, so make sure you have your house in order there before you really step out. it's your personality and hang factor that is going to keep you at the forefront of people's minds and keep you working when it's all said and done. you are also going to need a lot of patience. as you step out into the players' world, it will take some time to build real relationships with people. that doesn't mean you will have to starve for years before you get a gig; it just means you might have to do more of a variety of things (maybe some not music-related) to contribute to your income at first until you become more established.

    finally, let me offer that the skills that you need to be competent on stage or in the studio can be learned and refined by working with a private instructor who has the knowledge and experience to help you target and master the key elements needed to take on most any gig. you don't necessarily have to go to school for that. this is the reason why i challenged you to ask yourself what are the reasons for enrolling in the first place... can you get what you need spending much less and requiring less time? only you can figure out the answer to that one. also, are you going to have to go into debt to go to school? if so, do you want a massive school loan hanging over your head for years while you are working just to make ends meet when you first set out to be a pro bassist? is the return going to be worth the cost? would it be better to ration a budget for weekly private lessons with 1 or 2 great instructors and some study materials like books, cd's, etc., than to take that on? your results may vary... but these are the things you need to really think about as you move forward contemplating your decision.

    i wish you all the best as you pursue your passion! remember: if you are truly doing what you love and what you are called to do, the money will eventually come...

  4. Bocete

    Bocete My E string is 36 1/4" long

    Sep 30, 2006
    Wow, great post, Adam. With a little adaptation, it would make an excellent journal article.

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