Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Discussions relating to the classical guitar which don't fit elsewhere.
Peter Terpstra
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Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Peter Terpstra » Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:17 pm

Dear Guitarfriends,
Started with CG when i was about 30 years and did this fanatically for about five years.
Started with guitar lessons again about a year ago and now over 54 years old.
Still quite enthusiastic and practice daily for several hours and wonder what my perspective
would be for becoming a professional player. Just started with Leo Brouwer "estudios sencillos"
nr 13, a bit moderate level i would say. Are there good examples for this?
People have experience with this willing to share? What is there to say about this?
No not thinking about playing in a concert hall or go among great players more about being able to
play really advanced pieces, maybe teaching myself. Compose some music myself...

(With apologies for my bad English)


Last edited by Peter Terpstra on Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:02 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Rasqeo » Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:28 pm

I think it depends how you define "professional player". Do you mean someone who simply earns their living from playing guitar, e.g. combining performing, teaching, arranging etc? If so then I think the goal is difficult but possible.

On the other hand if you mean playing at the highest level as a pure performer and competing with the top performers in the world then no it is not a realistic goal in my opinion. Not saying it's impossible but there is no precedent for this as far as I'm aware. All the top professionals began playing guitar at an early age.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by AndreiKrylov » Sun Jul 02, 2017 4:32 pm

what do you mean by "professional player"?
playing good for yourself?
playing for some money in cafe?
playing in concert hall?
winning international competition?
sure,you could start to work at any age if there is a demand for your service in particular area.
but... age is age and guitar playing is understood as a kind of sport for majority of players and aficionados - therefore all rules and limitations applicable to sport are applicable in this case too..
I'd better speak by music...Please listen my guitar at Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, etc.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Jim Davidson » Mon Jul 03, 2017 9:46 am

You could absolutely do weddings, events, functions, etc.

I'm not sure about teaching. The skills that make a good player don't necessarily make a good teacher. Doing that well requires quite a bit more training, which is unfortunate since I'd say teaching is a big source of income for many "professional" players.
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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Andrew Pohlman » Wed Jul 05, 2017 5:35 pm

Go for it! However you define "professional". I make a little money playing at a level that is not what I would call "professional", but most people don't know the difference. I'm really intermediate, but good enough for a lot of "volunteer" gigs, and paid gigs when I can find them. Having said that, I played rock music semi-professionally for decades all over the SF Bay Area. So I have lifelong connections in the biz.

If you want to focus on music as a profession, go for it !
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Kevin Cowen
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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Kevin Cowen » Wed Jul 05, 2017 8:17 pm

You're 54 and you've spent 6 years learning classical guitar.
I'd say your chances of earning a living becoming a professional musician are zero.
I'm sorry to be harsh but sometimes it helps.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by ddray » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:10 pm

Kevin Cowen wrote:
Wed Jul 05, 2017 8:17 pm
You're 54 and you've spent 6 years learning classical guitar.
I'd say your chances of earning a living becoming a professional musician are zero.
I'm sorry to be harsh but sometimes it helps.
Well he said something about playing at an advanced level and composing pieces. And I say, sure. And if he got to an advanced level and his playing was of heart-grabbing quality, then there's really not much more that the other thousand YouTube virtuosos playing the same 30 or so pieces have on him other than youth. In other words, we never know, do we? Go for it. Plus if he plays his own stuff he'd have the jump on most young hotshots out of the conservatory giving us the 500,000th rendition of Asturias with most exquisite tremolo. Likewise, sorry to be harsh.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Laudiesdad69 » Sun Jul 09, 2017 2:56 am

I swear when I first read the topic, I thought it said "Becoming professional wrestler at middle age." I seriously need new eyeglasses. Seriously, though there are better ways to make the bucks. All the pro musicians that I know, that do it as a means to support themselves, are pretty poor. I know a few that have made records and are getting a pittance from royalties. I think it's fun to play the occasional coffee house gig, or play at a wedding or two, but just think of all that you will have to accomplish, and how long it takes to get there, and you may find that you're running short on time.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by powderedtoastman » Sun Jul 09, 2017 4:24 am

I'm kind of wondering if I can move somewhere cheaper, keep my day job at half or three quarter time, and spend the rest of my time studying music more seriously, and then perform and take on students when I am well enough versed to do so. Seems like a reasonable compromise. Not looking to be the best or make big bucks but I have started to lose interest in what I do to pay the bills these days.

If you look at Marc Teicholz, he had a career as a lawyer first and he's now a very successful classical guitarist, but for everybody who managed to pull that off there could be thousands more who didn't :/

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by dtoh » Sun Jul 09, 2017 6:28 am

I'm 59 working 12 to 15 hours a day at my day job. Play guitar a 2 or 3 hours a day and would like to perform professionally at some point (I've only been playing seriously for 2 1/2 years.) Quixotic I'm sure, but probably better than spending time working on my golf game.

I have a young friend who is a very accomplished international concert pianist. He's probably one of a handful of people in his age group who gets regular prestigious opportunities to perform, but doesn't think he can make it economically without teaching or support from family and friends.

Honestly, the chance of becoming an economically successful professional music performer regardless of age or talent is zero after you round off the decimal points. It's not a rationale thing. You have to do it because you love doing it.

And.... if it's a classical instrument for which there are not permanent orchestral positions, then the chance of success is way below zero.

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by Rognvald » Sun Jul 09, 2017 3:57 pm

Time spent in the work shed and musical ability determine one's musical progression. We have all met players who advance quickly and we wonder how they can do it. It's no different than why some baseball players hit 300 while others struggle to hit 240. So, if you have real musical aptitude, you can move more quickly than most. Secondly, the advantage of some older people journeying into music is that they have real life experience in how to "get things done" without wasting time. These skills could have been honed in a previous profession as was the case of Marc Teicholz as PTM mentioned. Thirdly, if your goal is musical performance, there are many levels possible but the paying gigs are generally low-paid, few and far between. To contemplate a well-paid career in Classical Music at any age is, in my opinion, quixotic. Lastly, approaching music with a mercantile attitude seems self-defeating and the motive does not create enough energy, I believe, to accomplish your goal. From great players to guitar bangers, we all are seeking something other than money, fame . . . we seek beauty. How else could we justify the tens of thousands of hours spent in practice? Playing again . . . Rognvald
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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by chrisc » Fri Aug 18, 2017 2:46 am

I have trained with two talented guitarists who have PHD's from a prestigious program. I realize that music is a minor talent of mine. My primary talent thankfully pays well and I am very good at it. For me music is a labor of love that I enjoy. I spend time sharpening my mind for my primary pursuit and maybe an hour or two on guitar after I take care of family and friends. My teacher is the local host of the next GFA meeting and we will have David Russell in town. I think that supporting with some teaching and weddings is doable , not sure sure how much pay you can make above that. I had a friend who played acoustic guitar in Muscle Shoals as a back up and made good money, just no benefits or retirement.
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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by 80guitarguy » Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:54 am

I'm in a similar position. I discovered the cg when I was 29 and dove in headfirst. I'm 36 now, despite a serious health issue that set me back for a very long time, I'm almost ready to my RCM 7. I've also learned some higher level pieces (Granada, Recuerdos, Capricho Arabe), have taught a couple students, and have connected with a local coffee shop to play at occasionally. I am now starting to work on wedding repertoire. I feel caught between two worlds because I'm too old to take this too seriously, but I still have a lot of years left (fingers crossed) and a lot of time to put into the guitar. But it's still discouraging when you see just how difficult it is to make a decent living for yourself as a musician. Either way, as someone mentioned above, we do it for the sheer love of it. I don't try to ask where the guitar is going to take me. I just stay focused on the present moment and appreciate the opportunity to make music every day.
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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by CathyCate » Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:20 am

Dear Peter

I suggest spending some more time considering the "Why" in lieu of the "Whether" and the "How". If the reason is burnout in your current profession, it is possible that you could burnout as a musician once that becomes your primary means to bread and butter.

It would be a real bummer to invest time and energy required to turn this into a new career only to discover that you no longer have the passion for it that was present when it was just a hobby or a sideline for a few extra bucks. Maybe consulting a career counselor and talking to some full time musicians will provide valuable insight.

My Dad, a factory worker who had lots of hobbies along the way, once said: "You're not supposed to like it, It's your job." As the years went by and I followed my heart through a number of career changes until my recent retirement, I grew to appreciate his common wisdom. :)
All the best!

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Re: Becoming professional player at an middle age?

Post by zupfgeiger » Fri Aug 18, 2017 8:55 am

I am 60 and play the guitar for 6 years after having stopped more then 30 years ago. It's my firm intention to do some gigs at regional level after retirement, three or four years from now. Not for the money, just for fun and "to stay tuned". As a guitar player I need serious targets like preparation of the next lesson with my teacher or playing at the 70th birthday of my mother-in-law. Of course I can never compete with a professional musician. But - hopefully - I will be good enough to entertain an easy and casual audience.
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