Playing the Bass Guitar for a Career

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    • 1). Refine your playing skills. Professional bass players have typically played their instruments for a decade or more. Master complex patterns and learn music theory so that you can improvise in any key. Listen to and gain proficiency in as many genres as you can, since versatility will make you a more attractive player.

    • 2). Join a band. You'll learn how to play with other musicians, improve your improvisation skills and gain exposure in a working band, however humble. The band can reflect your own musical interests, but don't limit yourself. Be prepared to work hard for very long and very little. Remember that the Beatles and their legendary bass guitarist, Paul McCartney, performed live music in Hamburg, Germany, for over 10,000 hours before recording a single note.

    • 3). Schedule playing gigs with your band. Working bands do just that—work. First gigs might include small open-mic shows, short opening acts, weddings and special event appearances. Print out cards and distribute them to special-event planners to find more playing gigs, or look online for promoters in your area.

    • 4). Record a demo with your band or with just one or two other musicians. The demo should highlight your talent and versatility on the bass guitar. Choose a professional studio to obtain the best sound you can for a top-quality representation of your abilities.

    • 5). Design a website and post MP3s of your demo tunes, with a bio, background info and videos. Create MySpace and Facebook accounts, which enable you to post your music and videos online. Use these social networking sites to cross-promote your music and boost your following. Distribute your CD demo to music stores, bookstores and other businesses that support emerging artists. Research recording studios in your area and upload the music to Web distribution programs like iTunes or Audible. Make sure your CD jacket has your contact information.

    • 6). Send your CDs and promote your website to studios and bands throughout the country. Apply for any open positions as a bass guitarist. Be prepared to relocate: Successful bands tour frequently. Recording studios are densely located in big cities, but major regional studios are hidden away in such out-of-the-way places as Bogalusa, Louisiana (The Studio in the Country, where Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan have recorded major albums). Your versatility, talent and experience are the major factors that determine your chances as a career bass player, but persistence will get your foot in the door.

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