Personal Traits for the Aspiring Pro Guitarist

What do I mean by a Pro Guitarist?

  • I mean you can sit in on any musical setting and feel comfortable and confident.

  • You have professional gear.

  • You know about the history of the guitar and of music in general.

  • You don’t have a problem sight-reading sheet music and transposing songs for singers on the fly.

  • You are ready for when things go wrong with your gear or with others’ gear at gigs.

  • You show up early, knowing the music, dressed well and ready to play.

  • After the gig, you stay late, shake hands and network.

  • Then, you go home, take care of your gear and get to bed so you can wake up early and work on your music career.

  • You follow through with your clients and crew to make sure everything went smoothly.

  • All the while, you take care of yourself and your family.

  • When it comes to finances, you have your ducks in a row.

  • If someone calls you for a gig in an hour, you're ready to grab your ax and get to the venue looking good and ready to play.


Here are the 10 traits to embody that will make you a more professional musician and a better person:


Be Respectable

If you want to be treated like a professional musician and get paid like a professional musician then you have to act and look like one. You are always on display. Even at the grocery store. You are always marketing yourself. If you focus on being a good example and mentor to others then you have nothing to worry about. If you aren't proud of what you're doing, saying or how you look then maybe you shouldn't be in public doing, saying or looking like that.

  • Dress Well

  • Shower

  • Clean your hands

  • Smell Good

  • Do your hair

  • Stand up straight, and look people in the eye while you give firm handshakes.


Be Responsible

This is a euphemism for, "Have Your Shit Together." Being responsible is hard. It kind of encompasses everything I talk about in this article and my entire website. A responsible person has their life in order.

A responsible person doesn't let things break down on their watch and you can trust them to 


Be On Time

That means 5 minutes early. My old college music professor would mark us as either late or absent if we weren't 5 minutes early to class.

It's the same thing in the Army Band. It's amazing how many people are rewarded in life just because they show up before other people.


Stay Late

I was in a band once and we were opening for a band that was having their CD release. After our set, the other band members stayed for 2 of the headliners' songs and then packed up all of the merch and bailed to go to another show.

Most merch sales, handshakes, and opportunities for creating meaningful relationships occur within the last 10 minutes of a show. If you cut out early, you miss out on all of that!

They effective said, "We don't care enough about this audience or this other band to stick around with them. Needless to say, merch sales sucked that night and that kind of behavior continued so I didn't stay in the band much longer.


Be Studious

Just because you aren't in school doesn't mean you can't learn new topics. Invest in books. Take notes and set goals and deadlines for yourself. Create your own personalized curriculum. I keep a long list of Things to Learn and set aside 3 1-hour sessions per week to learn new things. It's easy for me to spare 1 hour every few days that I can block out on your calendar and check off one of the things on my list.



Practice ahead of time and know the music. Rehearsal isn't the time to learn music. That occurs in the practice room. What's more annoying than a bunch of musicians sitting around a cell phone trying to pick out chords and licks because nobody learned the music ahead of time.


Make sure your gear works

That shit is expensive. Not only does it cost a lot, but it may be one of the primary tools that you use to earn an income. Take care of it so it doesn't break.

You don't only have to take care of your musical gear. You have to take care of everything in your life. Take care of your home, your car, your family, your health, your finances, your personal life, your emotional life and anything that contributes positively to your world.

You have to protect your game pieces at all cost.


Be ready for when things go wrong or break

Have contingency plans. Plural! Lots of times plan B doesn't work. What would you do then? I feel like my entire life has been about contingency plans. Nothing has ever freaking worked out the first time.


Be A Strong Person

It takes a strong person to figure out what they want most in life, work their ass off and go for it. Don't make excuses and don't ever let your knockdowns and walls become your excuses. A successful person always gets up and always finds a way over or around the walls. 


Be Helpful

Actively look for ways to be of use to others. If you finished setting your stuff up at a gig, help the drummer or help run mic cables. Help cleanup at the end of a gig.

I wouldn't go overboard and start mopping (unless you spilled something), but easing the burden on others is one of the best ways to make new acquaintances and strengthen relationships with others. It can also lead to great opportunities for learning new aspects of your field.

Lastly, you wouldn't believe how taken aback and grateful other bands can be if you help them with their load-in/load-out. It shouldn't be a shock when musicians help other musicians. It should be the norm.

If you enjoying reading about how to be a pro guitarist then check out these 10 Tips To Get the Most Out of Your Practice Session.