Be a kind of "professional" player with very little time?


Hi guys!

I hope this is the right place to start this topic.
I’m a player from germany. I am 25 years old and play guitar for 15 years now. I can say for sure that guitars and music are my life and I am never going to stop with playing, because it helped me through tough times and it’s simply the most fun thing I can do.
But I don’t have the opportunity to spend a very big amount of time with my guitars. I study electrical engineering and I am afraid that, when I am finished and have my masters degree, I will mainly go to work. At the end of the day I may have one hour to practice, probably less or on some days I can’t play at all.
Sadly I don’t see a possibilty to do something with guitars or music as a job, or at least I don’t have an idea what I could do at the moment.

I can play various fast stuff, some of the early Children of Bodom solos (Black Widow, Downfall, some others), and some stuff from Paul Gilbert too. Thanks to this incredibly website I was (and still am) able to adress some of the problems that occur in my playing, and I think I am on a good way to fix them.

However, I am afraid of getting a worse player if I don’t have much time to practice. At the moment on most days I am able to spend two or more hours to practice or just doodle around, but I know that this will end some time in the future.

I never had a long break in playing the guitar. Will I maintain my skilllevel, even if I maybe can’t practice for a couple of days?

Sorry for bad english :slight_smile:



Yes, you will maintain your skill level. Spend as little time as it takes to maintain your skill level and spend the rest writing good songs. You’ve been playing 15 years. I don’t know of any guitarist who ever made it as a pro musician if he still didn’t have what it takes after 15 years of playing, @Troy Have you?

One thing you might want to consider is after you earn your degree, become a full time musician for two years. If at the end of two years you are not making money, then look for an electrical engineering job.

First of all send in a video your playing so Troy can see if you have the talent to realistically have a decent shot at making it, and also include a link or two to songs you wrote. If you can’t write great songs, don’t even try this and go with your engineering degree. No band ever made it with lousy songs. Bad players have made it, but because they still had songs people liked such as Motley Crue. Of course when Crue started out, the Music industry was a thriving industry. Now the music industry is almost dead. How many bands can you name that have come along in the last 15 years who made it even close to as big as Motley Crue?

Don’t wait more than two years after getting your degree to start looking for an engineering job if you don’t make money in music. After about two years, your degree will get old and then you will be less qualified for good jobs.

Do you already have your bachelor’s Degree in electrical engineering? The best thing to do would have been to pursue a music career for 3 or 4 years after getting your Bachelor’s Degree. If you don’t make money in music after 4 years then go back to school and get your Masters Degree. @Troy What do you think of this advice? He’s in Europe so his education is probably free. Still, if he earns his Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering and then spends 7 or 8 years pursuing a music career, if that doesn’t work out, when he looks for a job his degree will be 8 years old and worth much less than if new, right?


Thank you for your answer! :slight_smile:
I will reply more detailed soon, because I have to do some things.

But yes, my education is free (not completely, but at least not really expensive at all).
I will finish my bachelor’s degree next year in summer.
I already work in the development department of a very well known research facility for a couple of years, so I already have a good amount of work experience, even though I’m not nearly finished with my bachelor’s degree :smiley:
So I think I could find a job, even after two years of doing something different or music related.

But I am a little bit afraid of just “starting” a career as a musician. Even if it fails and I can find a job as engineer after that, I need money to live in the meantime. And that could be a big problem.


Is it possible you could find an engineering job that would still allow you the time to have band practice two or three nights a week and to play shows on the weekends?

Do you have any of your songs on Youtube or anywhere on the internet? What style of band do you picture yourself trying to make a career out of playing in? Name a few well known bands that are somewhat similar.


Hi Daniel, to me this sounds more like a life question rather than how many hours you need to practice. Forgive me if I seem a little blunt in the following questions/statements, but I think you need to clarify (for yourself) a few things to help you move forward:

A. Judging by the post title, you seem unsure about what you want . Do you want to be a professional musician or just be able to play at a ‘professional’ level? I really want to play at a professional level, but wouldn’t want to do it as a full time career as it would take me away from my family time and I think it would take the fun out of guitar. That’s not to say I wouldn’t supplement my income with music by being in a covers band for example. If having a musical career is so important to you, why are you studying for a masters degree in something you do not wish to ultimately do? In that case, take a job with your bachelor’s degree to pay the bills and completely invest 100% of your free time into music career


Why only one hour? Are you planning to on working 18 hour days? I hope not! This is just fear talking- If you love the guitar as much as you describe in the opening post, you will find time.

C. What type of music career do you want to pursue? Your own band/music? Session guitarist? If you are looking to be the session type, you may have the technical skills, but what about the theory? The musical knowledge/experience to cover multiple styles?

D. Is there any way to combine the electrical engineering with the music industry? (I have no idea what I’m talking about by the way) Could you work for a pedal company, amp builders, electrical engineering for large band tours or something to do with musical equipment and studios? You may be able to earn a living but get your foot in the music industry at the same time.

In conclusion, once you know what you want, then you can write down all the things you need to do to reach your goals. You need to be honest with yourself and have the courage of your convictions. Don’t worry about maintaining your technique, thats relatively easy to do with a small amouny of regular practice. Its the whole picture that you need to think about. I’m sure that all of the above and ideas in other forum posts are all possible, but some are more likely than others - only you can make the decision and I’m sure you will make the right one for you.

Good luck my friend!


That was a very thoughtful post, Picking Apprentice! I’ve been trying to help Daniel as well and although I’m sue he could answer the question I quoted himself, I’m going to just give some insight into your question since it’s something I also did.

You see, I wanted to be a professional musician. However, much like anyone hoping to become a professional musician, a professional athlete, or hoping to establish a career in any industry which is ultra-competitive - far beyond probably 99% of professions in that aspect, I wanted to make a responsible decision regarding my future. While I was willing to give everything I had to make it in the music business as a guitarist in a band I formed or joined, I would have been reckless and irresponsible to put all my eggs in that basket with no back-up plan. i sure as hell wasn’t about to take a career path the result of which would be that if I didn’t happen to make it in the music business, I’d be all but guaranteed of working some repetitive, mundane, blue collar job requiring no particular skill and therefore paying barely above the minimum wage!

The only responsible thing to do ws to have a back-up plan so that if my foray into the ultra-competitive world of being a professional heavy metal musician ended in failure, I wouldn’t be exiled to a world of unending drudgery for the rest of my working lifetime. So, I decided I would go the University Of South Florida and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from The School Of Business. After 4 years of very hard studying, cutting which I also found the time to practice my guitar a good amount and attend some of the local nightclubs which, during the late 80’s and very early 90’s (when I was earning my degree in Tampa, Florida featured some excellent local as well as national bands.

That enabled me to enjoy the legendary Tampa music scene of that era as well as size up my competition. Meanwhile, I successfully earned my degree which would offer me some security should my music career not be successful. I suspect Daniel’s reasons for studying engineering are similar to my reasons for earning my Marketing Degree.


Good post. I totally get the whole back-up plan thing - its a good thing. I guess my post was about getting Daniel to really think about what he truly wants and needs. He is young and the world is his oyster. The digital era has also changed the musical landscape into new ways to get your music out there and make a living. He may be able to have his cake and eat it! (Depending on what he wants to do)


Hey guys!
Thank you for your detailed posts and personal insights! :slight_smile:
I will try to answer you with my Kartoffel-english :smiley: (I sometimes have problems to say what I want to say).

I started studying electrical engineering because I am obsessed with guitar amplifiers. I still am. I own several old Marshalls and a few other, tube driven, devices from the 80’s or 90’s.
I already have an completed apprenticeship as businessman (I hope it is called like that, here in Germany it is called “Kaufmann”). It is very important to have an apprenticeship here in Germany, because otherwise you will most likely get nowhere to work. You can’t really do anything here without that.

After that I was not really satistifed with the job and decided to study something that I found interesting and is related to my passion for music and guitars. I mean, in electric guitars and especially in amplifiers, there is a lot of electronic.
In the meantime I got a job as research assistant in a very well known research facility here in Germany. I help to develop electronic devices, some devices I even develop on my own without help from other engineers. I really enjoy this and I am pretty good at it (I now do work which is done by engineers with a bachelor’s or even master’s degree), but it has nothing to do with music.

What I noticed is because of the really tough subject (electrical engineering is pretty time-consuming), I don’t always have time for playing or practicing. And I am extremely afraid that this will get worse when I am finished with my degree and start working as an engineer. Sadly I don’t really know how this is in other countries, but in Germany you go to work somewhat early in the morning (most people start at around 8 AM) and work until like 5 or 6 PM. On days where I don’t have to go to the university I work like that. And when I come home I grab something to eat and have to do some other things like cleaning etc.
Let’s say I can start practicing at 8 PM. On most days I go to bed at around 10 or 11 PM (I need my sleep :slight_smile:). And I want to meet friends and do other things like reading a book or something else.

I constantly imagine the future as “I will go to work and maybe, if I have time after working, I will do something”. That’s a problem here which many people have, but most people don’t have the urge to play the guitar several hours a day :smile:
And I don’t even have a girlfriend and/or kids at the moment, which I would like to have in the future.

My whole problem is: How can I fit work and music in my life?
I know people who stopped playing because they were too busy with work and family. Of course, every single one of them still loves music. Most of them started playing again after a long time, even after 20 years when they were in their 40’s or even older. But I don’t want to stop at all, I want to constantly get better and learn new songs/styles/things. That is what I want.

And I am afraid that there is no place for that in life.

I don’t think that I have the talent to do this professional (I chose the title somewhat wrong - I meant to play at a professional skill level, no to live as a professional musician, sorry for that), I don’t even think that I want to do that because I think it is possible that I would stop loving it so much, because I have to live from music.

But when I work as an engineer (which is really comfortable and well payed compared to many other jobs, many other jobs are far more time-consuming too because you sit in an office for a whole day), I fear that I don’t have enough time to play like I want to play. And this feeling of having no really satisfying options is, let’s say, very frustrating.


Welcome to adult life - it sucks! :joy:
Thanks for taking the time to clarify a few things, it. Personally, I don’t think you have too much to worry about, you seem to have a lot going for you with the whole studying and getting a good income- think of all the guitars you could buy! At the moment you are studying, which in itself can be time consuming and stressful (I got a degree in my spare time whilst working full time, with wife and child - eek!) You may find that when you work full time, that things are simpler and that you have a good routine that includes a healthy amount of guitar.

I think it all comes down to time management and discipline. If you have a short amount of time to practice then you must ensure that the quality is high - keep pushing yourself to work on things that will actually improve your playing, not just noodling because its fun. One thing that I found useful when I only had 2 hours to practice in a day, was to rearrange my day so that I practiced 1 hour before work and the other hour in the evening - this meant I practiced every 12 hours instead of 24. I think it really helped keep that feeling of playing all the time and feeling fresh on the instrument.


How much of your time spent playing guitar do you use for writing your own songs? 50%? 30%? 10%?


Also, I use a phone app in my lunch hour to do ear training… you can do it everywhere, waiting for a bus etc…


I recently quit my job, and was able to return to put more time into guitar… Boy was I rusty, but if you put in the years of practice beforehand, it does come back relatively quickly I found.


That is a phenomenon known as muscle memory. The theory of muscle memory states: You can regain strength and ability you once had much faster than strength or ability you never had at all.


I’ve taken a break from electric for months before and only played strummy acoustic stuff and It took maybe an hour to get back up to speed on electric again. It’s like riding a bike. If you don’t play altogether the worst part will be developing callouses again. The biggest thing you are training your body for is synchronization between the hands. Once you learn that, barring some kind of injury to the nervous system you won’t forget it.

@Acecrusher IIRC it took Dave Mustaine a year to relearn to play after he damaged the nerve in his arm.


Yeah, that sounds about right. he even hired a guitar teacher to hopefully speed up the process… Yngwie also had to relearn to play after his car accident, at least to some extent. What Dave had was different - it’s called “Saturday Night Palsy.” This should serve as a warning to all of us: Never fall asleep with your arm draped over the back of your chair so that the inside of the upper bicep is squeezed hard enough that the nerve gets crushed. After a certain amount of time, the injury becomes semi=permanent like what happened to Dave. I have had this happen to me although fortunately mine recovered by itself in about 10 days as I recall. It certainly was a frightening experience since obviously I didn’t know how long it would take to heal or if the healing would be 100 percent or only partial!


If the desire is there, you’ll find a way to practice. I work 12.5 hours a day, 5 days a week. I get home from work at 7 pm and then either help my kids with whatever school work they have or just spend time with them playing before they have to go to bed (elementary and middle school age). After that, it’s alone time for my wife and I until 9 or 10 pm. I then get to play guitar until 11 or midnight, go to sleep, then wake up at 4:15 am and do it all over then.

If my day off is a day when the kids have school and my wife is working, I’m able to play all day before they get home and also that evening once everyone goes to sleep.

I also have one of those Shred Neck devices and utilize it whenever I can at work to keep my fingers limber. It serves me well for legato and trills.

As far as periods away from guitar go… I had to quit after my fourth year of playing due to injuries I sustained from wretched technique. I didn’t play for 7 years. When I finally started again, I had to start from the beginning technique-wise to ensure I played with proper form to keep myself healthy.

I have no aspirations to be pro player, but I want to be able to play at the pro level so I’m able to play all the musical ideas I hear in my mind. Playing guitar is just good to my soul and a wonderful outlet for my own piece of mind…it’s my meditation and zen, if you will. The only thing I love more than music and playing guitar is my family.


This sounds so familiar!! Other than I have a 4 year old and another due to arrive anyday now… eek!


Definitely man, caffeine is my friend! Congratulations on the soon to be new arrival!! Newborns definitely up the challenge level of getting practice in, but they’re (our children) our greatest masterpiece.


Well, I’m hoping that my 4 year old will give me the excuse for extra practice as she asked for (and got) a Paul Gilbert mikro guitar for Christmas! :grin: she has great taste!


That’s awesome man! My son played for a while, but ended up falling in love with horns and percussion instead with his school band. I’m just glad he’s finding joy in music. My daughter has a great time on her uke which hopefully translates to guitar😁