Jazz music requires a high degree of skill to play one of its most defining characteristics:  improvisation. It is the part where artists create and deliver solos on the spot during a jazz performance. This requires a considerable amount of skill and knowledge of the techniques, notes, and music styles that make jazz music what it is today.1

All this can be acquired by anyone who is willing to put in the effort and dedication necessary to gain enough expertise to be able to call themselves a jazz musician. Like with any other skill, the process is the same, just customized to fit a different setting and peppered with some sacrifices and tough choices until you come out of the other side successful and content with your career. So, here are the steps that you should take to prepare for a career in jazz music:   

1. The Most Important Step2

There are many career options in the jazz industry, such as composer, arranger, copyist, instrumentalist, and so on. These options further branch into live music, television, films, video games, and numerous other industries. What kind of jazz musician do you want to be? It is important to figure that out initially because all the steps after this one depend on this decision. 

Some career options3 for jazz musicians: 

  • Arrangers
  • Band leaders
  • Composers
  • Copyists
  • Engravers
  • Music directors
  • Performers⏤Solo, bands, orchestras, touring and studio musicians, television, films, church, gigs, private parties, weddings, etc.
  • Education⏤Professors at colleges, universities, teachers in arts schools, private music studios, and community music schools. 
  • Recording studio engineers 
  • Music producers
  • Transcribers

2. Practice and Discipline4

Based on what you want to do, begin doing your research and find out the skills and effort required to get good at the type of jazz musician you want to become. Set aside time to practice these skills regularly. Start listening, observing, and learning from experts in the area. If possible, invest in an expert or a course to learn these skills. Invest in yourself this way until you get your foundational knowledge on point. 

3. What Makes You Different 

While you’re improving your skills and knowledge, pay attention to how your creativity is different from other successful people in the field or what you have to offer that is different from everyone else. Start identifying your strengths and weaknesses during the process of learning to figure out what makes you unique. Start recording yourself and assessing your own work to know what areas need improvement and fine tuning to bring out the best in yourself. Jazz music is all about individuality and it is highly valued in the area, so this is crucial to how successful you will be as a jazz musician. Also, this goes without saying, start listening to jazz music and songs. 

4. Be Prepared for Anything

Don’t forget that you are not the only one who is working towards a goal. Some find opportunities for their skillset, and others need to create these opportunities. Be prepared to work for yourself if you don’t find a job or the right opportunities after the completion of your training to build your profile and music skills in the meantime. 

Stay focused during this time by accepting any big or small professional gigs to learn about the jazz industry and acquire the people skills necessary to achieve your goals. Working in the jazz industry is no different than any other industry with respect to professional challenges. Use these initial struggles to equip yourself with the tools to manage challenges related to yourself and others. 

5. Start Hanging Out With the Relevant Crowd

Keep in touch and develop professional relationships with the people you work with. These connections are essential to your growth as a jazz musician, and some may even turn into lifelong friendships. You can practice, learn, and create music with them. Being around the right people will keep you on track and leave no space for people or things that are not relevant to your goals.

Get started on building your jazz music career with BYJU’S FutureSchool. Sign up for a FREE trial class where you can learn the piano and guitar in a live 1:1 setting with knowledgeable instructors—or for more interesting articles on music checkout the BYJU’S FutureSchool blog.

1. What is Jazz? | National Museum of American History. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://americanhistory.si.edu/smithsonian-jazz/education/what-jazz
2. How to Be a Jazz Musician | Jazz Career Tips – YouTube. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMdaYFh70V4
3. Build Your Jazz Career. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://majoringinmusic.com/jazz-career-2/
4. » Becoming a Jazz Musician: What’s it Going to Take? (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2022, from https://www.razzmajazz.com/2019/03/10/becoming-a-jazz-musician-whats-it-going-to-take/