Greetings, I’m Alabama guitarist Jeff Beasley. I’m honored to do a guest blog at the request of the Alabama Music Office. The focus of this posting will be some of my professional experiences as a guitarist over the past 25 years, in the hopes that I can share with you some of the qualities that can ensure success and longevity for you in the music business. First, a bit about myself; I’m a 1987 graduate of the University of North Alabama where I studied music and classical guitar. Currently I’m senior faculty for the National Guitar Workshop, senior faculty for Truefire.com (online guitar instruction), where I teach with Berklee (Boston), NYU, Princeton, and Dartmouth graduate instructors, and a former columnist for Premier Guitar magazine. I’m endorsed by Dean Guitars, Sierra Guitars, D’Addario Strings, THD Amps, Keeley Effects, ProCo Cables, and InTune Guitar Picks. I’ve been very fortunate to teach and perform with some of the biggest names in modern guitar, and I’ve learned quite a bit along the way…
1) The absolute most important trait any musician will need to succeed is good character. I’ve seen far too many excellent musicians go by the way side, because they had a difficult attitude. Typically arrogance and a big ego are the biggest road blocks to success in the music business and any other business. There are exceptions to this rule but very few, and even then any chance at longevity usually evaporates. Those who have genuine success and longevity are almost always humble, grateful, hard-working, down-to-earth types.
2) The second most important trait is a great work ethic. When I finished high school my step father asked me the proverbial “what are you going to do with your life” question. I pensively answered “I want to be a professional guitarist”! His reply was “great, then you need to be practicing your guitar 8 hours a day”. My mother then asked if I was going to attend college. I said “maybe”, she then informed me that if I decided not to attend college, I needed to move out the following day. So off to college I went to study music. I went to class approximately 2-4 hours a day and practiced my guitar 8 to 10, 12 and sometimes 16 hours a day. On the weekends I would hit every bar in Muscle Shoals, and asked to “sit in” with any band that would allow me to. By doing that, I played with some of the premier musicians in the area, and got my name around so I could play almost anywhere in town. To this day I practice 3-5 hours a day and teach 6-8 hours a day, 6 days a week. “There are no short cuts, believe me I’ve tried to find them”-Chet Atkins.
3) Third, you’re going to have to go and get it, it’s not going to fall in your lap. Before I attained the teaching position with the National Guitar Workshop I emailed them for literally 3 years with no response. Before I was a columnist for Premier Guitar I wrote for small, relatively unknown publications for years usually without pay. Before I attained endorsements with major companies I endorsed small companies for over 10 years. In other words I’ve had to work my way up the ladder. It’s not an overnight process and these companies are looking for someone with experience, recommendations, and that have proven themselves as dependable and hard working. You may have to endure years of seemingly “grunt” work before you ever get the opportunity to move forward. It takes time and perseverance on your part.
4) Finally, lifestyle is a major factor in achieving your goals. Personally, I don’t drink, smoke, or use drugs. I exercise regularly, eat sensibly, and have a practicing faith in God. Most all of the major players I have met do the same. To reach your full potential requires a lot of dedication, discipline, and honesty. If your goals are lofty you’ll need every asset you can muster to achieve them. If you do manage to attain your goals as a musician you’ll find that those you’ve always looked up to have to do the same things as you. It’s not all caviar and first class travel. It’s hard work in situations that don’t make you look very “cool”, with the occasional event that does make you look that way.
Thanks to the Alabama Music Office for the opportunity to share these experiences with you!