Become A Professional Pianist: Education And Career Roadmap

Do you have a thing for the piano and would like to take your skill to an advanced level? Do not worry, we are here to help. You can become a professional pianist well sought after with proper guidance. 

As a professional pianist, you can play or perform either as a solo act, as part of a band or orchestra, or with singers and musicians. 

Typically, pianists start learning how to play at an early age and later focus on a particular style like jazz or concert piano. 

As appealing as it may be, becoming a professional pianist is no cakewalk. You need to have musical talent, a creative mind, and discipline amongst others. 

In this article, we would be exploring how to become a professional pianist, the required education, and the career roadmap.

Let’s get started.

Who Is A Professional Pianist?

A professional pianist is a performer who specializes in playing the piano and gets paid to play in different settings. 

Professional pianists can work in many different environments. This includes orchestra, theatre productions, and church services. 

These professionals have deep and extensive technical knowledge of how to play different styles of music and they are also well-versed in piano performance. 

While some pianists work for music production companies or facilities that employ full-time pianists, most of them work as independent contractors.

To succeed as a pianist, you’ll need to practice regularly and have polished pieces ready for auditions. 

There may be cases where you may need to travel to performance venues or work in a studio. 

Professional pianists require a variety of skills including musical talent, discipline, perseverance, creativity, and confidence to perform in public. 

Read Also: Differences Between Producer And Executive Producer In Music

Job Description Of A Pianist

The following are some duties and responsibilities of a professional pianist. 

  • Performs songs for audiences on the piano
  • Plays as part of a band or orchestra for concerts and recording sessions 
  • Transposes sheet music
  • Develops a variety of piano-playing techniques 
  • Learns and prepares new musical pieces for performance
  • Writes and edits musical notation for new music

How To Become A Professional Pianist

Having a natural skill in playing the piano is good but not enough to become a professional pianist. To start your career as a pianist, here are some important steps to take;

1. Earn A Bachelor’s Degree

While you can train independently with private lessons, earning a bachelor’s degree can be beneficial as it provides you with insight into the music industry. 

Most employers seeking to hire performers or pianists require that candidates have at least a bachelor’s degree before they audition for open positions. 

The reason for this is that playing the piano professionally may require advanced performance skills and techniques that can often only acquire through years of study. 

Most aspiring pianists pursue a bachelor’s degree major in either music or music performance and add a concentration in piano so they can take specialized courses that focus on their particular instrument.

2. Develop Your Skills

Developing your piano skills as you complete and graduate from a bachelor’s degree program can be very beneficial and can potentially affect your career. 

Musicians or performers need to perfect their playing skills and ensure that they can play different kinds of pieces.

The best method to help you develop your piano skills is to practice regularly and play in various styles including orchestra pieces, musical theater songs, pop music, and so on. 

While you can practice at home or the music studio, you can also practice and develop yourself by playing small performances such as open mic nights or DIY concerts. 

3. Join A Professional Organization 

Joining a professional organization is another ideal step to take in advancing your career. Being a member of a professional organization provides you with the opportunity to make new connections in the music industry and discover new job opportunities or openings. 

Many professional organizations provide members with contact information for potential employers and updates about openings for pianists at events, for musical theater productions, or as members of orchestras or bands. 

An example of one organization that can be beneficial for professional pianists to join is the American Federation of Musicians (AFM). 

To register as a member, candidates are required to submit an application and pay a fee, which can vary depending on the state where they live.

4. Reach Out To Contractors

After you have gained contact information for some professionals in the music industry, the next step is to reach out to contractors who may want to employ you. 

Introducing yourself to established and successful professionals and sharing your expertise with them can help to increase your chances of securing a job as a professional pianist.

You can begin by sending emails that contain your resume, personal details, and audio or video recordings of you performing to contractors. 

If contractors find you well fitting for their productions or projects, they will contact you if there are work opportunities. 

5. Audition For Jobs As A Pianist

Knowing how to audition for jobs is one of the most crucial aspects of becoming a pianist. The reason is that most pianist jobs involve an audition to prove to the employers that the pianist in question has the necessary skills to play the piano to their standard using their desired styles and techniques. 

During your audition, it can be beneficial to demonstrate skills that are closely related to the project you want to perform. It increases your chances of being hired. 

For instance, a Broadway producer might audition pianists for a new contemporary musical and select candidates who showcase their proficiency in musical theater and pop music in their auditions. 

There are several auditions for pianist jobs on job search websites and databases. You can audition for any of them or use industry connections.

Skills For A Pianist

The following are some essential skills for a pianist;

  • Musical talent
  • Proficiency in playing the piano
  • Ability to read and write sheet music
  • Discipline
  • Perseverance 
  • Creativity
  • Passion
  • Public performance 
  • Manual dexterity 
  • Active listening skills
  • Sight reading
  • Music theory

Salary And Job Outlook For A Pianist

Currently, the national annual average salary for a pianist in the United States is $26,264 but pianists can earn higher salaries after they’ve gained a few years of experience in the field. 

Some pianists earn more money when they work as private contractors where they take on projects they are interested in. They earn more upon completion of multiple projects or performances each year. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of people employed as musicians and singers, which includes pianists, is expected to increase by 11% between 2020 to 2030.

The BLS states that this growth may be a result of the increased use of digital downloads and streaming which increases the demand for new music. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How Many Years Does It

Take To Become A Professional Pianist?

On average, becoming a concert pianist requires 15+ years, 3-5 hours a day of practice, and studying under some of the best teachers in the industry. 

Can You Make A Career As A  Pianist?

Yes, you can. Although being a professional pianist requires many years of learning and practice, there are many career options for pianists. Your skills in playing the piano can be used in composing, arranging, and producing music of all sorts. 

Is Pianist A Good Career?

Playing the piano is fulfilling to those who have a passion for it and it offers many income opportunities. 

Can You Master Piano In 5 Years?

You can get great results within 3-5 years depending on how diligently and effectively you practice. 

Do Concert Pianists Travel With Their Piano?

No, they don’t. Pianists unlike other musicians do not take their instruments with them wherever they play. They are expected to accept the instrument provided for them at the venue. 

Do Professional Pianists Memorise Music? 

Yes, pianists memorize music as it helps them to play better musical expression, perform technically demanding repertoire, and eliminate page turns and breaks in the music. 

Do Professional Pianists Look At The Keys?

The simple answer is yes. It is acceptable and normal for a pianist to look at their hands while they play. 


Playing the piano just like every other instrument is art and art requires creativity, skill, and discipline. One of the pivotal steps to take to become a professional pianist is to first earn a bachelor’s degree and then develop your skill or talent. 

Pianists have the luxury to work in many different places and settings which makes the career path ideal for musicians as it provides them with experience in different areas or fields of the music industry. 

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