There are generally two types of professional hogaku musicians: those who are born into a musical family and learn from an early age and those who encounter the music later in life and apply themselves to its study.

The first type has a distinct advantage -- they are immersed in the musical metier as children and their impressions of the world are informed by a musical upbringing. Hearing and then practicing the music day in, day out permeates their unconscious, and the act of performing becomes second nature to them.

Those who decide to study hogaku as adults, on the other hand, must expend vast amounts of time and energy in acquiring technique and mastering the musical subtleties. This is not necessarily a disadvantage, however, since approaching a tradition through a conscious decision, as opposed to the default route of being born into a musical family, means that the musician is driven by powerful motivation and the desire to learn. Some of Japan's most stellar hogaku musicians come from outside the traditional families.