The 10 Traits Of A Music Professional

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This post is about how to be a professional, but it could just as easily been about how to be a diplomat, be a compromiser, or even be a nice guy. What it’s really all about is how to be in a band or a session with other people who might or might not want to do and play things the way you do. Let’s face it, a band or a recording project is a family and like any family, it’s going to have its differences. The only way it can be successful is to resolve those differences before they get out of hand, and the easiest way is if everyone acts in a professional manner.

What Is A Professional?

In the strictest sense of the word, a “professional” would be someone who makes his living only playing music. But whether that describes you or you’re a ways away from that, what you really need is to have a professional’s attitude in order to get ahead both on a personal level, with a band, or a recording project. Let’s take a look at the qualities of a professional attitude.

A professional:

1. is always on time. Time is money and a pro is not only on time, but usually early (as illustrated in many other chapters of this book). If he’s delayed and won’t arrive at the agreed time, he calls ahead to make sure that everyone is aware, then gives his best estimate when he’ll arrive.

2. is always open to ideas. Instead of arguing about the value of an idea, a pro simply says, “I haven’t tried that before, but I’m really interest to hear what it sounds like!” No idea is too crazy to at least consider, because you never know when something that you initially thought was too far out is actually the perfect solution to a problem or addition to a song.

I always assume that they may be going for something that maybe I’m not aware of. It’s like if they’d want to use a Radio Shack reverb on my bass, I’d probably say, “Great, I never tried that before. Let’s do it.”

L.A. session bass player Paul Ill

3. is focused only on the music. When a pro is at a rehearsal, gig or recording session, he’s 100% there and in the moment and focused on giving the best performance she can. He’s not thinking about  his girlfriend, paying the bills, or the after-gig party. All his concentration if on the music.

Make sure that you can set everything up quickly and be zero hassle to anybody. You don’t want to cause a problem to anybody, either technically or personally. Turn off your cellphone. Make it a point that everyone sees that you’re turning off your phone or leaving it outside the studio so they all understand that you’re not interested in phone calls while you’re working. Make the session a priority.  Don’t bring reading material into the session with you. Don’t be net surfing on your phone during a session.

Paul Ill

4. is open to criticism or suggestions on how to play something.  A pro doesn’t take any suggestion or criticism personally. He takes it in the spirit of making the music better. This is a hard one to uphold, especially if the criticism is coming from someone not as sensitive as you, but it’s the right thing to do. If someone is being abusive however, it’s OK to say, “I don’t agree with you, and unless you speak to me in a respectful manner, this conversation is over.”

…..be as flexible as you can be. Don’t be stubborn and trust the people you work with. If the engineer or producer has a suggestion, trust their advice.

L.A. session drummer Brian MacLeod

5. presents his or her ideas in a respectful manner. He doesn’t say, “I should sing this because your singing sucks.” He says, “Would you mind if I give it a try just to see how it comes out?”

6. takes responsibility for his or her mistakes. A pro immediately owns up to any mistake, oversight, error or blunder and says, “Sorry, it was my fault,” and accepts the consequences.

7. never parties on the job. As stated back a little bit, a pro is 100% focused on the music at hand. While a few beers might not constitute a party, it certainly doesn’t help you play better during a rehearsal or gig if your mind isn’t all there. There’s plenty of time to party later so save it until then.

8. treats his or her band mates with respect. A pro treats his fellow musicians as equals and peers and would never intentionally do or say anything to disrespect any of them.

9. treats his or her road crew, engineers, light man and everyone working for the band with respect. A pro understands that all the people around him are working to make him sound and look better and they deserve to be treated respectfully as well.

10. treats his or her audience with respect. A pro understands that he’s there to entertain the audience and without them he’d be playing at home in his bedroom.

If you assume a professional attitude by following the above points, you’ll find that the respect for you will grow, any interpersonal tensions will ease, and band and session life will suddenly go a lot smoother.


You can read more from How To Make Your Band Sound Great and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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