How to Avoid Coming Off as an Unprofessional Singer, Vocalist, Music Directors, or Band Leader


Certain truths are not as self-evident as they may seem. Over the last twenty-three years as a professional guitarist, I have come across many musicians, both amateur and professional, who have been ignorant of just how unprofessional an impression they left on myself and other band members. In most situations, musicians will not illuminate such faults for the band leader; however, they will invariably share the experience with other musicians they know. As much as singers and vocalists often receive the most criticism amongst musicians, there are plenty of other instrumentalists who commit the same faux pas.

Here are some simple elements to consider if you do not want to look incompetent or unprofessional in front of musicians:

Details Concerning the Gig or Job: When you call another musician for a gig, make sure to detail exactly what is expected. For example, if you are a singer who expects a rehearsal or do not have arrangements for all of the songs, say so. Telling a musician about such important details only after he or she has agreed to the gig is absolutely unnerving.

Rehearsals - Paid or Not?: If you require or may be thinking of requesting a rehearsal, consider the fact that most professional musicians expect to be compensated for rehearsals. To think that the musician is obligated to attend a free rehearsal is about as unprofessional as it gets. (If you require a rehearsal but cannot pay anything, have the decency to be upfront about it before the musician agrees to the gig.)

Proper Arrangements and Legible Music Charts: Though singers and vocalists are most often in violation of this aspect, other instrumentalists may just as easily make the same mistake. Nothing comes off more haphazardly than not having accurate, clearly written (or printed) music charts. Sorry to say, but the short-hand chicken scratch scribbled onto some staff paper by a pianist does not pass the muster. If you do not have proper charts, then invest in a notation program or pay a copyist to create them for you.

A Little Humility Goes a Long Way: Apart from sycophants, no one enjoys an arrogant or bumptious personality. You will usually get more respect and may even receive help if you admit that you do not know something or have not all the necessary materials (e.g. charts) for the gig. A person who acts as though he or she has everything together is often transparent; to carry on such an act only makes you look like a consummate ass.

As a band leader or music director, you probably want the musicians to play as well as they possibly can. Achieving this is difficult if the musicians have little or no respect for you. None of the four aforementioned points is particularly difficult to practice. In doing so, you will avoid some of the most common pitfalls that quickly lead to a less-than-flattering reputation amongst professional musicians.

Dr. Seth Greenberg