Be Prepared. Be Nice.

By January 30, 2016Music, Philosophizing


My daughter and I were having a conversation a few months ago about what it is you actually learn in school. We were going through how important academics are and how it’s a big deal to try to understand and retain the information coming at you – to really get it. And we were also talking about the social side of things, how school is a training ground to learn to deal with different personalities and to see how forming and maintaining good relationships affects your day-to-day life and potential to succeed.

This got me to thinking about my work in music and, it’s the same situation! Whether I’m jamming with people, playing at church or on the road, trying to get along makes a huge difference. It’s important to come as prepared as possible musically and be ready to give your best effort, but you better hope you’re close to a living legend if you’re going to be a jerk to people, because they won’t WANT to work with you. They’ll just be trying to make money off you.

Leland Sklar, bass player wizard, said in this article (quite the picture!!) that the supporting musicians’ job is to come prepared and be a cheerleader for the other musicians. He’s addressing the same issues my daughter and I were talking about.

Granted, musicians do have a reputation!!! They can be prickly, moody, inconsistent, tardy, bad at communicating, sensitive and awkward BUT, if you TRY TO GET ALONG and simultaneously keep the bar as high as possible in terms of musicality, things can work out so well! Time flies, people have fun and inspired playing can take place.

I don’t know, maybe this is just how my personality works best, but it seems to be working for Leland 🙂


Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Dave Dougherty says:

    Well said Jon. I think both elements are necessary. I’ve played with people who had a lot of talent and really good skills but had an ego to match and we’re tough to get along with. That was no fun. And I’ve worked with players who were very nice but who weren’t prepared and that wasn’t fun either. I liked the part in the article you referenced where he said:

    “you gotta let the song tell you what is wants and if it’s a simple part, play it simply. Just support the song. If it’s fusion or something like that, you get called to do a project, you wanna have the chops to do it. But I really let the song tell me what it wants. That to me is the most critical thing.”

    To me letting the song tell you what it wants includes listening and engaging with the other players to really figure out how what I play can best contribute to the song. When I’ve played with muscians who really do this there is a certain magic that can happen. And very often that “magic” comes from a group of well prepared, talented musicians who are all just doing simple things, but doing them in a way where they all get along perfectly.

    • Jon Powers says:

      Hey Dave,
      Yeah, playing what the song wants, that’s a wonderful way to think about the end result of being prepared. If you are prepared, you can play what the song wants. Yuge.
      Good reminder.

Leave a Reply