Eric Daniel and Friends's Blog

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Can We Talk? It’s about your attitude…

Posted by ericdanielandfriends on March 11, 2009


Attitude plays a major role in “Saxophone Survival”. Depending on it’s nature, it can be your best friend or your absolute worst enemy.
Think about this a moment. How often have you seen seemingly intelligent and talented people blow wonderful opportunities because of a bad attitude? You may have had this experience personally. I know I have, and it’s not a pretty sight. On the other hand, a generous, positive attitude can be the winning secret for Saxophone Survival.
It’s very difficult to succeed as a professional musician, or anything at all for that matter, if your attitude is “out of tune”. This is a very important area to get under control as it can “make or break” you in the music business, or life in general.

The main reason I feel attitude is so important is that, when faced with unexpected conditions or difficulties, great or small, it will be your predominant attitude that will condition your responses, or reactions.

If your attitude is positive, constructive and open you will be more likely to see new oppor-
tunities hidden behind the difficulties you will inevitably encounter along your path to your

The difference between not surviving, i.e., not reaching your goal, and success in the achie-
vement of your goal lies in your reactions. If your reactions to difficulties are positive, they
will help you to keep moving forward and greatly increase your chances for Saxophone Sur-

You’ve undoubtedly seen the results a positive attitude can bring. Day after day, you move about doing your daily activities, going to school or work, rehearsing, meeting and interacting in many ways with all kinds of people with all kinds of attitudes.
Cheerfulness and warmth in dealings are always welcome.
On the other hand, a reputation for having a bad attitude, or being difficult to work with can take a very long time to shake off, because “bad news” travels fast, especially in the relatively small circle of professional players, producers and contractors.
Your attitude is always there helping, or hindering you in your affairs and relationships with clients, fellow musicians, and of course, your audience, the public. See what I mean?

So… How is your attitude?

Let’s go to the bottom line for a minute.
There a lot’s of folks around who can play well but many of them don’t work as much as they could because of their unprofessional attitude.

This is a very common situation, especially in large cities where the competition for gigs is intense. It’s also sad because it’s an avoidable problem.

All it takes is turning your attention toward this matter and running an “Attitude Check” on yourself.

Have a look at the list of questions below for starts…

• Are you a chronic complainer? I mean if someone asks you “What’s up?” do you say
something like, ”Don’t ask” and then begin rattling off a list of your latest problems?

• Do you respect other people’s time by trying to be punctual for appointments?

• Do you come to rehearsals prepared?

• Do you make negative comments about other players behind their backs?

• Do you accept criticism or advice graciously?
• Are you afraid to send a good sub to a gig because you’re afraid he might do a better job and take over “your” gig?

• Do you do favors for people without expecting a “payback”?

• Do you express your gratitude to people who do things for you?

• Do you listen to the other soloists when you play?

• Are there people you consider your “enemies”? If so, why?

• Are you gossipy or are you discreet?

• Do you try to impress people with your latest hot licks while the string players are trying to tune up?

Get the idea? Ask yourself questions like these.
Check out your reactions to situations and people during the day.

Observe your reactions and those of the people you come in contact with.
You’ll discover that by simply becoming more observant about your attitude you’ll be able to avoid many conflicts, embarrassing situations and in general become a nicer person to be around, and work with (with much better chances for “Saxophone Survival”!)

Be sure your mind is engaged and your goal is in mind before putting your mouth, or your saxophone, into gear!

Now let’s go back for a closer look at the questions listed above. I’d like to share some thoughts with you…

Are you a chronic complainer?

We all know that it takes energy to do anything. It takes energy to talk, play, sing, and drive your car, or just anything at all. But what a lot of people don’t consider is that it takes a good deal of energy to listen as well.

If you complain, not only are you wasting your energy but also the energy of the person or people you are complaining to. When the conversation is finished and you part company with the person you were talking to what impression will they be left with? I think you already know the answer to this…might be something like: “Wow, that cat is such a drag!” Just nod if you know what I’m talking about…

In fact, not talking at all is much better than complaining. Complaining is not going to get you anywhere and could possibly ruin some good opportunities for you, opportunities you might have seen if you had not been so busy finding things to complain about!

Some people seem to actually specialize in the art of complaining. Really! They can always
find something to complain about, anywhere they go. You’ve met them; they’re usually the
people you can’t wait to get away from because they drain your energy after a while.

As they say “Birds of a feather fly together…” and I’ve noticed that this is true with complainers as well. They can be found hanging out with each other complaining about how tough the work situation is and how come everyone else is getting all the gigs!
Fortunately there’s a survival technique available that will protect you from falling into this extremely unhappy category.

I’m talking about using the “Big G”, no not the James Brown tune, the “Big G” I’m referring to is probably one of the most important elements in the Saxophone Survival Kit.
I’m talking about….Gratitude.

Just as it’s true that complainers seem to always find things to complain about, people who cultivate a feeling of gratitude in their lives seem to find more and more things to be grateful for as they go along. Interesting,….

Take a minute to reflect on this. Focus on gratitude for a moment, making a list of things to be grateful for is a way to get started, you know,”…count your blessings”.

Become friends with Life…being grateful for your life and the possibility of pursuing your musical interests is a good place to start.
Basically you find what you look for so search for things to be grateful for. You won’t have to look very far once you get started.

If you persevere in your effort to keep your goal in mind constantly, your actions and attitude will fall into line.

Do you respect other people’s time by being punctual for appointments?

Punctuality is an essential item in the Saxophone Survival Kit, and, aside from being a sign of respect for the people you’re dealing with ….it doesn’t cost a dime, it’s free as air, so we have no excuse for not doing everything in our power to be on time, all the time.
Somebody said “….Time is money ”, but I think we all can understand the idea that Time is infinitely more valuable than money. By a long shot. I mean you can make money with your time, but all the money in the world can’t buy you time when your time is up. Use your time wisely and respect other people’s time.

In the music business, the usual appointment agenda contains items like:

• Rehearsals;
• Lessons;
• Performance situations;
• Project-related meetings;
• Travel related appointments.

The benefits of being punctual are endless…to be well-placed in the moment.

Punctuality in a musician shows respect for his fellow students or colleagues, the musical di-
rector, the production, and the public. It’s definitely an ideal to be strived for continually.

Punctuality is a musician’s way of contributing to the general positive flow of the work situation. Things go much more smoothly when everyone involved is punctual.
It’s much better to wait than to be waited for, in my book anyway. (Did I say that?)

Do I even have to mention the possible complications of missing trains or flights? Don’t even go there…

Remember Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will and at the worst possible time.”
Plan your travel appointments well and leave a safety margin for unexpected problems.

Actually, there is something better than being punctual … ..….being early.

Now, being early offers some interesting advantages, to mention a few:

• You have time to check your instrument(s) and warm-up;
• You get to check out the parts in advance;
• You get a chance to relax into the new setting instead of jumping straight into the gig, rehearsal, etc.;
• You get to meet the other “early people”, and they get to meet you;
• When you plan to arrive early you create a “safety margin” which can save you in cases of unexpected traffic jams or other adverse circumstances. (In this case you may not get there early, but at least you’ll have a better chance of being on time!)

Punctuality is even more important when meeting people for the first time.
You make a much better “first impression” if you show up on time, or better yet, early.

If, for reasons legitimately beyond your control, you see that you are going to be late, by all
means call the leader or a trusted colleague at the gig to advise them of your situation.

“Eighty per cent of success is showing up…” (Woody Allen)

Next question….

Do you come to rehearsals prepared?

For rehearsals and lessons it’s best to bring the following items:

• Your instrument, in good operating condition;
• Pencils, never ink pens, (for parts writing or corrections a #2 point hardness is good);
• More pencils. (To loan out to colleagues who forgot to bring a pencil!);
• A good quality pencil eraser;
• A pencil sharpener;
• Some blank sheets of music paper for creating emergency parts or inserts;
• A chromatic tuner to check your personal intonation. (Very important item).

*In addition to the above items I also carry small screwdrivers, pieces of cork, pad glue, super-light lubricating oil, a pocket knife, elastic bands and extra reeds( that I’ve tried out already at home ).
These items can help you do quick instrument repairs or reed substitutions at rehearsals or

Note: Never carry these things in your carry on luggage on flights. The metal detector will go berserk and you may cause a panic in the airport.

Do you make negative comments about other players behind their backs?
This is definitely unprofessional behavior and can lead to unfortunate conflicts with colleagues and clients. It’s not a good idea.

My Mom used to always say, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything.” This is some very good advice. “Silence is Golden”.

If you find that someone is trying to draw you into a negative conversation about a colleague, try to change the subject or find an excuse to leave.

The music business is full of little cliques, work teams, and other groupings of people.
Some musicians are friends with musicians that are not necessarily your favorite people.

If you want to work well with as many people as possible it’s best to avoid getting into discussions about other musicians (who they make like or dislike), religion, politics or other potentially sensitive areas.

It’s not necessary to comment or contribute to all conversations. This approach will pay off in the long term as you will be able to function within various work teams that may be in competition or conflict with each other in some way.

Rest assured if people “bad-mouth” colleagues behind their backs to you, they will probably
do the same to you when you are not around. Understand this, but don’t participate in this
uncool activity as it definitely makes a negative impact on other people (and yourself).

Try to remain above the level of gossip and remain concentrated on your musical mission. If you must comment, be diplomatic, or funny.

Do you accept or offer criticism, suggestions or advice gracefully?

A. Receiving advice….

Situations may arise in which you find yourself being offered advice by a musical director, teacher, section leader, colleague, or someone from the public who has been listening to you play. The advice usually has to do with items such as repertoire, dynamics, articulation, accents, intonation, overall concept, or whatever.

In these situations, consider the source, and by all means don’t get offended or defensive.

If the advice is coming from someone with musical authority or experience superior to yours (teacher, musical director, section leader, etc), it is best to consider following their advice. Thank them for the advice.
If the source is a colleague of less experience or a member of the public, consider their
point of view as objectively as possible and, based on your own musical intuition and expe-
rience, decide if it’s good advice or not. In any case, be gracious and thank them for the sug-
If the source is the client, i.e. the person paying you, take the advice into consideration by all means. Maintain your professional integrity by carefully considering advice based on your experience (which is hopefully why they called YOU instead of someone else).

In the end, however, you must remember,”it’s their project”. The client pays to have things done according to his/her vision of the project, and how they imagine using a sax may not always coincide with yours. Being professional is your best defense always.

B. Giving advice….
If you feel the need to give suggestions about interpretation or intonation to a colleague, by all means be diplomatic and friendly.
Your advice may not be received well or may lead to a personality clash or a defensive reaction.

Remain calm, diplomatic, and ask for input from a higher authority (teacher, the
composer/arranger, bandleader, section leader, etc). Remain positive.
It’s important to maintain a harmonious atmosphere around you if you want to work well together with people.
This requires “give and take” on everyone’s part.

Are you afraid to send a good sub to a gig because you’re afraid he might do a better job and take over “your ” gig?

There will come a time when you will need to send a sub to a gig or rehearsal because of conflicting appointments or illness.
The most professional thing to do is send the best available sub you can find; possibly someone you know and can trust to do a professional job.

The idea is to see to it that the gig continues to go smoothly in your absence.
The quality of your sub reflects on you. If you send an inadequate sub, the gig will suffer and you will probably be held responsible.
Provide your sub with all the info necessary to do the gig well (important contact phone numbers, list of songs and keys, parts, info about what to wear, etc…)

Players who send inadequate subs because of insecurity are not getting the point at all!
Be secure, send a good sub and take your chances. It will pay off as you will leave a very good impression as being a musician who knows how to take care of business (even when you’re not there!)

Do you ever do favors for people without expecting a “payback” from them?

This is an interesting point to consider. Many times you are approached by people for favors, or you may recommend someone for a gig. Then, later, you may discover that when someone asked them about who to call for a gig they recommended someone else instead of you. Well, you see, this is perfectly okay if you were sincere in recommending that person in the first place. Furthermore, you should be happy for your colleague that did actually get that particular gig.

If, however you recommended that person in the hopes of getting a recommendation in return, then you may be disappointed because things don’t always go according to our little calculations.

I believe that there is more than enough room for everyone in this great, swingin’ Universe,
so I try to help players who can really play by recommending them when people ask me for
advice. Some of these players return the favor because they feel I’m best for certain kinds
of situations, other times they will recommend their closer friends who may be very well-sui-
ted for that gig. It’s all okay to me because I trust in the Universe enough to know that the
good we do comes back to us multiplied many times. Often our actions may return to us
from a completely unexpected direction and may seem unrelated to something we have done or said or thought. The important thing is to be sure our actions are sincere, positive, and professional; the rest will take care of itself, so to speak.

Do you really listen to the other soloists when they play?

I touched on this point in the section about Stage Presence. Apart from the observations I made there, at this point I’d like to underline the importance of listening to the other musicians and especially their solos.

You may hear something in a solo that will inspire you to play in a certain way or to respond directly to a phrase played by a soloist who directly precedes you. You can latch onto an idea in the finale of their solo, build on it, and create even more momentum. This is always a great crowd-pleaser as it creates more of a show and gives a sense of focused continuity to the overall group performance.
Other times you may want to interrupt the momentum by playing in a contrasting way, for example, if you are following a burning, very driving guitar solo, you may want to let the smoke clear a bit by waiting slightly, playing a few long notes, or playing quietly to bring the rhythm section volume back down to earth. Now that you have everyone’s attention, you can build your solo from this new quieter, more introspective level.
Of course the main reason I listen to the other soloists is because I really enjoy listening to the other musicians play.

Are you gossipy or are you discreet and trustworthy?

Sometimes when you are involved with many projects, especially in recording studios, you may overhear private conversations about marketing strategy, come into possession of new uncopyrighted material, or other types of sensitive material or information. Discretion is your absolute best defense, never discuss confidential matters with anyone not directly involved in any given project or work team. Do not give material that may have been entrusted to you such as music, CD’s or other audio supports to anyone not directly related to the project. Avoid unethical behavior.
Never violate this rule.

Do you try to impress people with your latest hot licks while the string players are trying to tune up?

Be considerate of your colleagues; find a place where you can warm-up without creating problems around you. Be aware and considerate of other people who are trying to work, light people, cameramen, etc…

This is just plain common courtesy.
I think you’ve got the idea. Make it a point to keep your attitude open and positive until it becomes a habit that works for you and not against you.

Eric Daniel

Eric Daniel


Eric Daniel plays sax and flute and is the ringleader of Eric Daniel & Friends. Their CD “Old Sax Nu Soul” is on the Quatro Miglio Quality Music label and can be purchased online from iTunes Store and

His new book “The Saxophone Survival Kit, A Guide for Aspiring Professional Saxophonists…or just anyone!” can be ordered or downloaded here:

Follow Me on Twitter!


7 Responses to “Can We Talk? It’s about your attitude…”

  1. Sean Kelso said

    Very nice advice dude. You know what you’re talking about and I will definitely keep this in mind.

  2. ericdanielandfriends said

    Thanks for stoppin’ by Sean…

    Have fun…all the best,


  3. Ann-June Fykse said

    Some reminders for all musicians. And I´m reading it one more time for sure c”,)
    Thank you.

  4. Wayne said

    Thank you for this. Reading and rereading.

  5. Great site this and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor 🙂

  6. Sam said

    Great advice!

  7. li said

    Hey there
    Great post , good info
    would like to put a link to it in
    My blog
    if thats ok with you?

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