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10 Top Attributes Of A Function Musician

by Sheldon Conrich 02 Apr 2024

How many do you have?

Punctuality

Usually events have very fixed start and finish times. Punctuality is key to making sure events run smoothly without delay. The worst thing you can do as a function musician is turn up late to an event. Usually a good band leader will give quite a wide birth arrival time to make sure everyone arrives before the first set. However, if you’re naturally someone who arrives in good time it makes everything just a little less stressful.

Being Social

It doesn’t matter if you’re the most ridiculous singer or musician, if you’re not a social person you’re not going to get much work. Musicians like being around people who are social. Even if that person is a bit controversial or annoying. You definitely don’t want to be around someone who’s head is on the table half asleep or in their own world saying two words to you all night. You’re also not likely to get more work unless you put yourself out there and talk to fellow musicians.

Diverse

It helps to have a range of abilities/instruments under your belt as a function musician. If you’re a singer and can sing jazz, pop, soul, Motown, blues, pop etc you’ll have an edge over someone who can just sing pop or jazz. As an instrumentalist I’ve often noticed saxophonists tend to be able to play a range of saxes Alto, Tenor and Soprano and often play clarinet as well as keys. This is great for a band leader or a function set up to have a multi instrumentalist on your team.

Talented

Ultimately if you can’t really play your instrument or you sing ok, you’re not going to make a big success as a function musician. That’s because there are so many talented performers out there. Literally thousands and thousands of amazing function musicians. Hence why it actually isn’t just talent alone that makes you a successful function musician. But that said you’re going to need to put the time in and the practise hours to get yourself to a top level.

Hard working

Being a function musician often means you’re performing for long hours either on stage or in a bar or pub. For the travelling function player you may need to travel for many hours to a random venue in the middle of nowhere for a 2 hour set before travelling hours back home and getting back at 3 in the morning. Unfortunately this is part of the job and the guests at functions don’t realise in front of them are some of the hardest working people they’ll ever meet. It’s ok to have a little moan from time to time about it but please, we’re all in the same boat, so ultimately you’ve just got to get on with it. It’s part of the job. But you got this!

Easily Adaptable

It’s annoying but things often change at a function. Timings, set lists, personnel, you name it, it happens. You need to be able to adapt to the ever changing landscape that is the function scene. I’ve literally been asked as I’m walking to stage if I can learn and play a song as it was a special request. And I’m walking with phone in hand listening to changes before performing 2 minutes later. You just need to be open to whatever happens. I remember once being on guitar for a gig, calling a song, the keys player starting it but realising he didn’t know the bridge. So I ran over to him and jumped on the keys before finishing on guitar again. All in the name of music. That is a bit of an extreme example, but the point is so many variables change on the day of a function. You may turn up to a gig and find there are multiple different musicians or singers. Singers is a bigger problem because your set is often defined by their repertoire list, but you adapt and the crowd are none the wiser.

Quick Learner

I gave an example before about having to learn as song as I was walking to stage. Again that is a bit extreme, but often you will be given last minute requests by a client a few days or day before an event. It’s not always necessary to learn everything but if your peers know you can learn things quickly, they know they can throw things at you and feel confident you can play them on a gig. Sometimes you’re going to get four or five events in a week and have different set lists for each gig. In this instance I say good luck, we’ve all been there and again, you’ve got this.

Look The Part

Being a function musician is as much visual as it is audible. If you look like you just got out of bed or you don’t look after yourself it won’t be long before you’re not getting regular work. The busiest musicians and singers I know have a strong gym game or exercise ethic. They also eat relatively healthily and don’t drink that much. If you are a touring session musician for an artist this is a completely different vibe. But certainly on the function scene, just to survive you need to be fit and healthy and look the part.

Reliable

Reliability is a key attribute to a function musician. You can miss some of these qualities I’ve mentioned but be a reliable performer and get away with being successful. If you’re late, tired and look a bit scruffy but walk on stage and perform like you’ve had 12 hours sleep and nail every song and you do that consistently, you’ll get work. If you’re that person, I find you very annoying, but I’ll allow it because you’re a reliable mess. Just fix up! But seriously this is a major asset if you’re a reliable musician.

Good With Minimal Sleep

The worst aspect of being a function musician is lack of sleep. Remember guys you’re coming in at 1am, 2am, 3am etc. You’re a function musician and functions finish late. So you’re going to have a late night. Be smart when you can and try to sleep in. Don’t think, oh I’ve got to be productive today, so even though I got in a 3am I’m gonna get up at 8am and then smash out the day. Good luck on doing that for months on end. Your body and mind will not be happy with you. When you can, get your 7–8 hours of sleep and if you can’t try and find pockets of sleep throughout the day. That said there will be many gigs you perform on sub 5 hours sleep. So be kind in those moments to the people around you.

Was this blog post helpful or insightful? I hope it gives you a little bit more knowledge on what attributes you need to become a successful function musician. 

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