Prince Trumpet Player’s 14 Rules You Can’t Break If You Want To Turn Pro

Philip Lassiter
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Philip Lassiter
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Philip Lassiter

For the past six months or so I’ve been in and out of the studio working on my new funk project (out later this year). I just finished my final vocals last month and this thing is now off to the races! Well, off to the mixing races that is. I had the distinct honor and pleasure of working with some incredible musicians on this thing. Not least of all, 7 time Grammy award winning arranger, composer and trumpet player, Philip Lassiter. 

We got to talking in the studio about hired guns and he was dropping some serious knowledge bombs about why some freelancers work a lot and others don’t. 

If you’re a player looking for gigs, pay attention. 

I’ll let Phil take it from here:

I’ve been doing sessions and working as an arranger & leader for many years now.

Through this experience I have had the pleasure of working w/ some amazing players.  Often I find myself to be the weak link in the section.  I say that with all sincerity.  (I’m speaking of the physical aspect of playing, i.e. chops.)

In my experience, I have found that the level of playing & the level of professionalism do not always go hand in hand.

I’ve also noticed that, in this business, cats stand in their own way a lot.  Like, A LOT, yo.  I have seen some of the greatest players get passed up on sessions & gigs because of their lack of professionalism.  I can honestly say that, even though I tend to put the music first, I will certainly pass on calling cats who can’t seem to fall in line & simply take care of business — no matter how great they play.

That being said, I have missed my fair share of opportunities as a result of my own lack of “turning pro.”  So this is not meant to condescend, but, hopefully, shed light and wake up some sleepy little kitty cats.


Here goes, 14 Rules You Should Never Break:

1. Don’t Distract

Always, and I mean ALWAYS be aware of what is happening with the people who are leading the session (the producer / engineer / artist).  Never do anything that detracts or distracts from the communication between those people or causes any confusion (playing, talking, joking, etc).

2. Know Who To Talk To

Direct your questions/needs/concerns to the section leader/MD (music director) not the producer or engineer, to avoid the “too many chefs in the kitchen” syndrome.  Groups of people talking at the same time = BAD.

3. Come Prepared

If your sight-reading isn’t of the highest standard and you are given the music ahead of time, it might be a good idea to shed it.  Like, A LOT.  If you show up to a session missing stuff when the music was given out ahead of time you might not get called again.

4. Pay Attention to the Details

I made my name being overly concerned with details and I have been accused of being too picky.  I’ll gladly wear that hat.  It fits nice and snug on my cap and I like to hang it right next to my 7 arranger Grammys. 🙂

To elaborate: Articulation.  Yeah, sax players that means you too.  Pay attention to short notes, fall lengths, note lengths, cutoffs, for crying out loud like a newborn baby with severe diaper rash.

The saxophone is the easiest instrument in the section so don’t make too many mistakes, k?

And don’t try to HIDE in the section because your reading stinks because you would rather play along with whatever Nancy Pancy smooth jazz solo sax artist’s video & copy “poses” than work on sight reading.

In other words, GIVE to the section.  BLOW up to the lead player when parts are forte.

5. Show Up Early and Be Warmed Up

Enough said. Moving on.

6. Looks Matter

Look nice for rehearsals & look SUPER FLY for the gig.  Be stylish.  Trust me.  It matters.

7. Smells Matter

Don’t smell funky or eat anything super greasy before hand.  K?

8. Keep Tempo

Drum stick holders — do NOT slow down on the soft sections (unless that has been discussed).  Play fills that fit the style, tempo, groove of the song.  Never interrupt the groove cuz you tryna implement your new Dave Weckyl lick.  BOOOOO!

HAY!  It’s not necessary for you to fill in the middle of the verse or EVERY 4 bars.  Take some Ritalin and calm the F down.  I just love it when drummers play fills in the middle of the verse & then neglect setting up the CHORUS.  Ya know, the CHORUS?  The MAIN section of the song?  Gimme a crash or something.

9. Play The Room

Drum beaters — play the room.  That means, if you’re at Pedro’s Spanish Tapas you might want to consider how loud you play and how that affects the overall vibe.  This is such a problem with even the DOPEST drummers.  Don’t treat a small room like you would treat an arena — unless of course you are in a heavy metal band, in that case, by all means enjoy hearing aids at 37.

10. Learn To Comp

Keyboard players, learn to comp.  Do not over comp.  Do not dictate where the soloist goes harmonically.  Listen and COMP the soloist.

11. Check Your Ego

Guitar holders, I know you’re excited because all the “honeys” want to bone you cuz you have a phallic-esque instrument coming out the side of your groin, but I really think you are WAY FREAKING LOUDER than you realize.

TURN DOWN PLEASE.  (unless you are playing a solo, then crank it up and proceed to copy all the great guitar players of the 20th century).

12. Don’t Be High Maintenance

Go with the flow and “make it work.”  Don’t be needy or ask too many questions.  Just pay attention and many times the answer you are looking for will appear without YOU asking the question and interrupting the flow, yo.

13. Have a Good Vibe

Always respond to the leaders with good vibe.  “Ok” and “yessir” work as terrific responses.

14. Stop Politicking For Gigs

Just cuz you called me for a gig don’t mean I gotsta call you for a gig.  Maybe I don’t dig your playing — that’s my Bobby Brown. Dig?

Nobody ever got a gig because they asked nicely for it.

Stop asking people for gigs.  If you want more gigs play really well, follow these tips and network!  Yeah I hate that word too. Somebody needs to come up with a new word for networking.

36 Responses

    • RW Griswold

      The music biz, and Rock N’ Roll especially ain’t no place for anyone with thin skin.

      • Joe

        Ain’t about thin skin. The ones that stick around are the ones who treat people well. I can handle it. It’s not personal. I feel bad for him

  1. Timothy Buss

    That’s true. It’s The real world and his advice is 100% sound.

  2. Anon

    This list is Jive as fuck , thats my bobby brown. Dig?

  3. Alright Tough Guy

    Its called retaliation, maybe you don’t dig my playing, so I tell everyone in town not to hire you and then they listen. Dig? Your list shows a complete lack of loyalty and empathy. I also would rather have a greasy smell motherfucker that can play the shit out of his instrument compared to some suit wearing motherfucker that cant play a Bb Blues. What do I know though, Ive only made records with Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Drew Gress, Bill Carrothers, toured and taught all over the world…

  4. Alex

    This guy should take his own advice. Horribl reputation.

    • DarkFormz

      I was gonna say…….dude has a reputation for big timing, stepping out on his wife/gf with other people/player’s gf’s/wifes, not paying players for sessions, and mouthing off to anyone he thinks is ‘below’ him. I guess if you can claim to have won 7 grammies instead of playing on 7 grammy winning records (rule #1 should be don’t overhype yourself player), you can get away with claiming to be an expert on the above. Do what he says, not what he does I guess….

  5. Spacerobot

    I’ve known pro drummers and drummers that make my life harder, because they have to constantly remind me of the value of a good drummer. I’ve even had a drummer get in the way of the songwriting process even though he wasn’t writing songs. He thought his adapting drums to a song was the same as writing lyrics and riffs. I got his point, but the fact was that he was writing the drum part, not the whole song.

    Guess who I want to work with more, regardless of talent.

  6. O'Doyle Rules

    Step 15. Use jive talking words even if you grew up in the suburbs. GOTSTA DO DAT MAYNG

  7. Ann Bonny's pirate skiff

    Dear Mr. Lassiter, come a little closer and I’ll show you where you can shove that trumpet of yours. You may want to call your proctologist ahead of time so he can have plenty of lotions and creams on hand for extraction purposes. You’re the quintessential arrogant jerk.

  8. Bobby

    I’ve actually worked with Phil and hate to say it, but these comments are right on point. He’s an utter ass.
    Treats people like they’re below him and even tried to threaten me (I was the band leader / MD on this particular gig).
    He brought his kids to one gig, which I thought was cool until I saw his parenting skills.
    Okay now I’ve crossed the line…

  9. Lou

    “Nice guy??? Send me a prick who can play.”
    Attributed to Buddy Rich, Harry James, Tommy Dorsey…
    by the pricks who played with them.

  10. RW Griswold

    Here’s the thing, for real though… and by all means feel free to criticize my comments or whatever… but if anyone wants to “make it” anywhere you can’t JUST take one person’s advice 100%, because what worked for them may not necessarily work for you… what you gotta do is LISTEN to what people who’ve done more than you did to get there and take what they know and APPLY it to what works for you.

  11. Joe

    So many people with aweful stories of this guy. Unfortunately if his name gets mentioned there’s nothing good being said. “Great player, but imagine how far he’d go if he were a good guy with a good reputation.” These comments are the real lesson here.

    • Dccudontknowme

      Lol roasted. Dude fuck Grammys. SHIT artists have won Grammys. Some great ones too. This guys a dick. We get it baldie your real cool. No one gives a fuck trumpet is dead lol welcome to electronic music you cunt

  12. Scatman

    A little bit condescending, to be honest! But good wisdom on all the points, except point 12. Isn’t it a good idea to ask questions before the session starts, to make sure your part is played correctly? Or should you just ‘play what’s on the sheet or CD and shut the bleep up’?


    Thank you comment section for these interesting insights on the author.

  14. Ari Herstand

    It seems everyone trashing Philip is bitter and out of work. Regardless of what you think of the guy, his advice is spot on. As someone who has hired countless players for sessions and live gigs, I can attest that if you break these rules you ain’t gonna work much. Stop trashing the messenger and look in the damn mirror as to why you aren’t more successful.

    Clearly Prince, Jill Scott, Anderson Paak, Anthony Hamilton, Anita Hill, etc thought he was good enough. Your opinion on him doesn’t matter.

    And for those of you trying to belittle his success because his Grammys were for arranging and not playing… uh Prince hired him as a PLAYER. If you got shit to say why not stand behind it with your name. Don’t be a coward.

    Attacking someone’s character to diminish their argument is a fallacy.

    • Joe

      That ain’t what’s happening bro. Some of us are doing great and have plenty of work. The Grammy conversation has nothing to do with playing vs. arranging. You should check up on that the same as phil should.

      Your reputation is all you have and this guy has a terrible reputation. His article is spot on. I don’t think anyone is saying that. It’s ironic mostly. His character isn’t being attacked, it’s just being exposed. Not bitter. But you want to write an article for the public, you best be ready for the person you’ve proven to be to be exposed.

      Just felt like letting you know that your comment ain’t right. It ain’t jealousy or bitterness, it’s unpaid sessions and being treated like shit.

    • Hates Soft-azz L.A. bitches, like Ari

      Hahaha!!! So, ANITA HILL gives her stamp of approval? Did he sound the alarm on Clarence Thomas or what?
      You’re on this dude’s nuts like crazy — maybe he “Phills” you up just right?

    • Jim Bob

      “Philip Lassiter is a 7-time Grammy award winning,…” I thought that was quite a feat. So I wanted to know which projects he was talking about. I’ve searched the Grammy archives and can’t find a single Grammy award for this guy. He says he won 7 Grammys. Can’t find a single one. Does he mean he played on 7 Grammy award-winning projects? Which is still cool…but not quite the same as winning a Grammy award in my opinion. Again, I could be completely wrong. But would like to clear up that extraordinary claim.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that Philip’s advice is great, with many of the points applicable to human collaborations in any field.

  15. Jane Dough

    His points are valid. It would be a better scene if musicians followed these “rules.” Philip is obviously accomplished and talented. I wish he’d consider two things though… a white person saying, “gotsa,” isn’t cool, and neither is assuming all guitarists are male (and straight guys at that). You can invalidate this and say it doesn’t matter, but I think POC and women would disagree with you. It’s not *just about the music. It’s 2017. We can do better.

  16. Marcel

    7 Grammys my @ass. He hasn’t won a single Grammy for anything. Look him up at You’ll get a blank page. At least be truthful while your being a total douche bag.

  17. Antinet

    His comment about guitarists is hilarious. I play guitar to write music, but it drives me nuts how many guitarists really think it is all about them. Lead singers get a bad rap, but their talent is usually unassailable meaning if you aren’t good enough, no one’s giving you a shot. However, there are plenty of average to good guitar players out there. Regardless, I think the new generation have figured out how to get a good sound these days without cranking the volume, but I swear many guitar players are deaf. They are ALWAYS turning up to be heard, and in the process, making it hard for everyone else to hear themselves.

    • Paul

      I honestly think the problem is that stage size etc dictates that the guitar players proximity to his amp is such that the sound blows by his knees and while it is killing everyone else; he can’t hear it. Tough to tilt a cabinet with a head on it but most combo amps should be tilted up toward the player so his mix is in context.

  18. Non-human

    Sax is the easiest instrument eh? How would a trumpet player know that I wonder?

    -a sax player

  19. Cooler Than Thous

    I’ve sung in bands professionally for years and done some recording, and everything this guys advises is spot-on. Guitarists, in particular, do tend to not realize how loud they are, and contrary to what some people have written here, most people who dress poorly play poorly as well. Name one single musician who’s had a hit record who didn’t dress up for the part. The cat who wrote about getting someone to play blues in Bb — Uh, I’ve worked with a number of old bluesmen and THEY ALL DRESSED UP. You may hate this trumpet player, and apparently many of you do, but I can’t think of anything he’s written here that isn’t good advice for any musician, professional or amateur.

  20. Tom

    Clear / Concise / Excellent.
    It has been true for decades, and it needs to be said often and stressed.
    Thanks for getting this out here. It’s all true.

  21. Bob

    So when are you going to start following some of that advice of yours? Ironic that this advice would be coming from you. You going to be doing any Christianity, marriage or parenting seminars too? I mean, as long as you’re throwing out advice that you don’t abide by, you might as well throw that into the mix too.