Mike Longo, my teacher and mentor once told me something very important and perplexing after a big band rehearsal many years ago.
I played guitar in his 17 piece band for a while, and finding the “crack” in which to put a guitar “comp” chord or fill was challenging. The “chug chug” Freddie Green style comping on every beat totally was not what he wanted – and I already knew that.
So at this rehearsal, I played what seemed right and was very self satisfied at the time.
He says to me afterward “You weren’t listening”.
HUH? Did he just say that? I was with them the whole time! This had me scratching my head.
He then assured me that what he meant was extremely subtle, and that Dizzy Gillespie once told him the same thing after a gig.
Last night I did a duo gig here in New York with a friend – and it was really a relief to play a gig and let loose in the midst of all my uber focused recording activity on my Michael Jackson fingerstyle guitar project.
Same guitar, same amp…but I heard new detail and nuances in the sound that I had never heard on that gig, and naturally exercised ‘restraint’ in ways I had never done before. It was more musical, focused and relaxed. Even whispery quiet songs had people grooving in their seats.
Imagine a camera lens coming into focus – but on a sonic level.
It’s so common to think that to “improve” one needs to simply “practice” guitar with the hands and get bigger, faster, louder and stronger. Macho Man!!!
Once you (and I) listen deeply – very deeply – the guitar playing changes.
I need to carry thins listening over into all areas of my life. If there is as much joy and delicacy available to me in all of life as there was last night on the guitar, it’s me that needs to quiet down and listen. The world can stay as it is.
Something nice to think about on a ‘quiet’ January Sunday morning.
Rob Steinhardt says
Interesting thoughts Adam.
I think we all become better musicians as we not only get ‘better’ at our respective instruement, but even more how as we get better at listening. To both our selves and those around us.
I was guitar guy in a college band for a few years.
I was just starting to learn how to play jazz at the time.
And the rehearsals that were most fun and gratifying for me
were not the ones that I played my ‘best’ but the ones where I felt I heard my playing really well, heard what the others were playing, and most importantly, how I felt I locked in to the larger whole. And that lock in feeling was very dependent upon how open I was feeling and how well I was able to listen whith both detatchement and detail at the same time.
There ya go. These experiences are invaluable – even though one might not feel like one is ‘playing’ much, or even playing one’s best.
The shift however – is tremendous, and is seen mainly in hindsight.
Jay Pullman says
Your latest post makes a beautiful point, but I feel you’ve already done some deep listening, some deep resonating, on your rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” There you transcend most guitar players I know–including yourself. It’s a piece that puts you among the greats.
Jay you are too kind!
When I look back at my vids I squirm, because the music is always improving, always getting better.
I am constantly awakened and amazed by how the soft ballads get into people’s hearts.
Thank you Jay – stay in touch!
Adam, can we put our souls/music into the spaces available – left by those who allow “fill”. Will what we “fill” be enjoyable to others? Mike Longo is a true listener> What a blessing to be mentored by such a great teacher. His rhythm lectures opened my eyes. Thanks for sharing your experience and observing when it clicks. I’m at jazzdado Youtube / just starting to put things on.
Thanks again for you book ///singleline…..
Gillette Wilkinson says
that’s what real music is all about. Whenever you listen to it again, it’s allways new.
Phil Traynor says
I always tell anyone I’m sitting down with in any sort of teaching capacity musically (Yeah, me teaching, go figure…) that the single most important part of their body in music is their ears. It’s always interesting and satisfying to me to discover that almost always, less is more, and listening closely enough to realize what/when NOT to play is almost a state of ecstasy, and it is a lifelong journey. (it’s most of the reason why I called my first CD “A Dichotomy of Silence”)… And you’re so right; this level of listening can transform EVERY relationship you have, and every type of interaction with people. Too often, I catch myself when talking with someone waiting for my space to stick in what I want to say, and miss totally what the other person was saying.
Word up! 🙂
John Murret says
This is a great lesson. I enjoys your blogs and any interview that I have seen with you on places like FingerstyleHeaven. Lessons like this really help because you teach that improvement comes with time and continued openness and commitment to awareness. It is so helpful to learn how to practice and how to approach things rather than just lessons on a technique. You can find technique lessons anywhere. This is so much more helpful. I hope to hear your podcast soon. Any progress on that?
PS. Hopefully you can make it back to Denver soon since I missed you last time through.