Thursday, October 2, 2014

John Medeski's Advice for Young Musicians

In a 2011 interview with JAZZed, pianist John Medeski of the trio Medeski, Martin and Wood had this advice for young musicians:

JM: Slow down the process in terms of your study. We’re constantly on random play and things are changing all the time, but I think it’s really important to stop and slow down. Set aside time to really dive into things and absorb them. Work on slowing down and really hearing from deep inside. Take time to dive into one artist for a month or two at a time. Pick somebody you really love and just dive into their music. Find pieces that will give you the quintessential sort of essence of their sound and study it, learn it, absorb it. Take time to listen to it until you can hear it, sing it and feel it inside you – until you don’t need to listen to it or read it to sit down and play it.

I also recommend playing free as part of your practice. First do your technique warm-up and then sit down and play free. You can sit down and play a sunset, you can play an emotion, you can play a scenario – it can be programmatic, it can be romantic, it can be whatever but do it every day as part of your practice. Then you can go work on learning tunes, writing, studying harmony, lines, approach tones – all that other stuff that you need to learn – but first get yourself in a warmed up state and connected to your instrument and then play free. That’s how you find your voice and stay connected to it. That way you know what all these sounds mean to you. You can’t be taking your cues from everybody else – we need to know what every chord and every note means to us and what every combination of those notes means to us. Then when we play them it is coming from us.

Bassist Chris Wood and drummer Billy Martin also offered these comments in the same interview:

CW: Just persist. If you really want to do it and you love it – if you love music you just have to keep playing and playing and playing until you really are doing what you believe in.

BM: Think about developing your language. Think about your instrument as a means to express yourself with the language and the vocabulary that you have. Work on being in the moment of soloing and improvising and composing on the spot. Even if it’s just a one minute solo, work on developing a piece of music on your instrument right there on the spot and your vocabulary will grow very quickly.

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