25 Tips for Musicians
In 1960 jazz pianist Thelonious Monk wrote down a list of tips for his new saxophonist Steve Lacy. A reproduction of Lacy’s transcription of this advice is included below.
- Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.
- Pat your foot & sing the melody in your head, when you play.
- Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!
- Make the drummer sound good.
- Discrimination is important.
- You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
- All reet!
- Always know… (monk )
- It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
- Let’s lift the band stand!!
- I want to avoid the hecklers.
- Don’t play the piano part, I’m playing that.
- Don’t listen to me. I’m supposed to be accompanying you!
- The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
- Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important than what you do.
- Always leave them wanting more.
- A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
- Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig, & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.
- When you’re swinging, swing some more!
- (What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!
- Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.
- These pieces were written so as to have something to play, & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
- You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).
- Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
- They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.
Thelonious Monk, 1917-1982
“25 Tips for Musicians”
© 1960 Thelonious Monk
Photo by Arnaud Boubet