Monk’s Adavice

Someone forwarded this jpg to me and I just had to do a little research. It was apparently written by Steve Lacy, a soprano sax player renowned for being the first modern soprano jazz player.

  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.

Right! We are the time. You cannot be a great jazz player if you don’t have an acute sense of time. The time must be so strong within you that when you play you communicate that feel to everyone who hears you. This should happen for everything you play, even without a drummer. In fact, I would say that this is true for all styles of music as well. There is no music where you can be a slacker in respects to time.

  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head, when you play.

Hear the music in your head! This is similar to the first comment because it involves having a complete musical thought before you play. He says “when you play”, but great musicians know what he means because we do this all the time. There are two streams of music happening at all times. We sing the melody just seconds before we play it and can hear both melodies in our minds simultaneously.

  • Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!

Interesting comment coming from Monk! LOL

  • Make the drummer sound good.

I like this idea. I had never heard this before but it makes plenty of sense. As young musicians, we make the mistake of playing as if it is The Eddie Lewis Show and those other guys behind us are just there to make ME sound good. Wrong! We are having a conversation and the drummer is the guy who keeps us all on topic.

  • Discrimination is important.

Not sure I get this one. If I was forced to guess what he means, I would say that he’s talking about putting your best work out there and not accepting anything less than the best of ourselves.

  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?

This is just like something Jim Austin told me about working on sound. He said that the only way we can change our sound is if we like the sound we are changing to. Anything else is fake and insincere.

  • Always know….(MONK)
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!

I don’t know what all of this means, but the idea of “lifting the band stand” appeals to me. Don’t be a drag! Don’t pull everyone down with your playing. If you are there to lift everyone in the audience up, you can’t be doing it from a dragging, weighted position. You have to be up! You have to be charged and energized.

  • 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!

Great! A lot of players don’t think about their roles in the band. Don’t take another player’s role.

  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.

He he he… Right! Learn the bridge and pour your heart out into it.

  • 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 that what you do.

This is something that takes a little more maturity than other things we do. I don’t think I really started doing this until I actually practiced letting ideas go by. That’s one of the things you train to do in Hal Crook’s book. One of his exercises teaches you to sing something in your head and then wait before you play. That’s something you can practice just like you practice your scales. But if you never think to work on that, you may end up being one of those lots of notes players.

  • 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, and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.

Excellent career advice. Some people stop practicing when there are no gigs and the result is that they are not ready for the breaks when they come.

  • When you’re swinging, swing some more.
  • (What should we wear tonight? Sharp as possible!)
  • Always leave them wanting more.

More business advice? Good! Make sure you always hold back enough of what you can do that they know you could have done more. Yes, it makes you a tease of sorts. But it also helps you control the value of your art.

  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.

For aspiring musicians, I cannot stress how important this advice is. How many times have people called me for gigs when I don’t have a clue what they sound like or what their professional ethics are like? If you are not on the scene, you will never get as many calls as the guys who are. Here in Houston people complain that the scene is too clicky, but how many of those people complaining ever made an effort to be a part of that scene?

  • These pieces were written so as to have something to play and get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.

Lots to be said about getting the musicians interested in the gig. I know exactly what he’s talking about. A lot of people will make it to the rehearsals if they like the music. But don’t call rehearsals for the same boring stuff they do on the gigs all the time.

  • 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 and do it.
  • A genius is the one most like himself.

This one comment says precisely what I’ve been saying about originality for years now, but says it in so few words. Genius is not accomplished by trying to be original for originality’s sake. Genius comes from being true to yourself. I have written about this several times because I believe that music that is original for originality’s sake is inherently unmusical.

  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along and spoil it.

Right! In the times we live in today, when our society is becoming increasingly more polarized, there is a push for us to hate each other. Those pushes come from activists and special interest groups, but when you take your head out of the newsprint and look your brother in the eye, you will see how wrong and misguided the hatred is. You will see a person who loves and needs to be loved.

Amen to that!

About Eddie Lewis

Eddie Lewis is primarily known as a Christian free-lance trumpet player in Houston, TX. Eddie makes a living playing trumpet, teaching trumpet and jazz improvisation, writing trumpet music and authoring trumpet books. His second book, Daily Routines for Trumpet, is used regularly by thousands of trumpet players around the world. If you would like to purchase some of his CD's, feel free to visit our online music store at
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