Go Buy a CD

As musicians, recorded music is a super important part of our lives.

Music is our source of learning, study, growth, and enjoyment. It is the resource that allows us to learn from the best of the best. If I wanted to, I could listen to John Coltrane play his tenor sax all day or Keith Jarrett play his piano. I could listen to a 17 year old Tony Williams change drumming with the great Miles Davis.

What a privilege.

Listening to the “masters of our trade” is one of the most important, if not THE most important things that any student of music can do to succeed. This is because of one simple fact: You can not speak the language if you do not know the language. Often, I see students struggle with being “musical” or “sounding like Gadd” without really knowing what that actually sounds like. Knowing a specific sound or style can only be achieved through listening to those who laid the framework in the first place. A really good example of this is in the movie, “La La Land”. In the first 10 minutes of the movie, we first meet Ryan Gosling’s character in his car listening to the great Thelonious Monk, rewinding a short excerpt of his solo, over and over again. He’s not just listening to the notes that Monk is playing, he is listening for how he’s playing it. Personally, I think this is the most important part of music education. Learning from the best, and using that knowledge for the betterment of our own musicality. I am confident in saying that at least 90% of what I know was learned from listening (and watching) what other musicians have done already. As a student, I understand how hard it can be to constantly improve on our own sound. As a teacher, I see that listening to those who are better than you at your instrument fill in the gaps of your playing that you might not even notice.

Now, to touch on the title of this entry, I want you to go out and buy a physical CD. This is a very important part of the process. I’m not saying that getting your music online is an issue, I do that a lot myself, but there is something very special about having a tangible object from which you can learn from, for two reasons:

The first being that an album is so much more than a collection of songs. It’s an artistic statement. I want you to be able to see all of the artwork, read the album notes, see who they thank, but most importantly, I want you to see the players! Making the connection between what you’re hearing and who is playing will help you start to discover different playing styles, and what makes certain players special.

The second reason is my personal favorite. Physical CD’s give the opportunity to share this musical knowledge with others. I love being able to give other musicians CD’s that have really affected me as a musician. Exchanging CD’s can help you expand your current musical tastes, and continue challenging your ears.

Let me share some albums that really opened up my ears and changed my playing…

The Way Up by The Pat Metheny Group
Snakes and Arrows by Rush
Burning for Buddy by The Buddy Rich Big Band with Various Drummers
Off The Wall by Michael Jackson
Thriller by Michael Jackson
The Line by Kneebody
Chamber Music Society by Esperanza Spalding

Go and buy a CD! Get better! Practice what you hear!