You're Doing it Wrong

Jazz Funeral, originally uploaded by carolsLittleWorld.

When I was younger, I used to try to play music. I say “try to” because I never really succeeded. I never considered myself to be very good at music although I tried and tried I could never quite “click” with it. I even had some (albeit limited) success as a musician but I still don’t consider myself a “real” musician, not by most standards. I can technically speaking, still read (and write!) music.

There is an interesting concept in what I just wrote, especially in that last sentence. I can, technically speaking, still read and write music. Notes on a page? Yup, I can figure those out. But notes on a page? Now that, my friends, that is not *playing* music.

Music, you see, is about playing. It’s about feeling. It’s not notes on a page, no, notes on a page are just, well notes on a page. Notes. Page. There they are. There’s no life there. There’s no there there. It’s all just scribbles until you make a sound. Music, you see, for those who really know it is about sound. It’s about sound and it’s about feeling. And feeling? Yeah, that doesn’t really come so much from notes on a page anymore than taking great photos comes from reading a camera manual or even, for that matter, making scribbles in the park. No art comes from feeling and feeling doesn’t always come from technique.

The problem with being a technician is that you will never become an artist that way. To put it another way, life is not about technique. Art is not about technique, no, it’s about something greater than technique. Miles Davis wasn’t great at putting notes on a page, he put great notes on a great page. And what made those notes so great? He played them with a lot of feeling. (Maybe you could say he put a lot of great feelings into his notes on a page to make them great too.)

If you are trying to be a musician and you are trying to put notes on a page, that’s fine, but you have to remember that music is about, well, music. It’s how great you play that counts, not how great you put notes on a page. It’s about feeling. If you play music in such a way that you will cause people to really feel it, if you play the right notes with the right amount of feeling and you craft the best sounds, then you will be making great music. The notes on a page? Why, they don’t really matter. If you’re a musician and you are so focused on reading notes on a page, you’re doing it wrong. You’re not really playing music, rather you’re reading (or writing) notes on a page.

The same can be said for photography. If you’re so busy setting camera knobs and dials, if you’re so busy setting white balance and spending hours in Photoshop, you’re not really taking pictures-you’re doing it wrong. I had a conversation with a photographer friend the other day and she said to me, “you can make photos look more artistic by playing with the white balance.”

I said, “Why, yes you can, but you can also make photos look more artistic by taking photos that look more artistic.” She didn’t understand (really) what I was talking about, because she was so intent on making something look artistic by playing with Photoshop. She was being a technician, not an artist. Sure, artists need technique too, but art is more than technique. It’s bigger than technique, there’s more to it then that. If you only focus on the notes on a page, why, I almost hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re doing it wrong.

So, today’s free advice (and worth every penny!) is don’t do it wrong. Don’t put notes on a page. Put some feeling into it, use your vision, your creativity, your insight, your gut feelings, and technique, why that will fall into place. Make those notes come alive before you put them down on that page, for only when they are alive, only when they are truly alive, are you really playing music. The rest of the time, the rest of the stuff you might be doing, the rest of the notes on a page? Why, that’s just noise, man.

Until next time…

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous
    October 8, 2012 / 3:11 pm

    Carol, what beautiful writing and inspiration.

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