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How Far Is Too Far Out?

By Published: April 8, 2005

Some of the so called "out players" are not educated in the ways of music. Meaning, they have not studied or do not comprehend what came before and what needs to be done to move forward. Should the music move forward? Absolutely! Before it can move forward, the past has to be mastered. Should every up-and-coming trumpet player emulate Miles Davis and a whole slew of other influences before he discovers his own sense of artistry? No. Does this mean that every kid who wants to be a professional musician should get a college degree? No. But if you want to advance the music, you must go back in time and at least understand the history of the music, harmony, improvisations and how the music progressed through the years with each new innovator.

Whether you study with private teachers, go to college, or study on your own, it is a process that can't be avoided. Learning to be proficient on your instrument is essential if you are someday to become a new force to be reckoned with. John Coltrane was a schooled musician. Years after his formal musical training he continued to study and practice and absorb as much music as he could. He would practice on his breaks while playing with Miles Davis. He is only one example. Every musician who is serious about his art form puts in endless hours of study and practice. When they don't physically have the instrument in their hands, they mentally practice. They dream about practicing and music. Music consumes their lives. Anyone who was a musical giant and innovator did not take the past for granted. If you are to be taken seriously, you can't disregard the past. It is the past that is subliminally in your subconscious and unwittingly guides you. In the world of music, especially the "avant-garde", the musicians lot is to constantly prove him/herself to the rest of the world and to be taken seriously. It is common to hear at any given moment at any concert: "but can he/she really play?"

How far out is too far out? There's no such thing.

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Photo Credit
Thelonious Monk by William P. Gottlieb
Dave Douglas by Michael Kurgansky

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