I called Richie Beirach this morning and gave him the title of a post I wanted to write. After thanking me for the good laugh, he asked if I was serious. I told him I was, and asked him to write three things jazz players should stop doing immediately.
Here's what he sent me...
1. STOP PRACTICING YOUR TIME WITH A METRONOME. THROW AWAY YOUR METRONOME!!
The metronome is okay for young kids trying to practice beginner shit like five-finger little piano pieces or first attempts at trying to play scales, but for a jazz player, it's very counterproductive.
Practicing time with a metronome gives the jazz player a false sense of time. Jazz time is much more flexible than strict metronomic time. While having steady, supple, and flexible time feeling, jazz must sometimes bend and remain open to small but critical nuances when playing half-time behind the beat–phrases that should be behind the beat and double-time phrases that should be played on top of the beat.
These very important nuances are completely ignored within the scope of the cold and perfectly accurate non-flexible time of the metronome. Further, playing with the metronome too often encourages non-listening of the other players.
Acquiring a great sense of flexible and steady jazz time is a long and difficult process that requires a lot of relentless dedication over a long period of time. The metronome is not a useful tool in the attempt of becoming an accomplished jazz player with all the time nuances that it requires.
2. STOP USING BOOKS OF TRANSCRIBED SOLOS. YOU MUST TRANSCRIBE THEM YOURSELF.
The act of transcribing a solo by ear can be daunting. I know that it was for me when I tried to put pencil to paper in the 1960s in my early attempts at transcribing great solos from Wynton Kelly, Hank Mobley, George Coleman, and of course Trane, Miles, etc.
If you buy a book of transcribed solos of say, Sonny Rollins, and then memorize them, you will gain only a portion of the learning experience. An accomplished jazz musician must have a great well-developed ear, and the act of personally transcribing a jazz solo, as painful and uncomfortable as it can be, is a neccessary critically important step in developing one's ear.
3. STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHER PLAYERS!!
This is a very common and debilitating habit that many young talents put themselves through. "Oh man, my friend Jimmy can play circles around me!!! He is my same age but his father was a good trumpet player and played Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie recordings for him when he was 3 years old!! I am a trumpet player who's also trying to learn but my dad was just a cab driver.
How will I ever play like Herbie Hancock or Mcoy Tyner?? I will never be that good!! Forget it!! What's the point in even trying??
This destructive habit must be avoided. The whole point in playing jazz is to be as good as YOU can be!! Not your friend or Herbie or anyone else!
JAZZ IS ABOUT THE EXPRESSION OF THE INDIVIDUAL'S VIEW OF THE WORLD. THE INDIVIDUAL: THAT MEANS YOU!!
Classical music is about the composer. The instrumentalist, of course, makes his or her individual interpretation of masterpieces, but jazz is about what YOU have to say. So trying to copy or emulate Herbie and other greats is actually not the point and a big smoking mess of a waste of time!! Who wants to hear another Herbie or a shitty copy of him? NOBODY, hopefully.
COMPARISON LEADS TO UNHAPPINESS DISSATISFACTION AND ELIMINATES ALL THE JOY OF LEARNING TO DISCOVER YOURSELF FOR YOURSELF.