Letters to a Young Picker

or Free Your Mind and Your Chops Will Follow:

EVERYTHING is a matter of personal taste. Nobody gets “great ears” without playing badly with their betters (betters who are willing to accept a lot of bad notes, ideas or tangents as the price to be paid for developing new talent).

If somebody sells a lot of records, that helps everybody else (to some degree). That means people are interested in adding music to the soundtrack of their lives. And you can’t change the way people think about or listen to music if they’re not listening to or thinking about it to begin with.

What were the “classics” when they were written? Weren’t they all experimental to some extent? The appeal of music is that it contains universal themes that are at their heart, extremely and uniquely personal experiences.

What makes a song a classic is that people connect to it and relate it to their own experience. And that takes time and not much else. But remember, before classical music was “classical”, ol’ J.S. Bach was just improvising on the organ (to feed his dozen odd children). Mozart was writing what came into his head. They made it up as they went along.

Minds are like parachutes – they only function when open. There’s much to be learned from absorbing the “classics,” but you’ve got to eventually squeeze the sponge – and all the water might not end up in the sink.

The quality of the instrument you’re holding doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. It’s the quality of the instrument that YOU are that does. Each note tells a story, so be careful not to talk too much – the more you know, the more choices you have, the more challenging your role. When you set standards rather than just playing them, then you’re great – and it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been on the road, or how many “name” acts you’ve played with.

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