Music Advice from Thelonious Monk

The following insightful musical advice comes courtesy of legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, a musical genius who died 35 years ago. Monk is the second most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington. The list was transcribed by saxophonist Steve Lacy in 1960.

As is the case with most thoughtful advice, many of Monk’s points apply to things other than music. My favorite quotes are below the picture.

Favorite Quotes:

  • Just because you’re a not a drummer, doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep time.
  • Stop playing all those weird notes, play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • Let’s lift the band stand!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers!
  • Don’t listen to the piano part, I’m playing that. Don’t listen to me. I’m supposed to accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important than what you do.
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig and when it comes, he’s out of shape and can’t make it.
  • What should you wear tonight? Sharp as possible!
  • These pieces were written so as to have something to play, and to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal.
  • Whenever you think it can’t be done, somebody will come along and do it. A genius is the one most like himself.


About Mark Cole

Jesus follower, Husband, Father, Worship Leader, Writer, Pastor, Church Consultant, Founding Arranger for, squash & tennis player, blogger & outdoor enthusiast.. (biking, hiking, skiing). Twitter: @MarkMCole Facebook: mmcole
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