I hadn’t had a piano lesson in 15 years. But a colleague of mine agreed to give me one. I like his style and I trust him.
I told him that when I tried to jazz solo over fast tunes, I got lost and couldn’t come up with good stuff. He told me that coming up with “stuff” was easy. What was hard was making something of the original tune. using all my musical energy to support the material I was working with and inspired by.
This is one of those situations where the thing you do naturally is the hardest to learn. Of course what he told me is exactly what I tell my students. “Elaborate on the tune.”
Why couldn’t I do it if I knew it? I just thought there was something more to soloing that I was missing, when all that was missing was my ability to hear what was actually happening! Once I started focusing on the tune, a lot of my musical energy aligned itself.
What’s even funnier about my inability to recognize this truth until someone told it to me? It’s how I live my life! I’m extraordinarily good at having a big idea and elaborating variations on it.
That’s how I wrote my novels, how I kept going on my songs, how I learned to read orchestral scores. I had a vision of myself, and that vision organized all my thoughts. I was able to create variations on the melody of my life.
But for things smaller than my life I couldn’t see it. I’d get hung up on details. I’d do the easy thing instead of the hard thing.
But now I see it again and again. I was having trouble motivating myself to be a businessperson until competition arrived in the neighborhood. Now that I have the “melody” of defeating that competition, all my business energies are falling into place.
All the things I’ve had trouble with: drawing, making money, and…hey…soloing, all they needed was for me to find the melody and follow it. So I’m offering the lesson to you.
Are you hung up on the details? Are you floundering, unable to move forward on your dreams? Do you turn every which way and never get anywhere?
Find the melody. Find the thing that ties your life together, whether it be your relationships, your dreams, or the thing that makes you the maddest. Keep that thing in sight, and make everything you do about that.
I can’t guarantee you’ll succeed. It’s the “hard” thing, remember? But sometimes hard things are possible while easy things often never even get off the ground.
News from a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books
The biggest news is that I've released my first album to Apple Music and everywhere else you can download music! What Was Once Close Enough is a collection of my earliest songs. Learn more about it at CDBABY: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/adamcole4 or download it from Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/album/what-was-once-close-enough/1475174757
Here's a new article I'm featured in: Boove - "Unique Reads for Injecting Magic Into Your Storytelling" - James Jackson