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  1. #1

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    How many times do you have to play a new song before you are comfortable performing it in front of an audience?
    (I read once that even the great Chet Atkins said he averaged 100 times before he was comfortable?) Does this sound right to you guys?

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  3. #2

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    Chet's advice is a reflection of an old adage that has always been true:

    "Amateurs practice until they get it right,
    Pros practice until they never get it wrong."


    Following that guide builds the certain confidence that even your worst evening of performing is going to be musically great. I was lucky to find a way to log many hours of practice on stage as the guitarist in the host band for a "Pro Open Mic" where it was routine to perform songs I had never heard before with guest musicians I had just met, all this for four hours each Sunday evening for ten years. I had always been able to grasp songs quickly, but that experience was like a key that unlocked all the doors.

    The point is that the number of plays means nothing - you play it until you never get it wrong, whether that is is a little or a lot.
    "Bent my ear to hear the tune and closed my eyes to see."

  4. #3

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    Sounds about right.

    I thought I had brain problems, so it’s good to know I’m not the only one.

  5. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mickey View Post
    How many times do you have to play a new song before you are comfortable performing it in front of an audience?
    (I read once that even the great Chet Atkins said he averaged 100 times before he was comfortable?) Does this sound right to you guys?
    That seems about right. It's always way more than we think, and we don't realize how much hard work our idols put into it.

    Of course this does mean that I do a lot of uncomfortable gigs

    Jens
    jenslarsen.nl --- My YouTube Channel with lessons and live videos--- YT Lesson Facebook page --- Træben album: Storm on itunes

    I endorse Ibanez guitars, John Daw Custom picks and QSC monitors

  6. #5

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    It depends a lot on the band, the audience, the expectations and the material. If the improvisational form is standard, and the head is, say a contrafact, and the reading is good and the audience is appreciative of the creative improvisation, then reading a new piece off a chart for the first time is not unheard of, or even considered unusual.
    Here in my town, there's a band that plays every night and they're always running down new material; and it's part of the excitement that the audience expects. The leader, this guy Jerry, brings in new tunes, and after a brief discussion of form, they play with and in the deepest traditions of jazz; well crafted improvisation.
    My circles include free improvisation and flexible interpretations of sometimes very complex heads. Again, very little rehearsal and that's part of the dynamic that shuns the pitfalls of over-rehearsed familiarity.
    Of course playing for a wedding, yeah, there's a lot of making sure the t's are crossed and the i's are dotted but mostly for me, the creative process is a greater part of the performance than the well rehearsed re-creative side. Both are important but the latter is a skill while the former is an art. Depends on your balance.

    My two cents anyway.

    David

  7. #6

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    I mean basically recently I’ve only been prioritising melodies. I record them and then listen back to them and comping too.

    Recording them alone gives a good idea of whether or not I really know them.

    Listening back obviously tells me whether I am dropping beats, maintaining tempo etc.

    Frankly most guitarists, even many pros, are pretty weak at pure melody playing. It takes a large amount of practice to do well.

    Obviously not all gigs require melody playing, but if I really know a melody of a song there is no comparison to how I play it compared to how I play it when just going from the chords.
    Last edited by christianm77; 07-15-2018 at 10:04 AM.

  8. #7

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    Sight reading is fun, and a useful skill otoh. It’s all good, but there’s always a different quality to well prepared music.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mickey View Post
    How many times do you have to play a new song before you are comfortable performing it in front of an audience?
    (I read once that even the great Chet Atkins said he averaged 100 times before he was comfortable?) Does this sound right to you guys?
    Yes. I use that same number 100 times in private before I perform a song in public.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  10. #9

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    Learning the tunes thoroughly includes the lyrics, from my perspective (and Lester Young's, among many others). This helps with phrasing as well as memorization. What Chet was practicing was not the tune, but the arrangement, much like classical players do. And certainly players on that level run a piece literally hundreds of times over the course of that piece's life in their repertoire. But playing a tune and improvising doesn't necessitate the same repetition after you've played hundreds of tunes over the years.

  11. #10

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    Oh maybe I do have a brain problem then after all :-(

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I mean basically recently I’ve only been prioritising melodies. I record them and then listen back to them and comping too.

    Recording them alone gives a good idea of whether or not I really know them.

    Listening back obviously tells me whether I am dropping beats, maintaining tempo etc.

    Frankly most guitarists, even many pros, are pretty weak at pure melody playing. It takes a large amount of practice to do well.

    Obviously not all gigs require melody playing, but if I really know a melody of a song there is no comparison to how I play it compared to how I play it when just going from the chords.
    Congrats on 11k posts!

    I can see where you are coming from. Melodies are key, so to speak. Harmony is much more forgiving. I think of it this way. In a vocal ensemble there are usually a small number of singers (maybe only one) that can sing the melody. The rest of them can spread their voices over the harmonies fairly easily. Even if harmonized, songs are really about melody. Without that you have nothing IMHO.

  13. #12

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    A hundred times? I've never actually counted, but it's got to be at least that, and then some. Non-musicians have not the slightest conception of the number of hours of dedicated practice behind the simplest performance by an ensemble.
    Which is probably just as well.
    Best regards, k

  14. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by citizenk74 View Post
    ...Non-musicians have not the slightest conception of the number of hours of dedicated practice behind the simplest performance by an ensemble...
    I think that it can be very difficult to grasp that things that are pleasing to us actually may require a lot of effort to perfect. It may go without saying but the simplest results sometimes require the hardest work. That is true for a lot of things IMHO.

    At work, I am currently working with two groups of Austrian designers, another management team, a general contractor, multiple subcontractors, multiple local building and fire officials, and a client team to pull off the simplest of aesthetics concerning a fairly small doctor's office. It hasn't been easy and I am the lead in charge. No wonder I like paying guitar to relieve some stress.

  15. #14

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    Just reading Pat Martino’s autobiography. When he was a kid, the guitar hardly ever left his hands. Later when he was on the tour bus with Jack McDuff, it never left his hands. That’s what it takes.

  16. #15

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    Sorry, I posted this incorrectly.

    However, anyone that can play guitar with substantial skill and a substantial body of knowledge behind them knows that a guitar has to be in your hands nearly incessantly. I like to feel that I can get that way here and there. Still lots more to do, however. I am sure of that. Can't touch Pat Martino with a 10 foot pole.

  17. #16

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    Then he forgot it all and had to learn it again. It's hard to think of someone with more of a work ethic, TBH.

    Benny Goodman relearned embouchure to be able to play stuff like this:



    That's pretty amazing.

  18. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Just reading Pat Martino’s autobiography. When he was a kid, the guitar hardly ever left his hands. Later when he was on the tour bus with Jack McDuff, it never left his hands. That’s what it takes.
    I can see how he can pull that off, except when showering of course. Takes being one with the guitar to a whole new level; literally the guitar becomes a part of you (!)

  19. #18

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    Well he was always renowned for his clean technique.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Well he was always renowned for his clean technique.
    ..! ! Very good point! Squeaky clean indeed hmmm..

  21. #20

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    OT, but there is a gobsmacking bit in the book where Pat says he finished a gig at Small’s in Harlem in 1963, then went to another club (Basie’s in 7th Avenue) at 3 a.m. and standing outside were Wes Montgomery, Les Paul, Grant Green and George Benson. So he joined them and they all went to have breakfast and talked guitar until the sun came up. Imagine being there!

  22. #21

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    yes... some music is better rehearsed.... but generally most jazz tune are best not rehearsed. ... If you play professionally.... you don't need to rehearse... if there is a chart and some verbal cues, that's more than enough. There aren't that many new things.... If your expected to perform without a chart... you generally either get chart or recording of music before hand, If I need to, I'll make quick chart and analysis... and generally just going through that process will internalize the music, at least the basic form and organization.

    Personally part of playing in a jazz style is playing live and being able to perform on the spot etc... If someone wants a rehearsed more written out sound... ok. But that would be a different gig. Sometimes the musician who has gig doesn't want the music to develop too much, that's also part of our job.... play what the gig needs etc...

    I guess it just comes down to how one approaches playing.... I'm comfortable just performing live. I mean even when your playing without rehearsing.... you've played music enough that your always ahead of what your actually playing. When your sight reading, you look at the road map... quick analysis etc... your ready... 10 maybe 20 sec. go. If your following a leader or vocalist... you listen and after a few bars you get the style and the form should already be cued.

    If I played a tune 100 times.... before performing, man I'd go crazy.

    Hey Christian... personally I thing most guitarist are weaker with harmony and performing in a rhythm section. I hear lots of really good soloist and then they comp for someone else.... and the musics gone, harmonic and rhythm fall apart... and the vanilla begins.

  23. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg View Post
    yes... some music is better rehearsed.... but generally most jazz tune are best not rehearsed. ...
    If I played a tune 100 times.... before performing, man I'd go crazy.

    .
    Some of the most fun gigs were ones where there was no set list, no rehearsal and no apologies. I remember playing Skylark for the first time on a bandstand. Sweated the bridge first time through but when I saw what was going on, it was a real charmer. I thanked the leader for calling that tune, I'd heard it plenty of times and of course I knew the melody to sing but I'd never gotten inside it. It was a lovely experience. I'd always known it from the outside, and it was fun to open it up.

    A friend, upright bass, got a gig filling in for a night at a festival. The leader was Oscar Peterson. Oscar called him: "You know my book?" "Yeah, I'm all set" he answers. Yeah Oscar plays standards so how could you not?
    Flies up to the gig, shows up in time for the sound check. He gets on the bandstand in front of a festival audience and Oscar starts playing at breakneck speed, no announcement, no count off, and certainly no set list-PLUS they were in what ever key Oscar wanted to do it in. It took my friend maybe a bar or two on one or two tunes to find his footing, otherwise it went great...or so he thought.
    After they're exiting the stage, Oscar gives him a withering look. "I thought you told me you knew my book."

    That's life in the working zone.

    There was a long running duo of Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick. They played around Boston and together in Gary's band for many years. Then they had a decade or three when they didn't play together at all. Pat was doing a week at the Montreal Jazz Festival as the feature, which meant a different group each night. Pat and Mick had one night together as a duo.
    Their prep consisted of discussing what tunes they liked the afternoon they were performing. Good. There was one tune, Pat began the introduction and Mick thinks for a moment, and in a whisper asks Pat if they could change the key, Mick felt like he could do more with the sonority of G, so literally without missing a beat Pat changes to G and the duo goes on without a single hiccup. Some of the tunes they'd played together, some not, but in the end, it's what you do with it and believe me, they were all keepers.
    Guess that's called being comfortable. I honestly don't think there's a number of hours it takes to be comfortable, in that case, a hundred is way too low.

    I do value playing a beautiful head well, but if your ear is good, and your reading skills are there in the case of an original, it's what you do with it that makes it jazz. It's the journey that makes it real, and if it's not real, playing it a hundred times won't do it for me.
    But that's just me.

    David
    Last edited by TH; 07-17-2018 at 07:40 AM.

  24. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    Some of the most fun gigs were ones where there was no set list, no rehearsal and no apologies. I remember playing Skylark for the first time on a bandstand. Sweated the bridge first time through but when I saw what was going on, it was a real charmer. I thanked the leader for calling that tune, I'd heard it plenty of times and of course I knew the melody to sing but I'd never gotten inside it. It was a lovely experience. I'd always known it from the outside, and it was fun to open it up.

    A friend, upright bass, got a gig filling in for a night at a festival. The leader was Oscar Peterson. Oscar called him: "You know my book?" "Yeah, I'm all set" he answers. Yeah Oscar plays standards so how could you not?
    Flies up to the gig, shows up in time for the sound check. He gets on the bandstand in front of a festival audience and Oscar starts playing at breakneck speed, no announcement, no count off, and certainly no set list-PLUS they were in what ever key Oscar wanted to do it in. It took my friend maybe a bar or two on one or two tunes to find his footing, otherwise it went great...or so he thought.
    After they're exiting the stage, Oscar gives him a withering look. "I thought you told me you knew my book."

    That's life in the working zone.

    There was a long running duo of Pat Metheny and Mick Goodrick. They played around Boston and together in Gary's band for many years. Then they had a decade or three when they didn't play together at all. Pat was doing a week at the Montreal Jazz Festival as the feature, which meant a different group each night. Pat and Mick had one night together as a duo.
    Their prep consisted of discussing what tunes they liked the afternoon they were performing. Good. There was one tune, Pat began the introduction and Mick thinks for a moment, and asks Pat if they could change the key, Mick felt like he could do more with the sonority of G, so literally without missing a beat Pat changes to G and the duo goes on without a single hiccup. Some of the tunes they'd played together, some not, but in the end, it's what you do with it and believe me, they were all keepers.

    I do value playing a beautiful head well, but if your ear is good, and your reading skills are there in the case of an original, it's what you do with it that makes it jazz. It's the journey that makes it real, and if it's not real, playing it a hundred times won't do it for me.
    But that's just me.

    David
    I don't see any of this as contradicting what I need to do. I mean, it goes without saying that you practice melodies in all 12 and different octaves right? That's a great way to learn your instrument and develop your ear/fretboard connection that's focussed on music....

    But that's the preparation for the art of jazz, flexibility. That said, for a lot of stuff I do need to drill to an embarrassing degree.

    BUT - I know if I don't do this work there is a large chance I might mess it up, and I've learned this the hard way, things fall apart on the bandstand. Even simple melodies.

    But that's me. I feel I need to get better at that stuff, and it is actual work.

    Like you, I have friends who are amazing at music and don't need to do this... It's having the humility (for me) and presence of mind to go over the fundamental shit and nail it down. That's what I've learned from any contact I've had with world class players.... They have all the fundamentals handled. I don't feel I do, always.

    My belief is that after a while of practicing this stuff every day, the need for 'drilling' is going to become less (except for complicated head tunes) and I'll simply become better at playing melodies generally.... You practice the process as well as the material. I am better at learning tunes than I was 10 years ago, etc....

    TBH this is already happening. But it was a blind spot, and TBH I'm not the only one... It is obviously not a blind spot for Metheny, and probably the likes of Reg learned this so long ago it seems quaint that it might be an issue for anyone (I don't think he teaches?)

  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    I don't see any of this as contradicting what I need to do. ... - I know if I don't do this work there is a large chance I might mess it up, and I've learned this the hard way, things fall apart on the bandstand.
    Well I think it's safe to say that to "get there", it takes a lot more than a hundred hours. When you're finally comfortable in that neighborhood (and with your neighbors) you don't need that amount of prep time to really play and have fun.

    That's the long and the short of it. In one perspective anyway

    David

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by TruthHertz View Post
    Well I think it's safe to say that to "get there", it takes a lot more than a hundred hours. When you're finally comfortable in that neighborhood (and with your neighbors) you don't need that amount of prep time to really play and have fun.

    That's the long and the short of it. In one perspective anyway

    David
    I dunno, I think it takes time to learn music properly. I have heard another other musicians I respect say this, so I feel it’s terribly important to put in the homework.

    But then I’ve had enough players show up and play my tunes better than me.

    But obviously if you call me to play a standards gig I’m going to be fine with that. We’ll have enough nice tunes to not feel too bad about playing Stella in the second half (cos who doesn’t like to play Stella?)

    (BTW I do think it’s important to be off charts for gigs - a few reads on a background gig is fine, but I wouldn’t pay to watch a bunch of musicians read charts unless it was a big band gig or something.)

    OTOH getting inside a tune properly takes time. A lot of that is for me getting so I can sing the melody.

    Putting it on the guitar is not so hard, but I can still be mechanically extremely stupid for no reason. (No reflection on my musicianship fwiw, I’m just a klutz.)

    I mean all of that is obvious right?
    Last edited by christianm77; 07-17-2018 at 09:40 AM.

  27. #26

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    Yea... there a few ways to skin a cat. But practicing for gigs becomes a routine and approach to performing. Part of playing jazz is performing live etc... learning how to make choices while performing etc... it's really difficult to get these skills without going through the process. Getting the performance... perfect... ? a perfect performance is not really playing jazz. (Opinion).

    Personally jazz is playing live and creating that perfect performance on stage or dive bar etc... I personally dig shit gigs, 3 or 4 sets etc...the festival gigs tend to be one set and generally more like show etc... not bad. More in the pop tradition.

    Good story David... I was back in Boston in early 70's... remember Pat and Mick with Gary etc... those were cool days.

  28. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Reg View Post
    Yea... there a few ways to skin a cat. But practicing for gigs becomes a routine and approach to performing. Part of playing jazz is performing live etc... learning how to make choices while performing etc... it's really difficult to get these skills without going through the process. Getting the performance... perfect... ? a perfect performance is not really playing jazz. (Opinion).
    I'm really not talking about perfection lol :-) Trust me...

    Personally jazz is playing live and creating that perfect performance on stage or dive bar etc... I personally dig shit gigs, 3 or 4 sets etc...the festival gigs tend to be one set and generally more like show etc... not bad. More in the pop tradition.
    Ha, me too.

  29. #28

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    There really aren't that many harmonic choices in standards and pop tunes, so playing a few "interesting tunes" in a studied fashion should give anyone a good indication of how things work. Here's a scenario, happened just yesterday: gig for a thousand Senior citizens, agent specifically hired the singer I work with to do Italian songs, standards and some 50s and 60s pop tunes. Nice budget, I had Tony Bennett's former pianist/MD, Boston Pops jazz sax soloist, solid, experienced bassist, and a good young drummer. Singer shows up with acid reflux, can't hit his high notes, singing at about half power, so we play the entire gig (3 one-hour sets) transposing ALL of his tunes down anywhere from a 2nd to a 4th, including written lines. While some of the lines were a bit sloppy, the changes were no problem for this group, and we sailed through the gig successfully. Now, virtually all of these were done with written arrangements, because I never really get to have the same players on each gig, and because of that, the charts are not very complicated, but even so, the ability to do that gig that way is pretty much limited to experienced and dedicated jazz players.

  30. #29

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    It’s great to be in situations where you HAVE to do it. It’s so easy just to cop out and use iRealB or whatever.

  31. #30

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    Great story ronjazz! I learned a ton from a weekly gig I had with a singer. I never knew where she was going to place "Do" from week to week, or if there was a tune she felt inspired to try out. I got very good at developing a vocabulary of comping figures so I could create interesting fills that complemented her phrases. I guess you might say our time playing was our 100 times rehearsing, but it wasn't uncommon for us to play a tune that we'd just discussed during the car ride to the gig. "Hey I was listening to Don't Know Why, (or Beatles tunes, or some Jimmy Webb tune) would you like to do that today?" She'd hum the tune through and I could hear the changes and I'd run the tune (thinking in Roman Numerals... that's important) before we went on and I'd play it with confidence.
    I think that for me, thinking in roman numeral harmony and training my ear in interval orientation really makes this not only possible, but easy.
    Let me ask you guys out there, when you're learning a tune, what's your process? Do you learn it off the page and memorize a particular fingering for the melody/chord solo? Or do you see the head differently each time. Because for me, I look for a different orientation when I'm working on a particular piece. I think it gives me greater insight into the ways it can be interpreted.

    Personally, if I find myself using a passage or voicing phrase by rote, I avoid that in the next phrase (staying in one particular span of notes across a section of the fingerboard? move up the string in a linear way) I play because of the pitfalls of "letting my fingers" run the line rather than my ear.

    David

  32. #31

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    Form with targets....and fill in the blanks.

    Yes... ronjazz gigs are pretty standard.... vanilla work for $. Oh man...and.. Vocalist.... how many times has an intro... gone into a different tune than called.

    But... there are also some really great and hip vocalist that are great musicians etc... covering Gregory Porter, Esperanza, McLorin, Gardot ...there are some cool fun tunes to cover that aren't from the old songbook box.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77 View Post
    Frankly most guitarists, even many pros, are pretty weak at pure melody playing. It takes a large amount of practice to do well.
    Not to sidetrack the thread, but my teacher was always insistent on this skill. We developed it by me learning a new melody a week to a standard, and playing it in an expressive and authentic way. If my performance wasn't up to standard, he'd ask me to take another week on it.

    All the greats were masters of this: The records I checked out that really illustrate this:
    • Clifford Brown with Strings: Clifford keeps the focus on the melodies
    • John Coltrane - any ballad he recorded, obviously "Ballads", but even "I'm old fashioned" from blue train illustrates the kind of mastery he had on melody.
    • Bird with Strings
    • Frank Sinatra - his phrasing is just incredible


    It always annoys me when I hear jazz and the melody feels like it is something to "get through".

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  35. #34

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    I play in situations where I am often performing a chart I've never seen on a tune I've never heard.

    I don't like it, but the leader isn't interested in my opinion.

    I do the best I can, but I think it takes me a number of times before I'm comfortable. But, it's not 100. Maybe it's 5.

    But, that's to be "comfortable". Often, to nail every last detail, it takes longer.

    Generally, I think of pros having some inchoate skills that amateurs don't have yet.

    1. An amateur can sound good when everything is perfect with the tunes, charts, room, audience etc etc. . A pro sounds good when nothing is perfect.

    2. There's a difference between playing something adequately and really nailing it. Pros get every detail out of the speaker, every note pristene. Amateurs, well, not so much.

    So, that last little bit to go from amateur to pro is no small thing even though it can be subtle.

    A pro I know once played a line which sounded fine -- fast 16ths for several bars and said "not this".

    Then he said "this" and played the same line with every note absolutely clear as a bell.

    The first one sounded fine, kind of normal really. The second one sounded like a good record.
    Last edited by rpjazzguitar; 07-19-2018 at 03:55 AM.

  36. #35

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    OT, but there is a gobsmacking bit in the book where Pat says he finished a gig at Small’s in Harlem in 1963, then went to another club (Basie’s in 7th Avenue) at 3 a.m. and standing outside were Wes Montgomery, Les Paul, Grant Green and George Benson. So he joined them and they all went to have breakfast and talked guitar until the sun came up. Imagine being there!
    If I'm not mistaken, Pat was still in his teens when that took place!