Improve Your Solos by Leaving Space

Miles Davis once made an infamously crass remark to John Coltrane after questioning the increasing length of his solos. Trane said, "I don't know how to stop," to which Miles replied, "Try taking the f🙉cking horn out of your mouth."

Profanity aside, taking your hands and/or mouth off your instrument is actually good advice – but not just for keeping your solos under 30 minutes. Leaving space while improvising will do wonders for your solos.

Think of rests like musical punctuation: periods, commas, question marks, etc. When we speak and write, these punctuation marks help separate our ideas and clarify our message. Being deliberate about leaving space between your musical ideas has the same effect.

Even a little bit of "daylight" between phrases will give you and your listeners a chance to reflect on what you just played. But be warned: your perception of how long you're resting is probably skewed. Especially when playing in front of an audience, what feels like an eternity of space is actually just a blip of time for everyone else.

So when you do take your f🙉cking hands and/or mouth off the instrument, try singing back to yourself the line you just played. Or at the very least, take a breath or two. Miles would be proud…and then he'd probably cuss you out about something else.

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Jeff SchneiderComment