Music 101: Observation

The final lesson in Mr. Mike’s Remote Learning Experience is for the more advanced student. Before attempting to undertake this one, you should have mastered at least one of the preceding lessons, namely: Gratitude, Grace, Humility, Patience, Humor, or Passion. If you have not mastered any of these, you should think long and hard about your shortcomings and then choose between the most important and the easiest, namely: Gratitude and Humor. If you find Humor too difficult you should probably save us all a good deal of wasted energy and give up on music here and now.

OK. Good. Now that we have weeded out the humorless from our ranks we can proceed to one of the greatest gifts the Goddess of Music bestows on her disciples: Observation.

For the musician, there are two essential forms of observation. The simpler of the two is visual observation but its simplicity should not obscure its importance. Even the non-musical among us have most likely figured out how to observe things with their eyes. Whenever I go to the opera, or a play that features live music, I spend as much time observing the musicians as I do the actors. Their movements are as important as a ballerina’s. Look at Carlos Santana’s face as he takes a lead:

It’s not pretty, but I bet the note coming out of his guitar is. Which brings me to second, even more essentialler, form of observation for a musician: listening.

Listen to everything. Listen to rain and wind and the conversations of strangers. Listen to the sounds of your breathing and heartbeat. And listen to music. All kinds of music. Listen to music you hate and try to identify what about it you find unappealing. Then see if there isn’t something about it that you can like (e.g. Celine Dion does have a strong voice). Maybe there is a groove or a backing vocal or some unique percussion that can transcend an otherwise horrific piece of music. Also listen to music you love, but listen carefully. Why do you love it? Take it apart in your mind. Isolate each instrument and vocal part. Think about using the things you like in your own playing or singing.

I have one last extra-credit assignment for all you remote learners. I am releasing my new album today. It has been a long time coming and reflects what I have been able to make of Gratitude, Grace, Humility, Patience, Humor, and Passion from a lifetime of Observation.

The name of the album is Observations and I would be most humbly grateful if you would lend it some of your precious attention.


CD with 8 new songs: Ain’t No Good To Me/ Ghost Town/ The Lovelorn Blues/ Let That Bird Fly Away/ Magdalena/ I Love You So Bad It Hurts/ Bad/ Keep Your Eyes Wide

9.99 $

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