Felix Olschewski

Composer. Musician. Author.

Book review “The Music Lesson” by Victor Wooten

The Music Lesson reviewI spend lots of time reading books about music these days. My goal is to become a better, more complete musican, to develop my skills beyond just my instrument, technique and music theory. So this book seemed to be an obvious choice.

The subtitle of this book is “A Spiritual Search For Growth Through Music” and it is aimed at not only musicians but also at music listeners and I think both can really learn something from this.

Victor Wooten is mainly known as a bass virtuoso. Many people may also know him as a proponent of treating music as a language instead of something highly academic.

In The Music Lesson Victor writes a story through the eyes of the protagonist. Being stuck in a rut he happens to meet a strange person who happens to be able to lead him out of his current situation.

He writes that music is so much more than just notes: It is also

  • articulation,
  • feel,
  • technique,
  • dynamics,
  • rhythm,
  • tone,
  • phrasing,
  • rest (space) and…
  • listening.

All of these aspects are connected not only to music and our experience of it but also to aspects to life itself. It is this connection to life that Victor sometimes calls “fairydust kind of stuff” and rightfully so. It surely depends on your stance on life and everything whether you agree with his views. I found them to be in part inspiring but sometimes stretching it too much.

What did I learn from this book?

I learned a lot. When I read The Music Lesson I had just re-started to study music again very intensely and this book reminded me to move and broaden my focus away from notes.

Every day I find Victor’s list of the building blocks of music very useful to approach my songs and songwriting from different angles. I had always used a rhyhthm- and phrasing-heavy approach. But I could indeed work more on my articulation and now that I started to focus more on acoustic music I will certainly put more emphasis on tone as well.

I think Victor succeeds in conveying the effectiveness of each of these building blocks in this book.

Would I recommend the book?

To musicians certainly. It may not be the number one best book on music ever, but it certainly is one of the best books. If you feel stuck on conventional music theory and its 99% note focus then this book is certainly for you. If you are a spiritual person and musician, this book is for you. If you feel stuck in a rut then yes, go for this book – it might help you get a new perspective. Don’t expect concrete instructions on how to write hits, though.

As far as I understand it, Victor regards listening as the single most important aspect of making music. I agree. And if you listen closely to what he has to say in this book then I am sure you can get a lot out of it.

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