I'm a Beginner

If you haven't listened to WBGO's "The Checkout," do yourself a favor and add it to your rotation. They have a podcast on iTunes or you can listen to it directly from the site linked above.

I was listening to some archived shows recently and ran across an interview with the members of Sangam: tabla master Zakir Hussain, saxophonist Charles Lloyd and drummer Eric Harland.

The always excellent interviewer, Josh Jackson, was talking to Lloyd and I thought his response was amazing:

Josh Jackson: Master Lloyd, Charles Lloyd...

Charles Lloyd: I'm a beginner.

Josh Jackson: (Laughs) I believe that, in some sense.

Charles Lloyd: I have beginner's mind and as Zakir often reminds me of a statement I made in one of the joint interviews we did -- I think it was in Switzerland -- someone asked me about the music and was I gonna do this or do that and I told them I had never gotten good enough to quit, yet, and so I'm still looking for those sounds that will deliver me home...

I've been posting transcriptions and writing about technique and ways to make both yourself and myself a better musician. When you're practicing, sometimes it's easy to get frustrated by things you can't do yet or things you think you'll never be able to do. It might even make you want to quit. Ego takes over and you start to believe you're worse than you actually are.

Charles Lloyd is 71 years old and refers to himself as a beginner. I think every time you sit down to play or to practice, it's helpful to think of yourself that way. There's always more to learn, always something you can't do yet. We're all beginners, every day.

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