Thelonius Monk’s List of Tips for Playing a Gig

Transcribed by soprano sax player Steve Lacy in a spiral-bound notebook, Thelonious Monk created a primer of do’s and don’ts for club musicians.

Here’s a transcript of the text:

  • Just because you’re not a drummer, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to keep time.
  • Pat your foot and sing the melody in your head when you play.
  • Stop playing all that bullshit, those weird notes, play the melody!
  • Make the drummer sound good.
  • Discrimination is important.
  • You’ve got to dig it to dig it, you dig?
  • All reet!
  • Always know
  • It must be always night, otherwise they wouldn’t need the lights.
  • Let’s lift the band stand!!
  • I want to avoid the hecklers.
  • Don’t play the piano part, I am playing that. Don’t listen to me, I am supposed to be accompanying you!
  • The inside of the tune (the bridge) is the part that makes the outside sound good.
  • Don’t play everything (or everytime); let some things go by. Some music just imagined.
  • What you don’t play can be more important than what you do play.
  • A note can be small as a pin or as big as the world, it depends on your imagination.
  • Stay in shape! Sometimes a musician waits for a gig & when it comes, he’s out of shape & can’t make it.
  • When you are swinging, swing some more!
  • (What should we wear tonight?) Sharp as possible!
  • Always leave them wanting more.
  • Don’t sound anybody for a gig, just be on the scene.
  • Those pieces were written so as to have something to play & to get cats interested enough to come to rehearsal!
  • You’ve got it! If you don’t want to play, tell a joke or dance, but in any case, you got it! (to a drummer who didn’t want to solo).
  • Whatever you think can’t be done, somebody will come along & do it. A genius is the one most like himself.
  • They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it.
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