The Golden Rule of Making Great Music

People remember feelings, not sounds.

There are two kinds of musicians: the kind that make good music and the kind that make bad music. Since good and bad are simply a matter of opinion, there is no universal recipe for “good music”. However, there is something that all good music has in common: the listener connects with it.

Rhythm is everything.

Your music, my music, anyone’s music is defined by rhythm. People remember rhythm. People move to the rhythm The rhythm of what you play is the foundation of your music and your connection to the audience.

If your rhythm is solid and people feel compelled to move, when you see people bobbing their heads, snapping fingers, tapping feet or dancing, you know you’re doing it right. Only then will people remember things like melody or words.

The big question is, how do you get great time and play in a way that makes people want to dance?

It’s easier than you think.

1. Record yourself playing and then listen to it. Many times. Use a metronome.

You know what good music sounds like. Who doesn’t? It’s what you like to listen to. Bad music is what you don’t like to listen to.

So record your own playing as much as possible Use your cell phone, a looper, your computer, a tape cassette recorder from 1979, it doesn’t matter because all you want to do is listen to it and be as objective and honest with yourself as you can as you ask yourself these two questions:

Do you like the music enough to listen to it a lot?

If not, exactly what don’t you like about it?

If you don’t like the music, then figure out exactly why you don’t like it. Then keep that in mind when you record again. And again. And again, until you like the music One session of this will improve your performances faster than just about anything else you can do

2. Exaggerate!

The performer feels the music, the audience hears the music.

To get the audience to feel the music the way you do, you have to exaggerate rhythmic figures and dynamics just as an actor has to exaggerate their emotions (unless it’s Nicholas Cage.) What you hear at the piano only travels as far as you can reach unless you exaggerate.

3. Always hear the song.

While improvising, comping, anything- know where the melody is at all times. When you get to this point, getting lost and losing time looking for chords is a thing of the past.

You’ll know when you have great time because it clicks and becomes a part of your being. You don’t try to remember where you are in the music or what’s coming up next anymore, you just know it.