A popular jazz adage has it that “it’s the notes you don’t play” that are as important as the ones that you do. Jazz great Miles Davis (1926-1991) is often credited with the saying, but it’s not known if he ever said it.
“It’s the notes you don’t play that make the difference” has been cited in print since at least 1963.
Pg. 9, col. 3:
Marcel Marceau on the art of mime: “Mime is an elliptical form. A lot is knowing what to leave out. It’s like music. It’s the notes you don’t play that make the difference.”
Google News Archive
22 March 1981, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “Clapton Fans Get ‘Another Ticket’” by Pete Bishop, pg. E6, col. 1:
His (Eric Clapton—ed.) and Lee’s guitar playing is tasty and usually understated, both having learned long ago the notes you don’t play can be as important as the notes you do.
12 March 1998, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “For Hines, ‘Noise/Funk’ Redefines Tap” by Elaine Dutka, Calendar, part F, pg. 6:
And as Miles Davis said, “Some of the best notes are the notes you don’t play.”
December-15th-2004 03:27 PM
Some of my favorite songs, while I am a drummer that loves complexity, are accompanied by the “less is more” school of drumming. As Miles said, it’s the notes you don’t play that are sometimes the most important ones.
The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Astrophysics is like jazz: it’s the notes they don’t play that matter. (5:54)
Tags: science, interviews, Neil deGrasse Tyson, religion, Ivy League, Pluto, Expert
Music Theory for Dummies
By Michael Pilhofer and Holly Day
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley
Likewise, many times it’s the notes you don’t play that can make all the difference in a piece of music.
Mark Twain and Metaphor
By John Bird
Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press
“The notes you don’t play are just as important as the notes (Pg. 67—ed.) you do,” goes the old jazz adage.
Jazz Blogging – It’s the Notes You Don’t Play
Apr 10, 2008
I don’t know who said that “It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play.” I’m not even a big jazz fan, but that idea has always resonated with me, because restraint and blank spaces in any art are the key. Creativity is channeled and made into a more powerful flow by constraints (note to self: write about this more, too).
February 9, 2011
John Coltrane – Giant Steps (1960)
Basically, if you want to figure out whether you like jazz or not, I’d probably say this would be as good as any album to try on for size. It’s also an example of how Coltrane didn’t really subscribe to the idea that jazz was about “the notes you don’t play”, as he always seemed bent on putting every little idea he could into each one of his solos.
Posted on Aug 3, 2011
Of course it’s a cliché from the Jazz scene, “its the notes you don’t play…” but the grain of truth within this generalization certainly goes for Dakota Suite.
New York City • Music/Dance/Theater • (3) Comments • Wednesday, February 01, 2012 • Permalink
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