Plays Well With Others: Why Practice Alone?


John Coltrane
John Coltrane

One of the many things I discovered while doing research for The Practice of Practice is that music practice can be a lot more than just sitting alone in a room working on technique. That part is important, but it’s hardly everything. One of the most in-the-shed, hard-practicing musicians to ever play is John Coltrane. He would walk off stage for a set break, head to the bathroom, and continue to practice until it was time to get back on stage. Coltrane was an amazing musician.

At some point (usually the earlier the better), it becomes lots more fun and engaging to begin to play and practice with other people. It’s an essential part of getting better. Check out John Coltrane in 1956 or so, trading 4s with a drummer playing his lap/hands (I think it might be Elvin Jones, I’m not certain. Anybody know for sure?). They’re working on the Miles Davis tune Four. At 1:27 you can hear Coltrane say around his mouthpiece, “Trade fours,” and they begin to trade 4 bar phrases back and forth.

Below this vid is another of Coltrane playing the tune a year or so later with the full band. Do you notice any similar licks or ideas that he uses?

Below is a recording of the tune with the full band. I’m not sure of the drummer/pianist on this track. (Anybody?)

Get the album or the single here.:

Miles Davis – Trumpet
John Coltrane – Tenor saxophone
Bill Evans – Piano
Paul Chambers – Bass
Philly Joe Jones – Drums
Wynton Kelly – Piano
Jimmy Cobb – Drums


Back-To-School Specials On All Formats:


The Practice of PracticeBasic Music Theory: How to Read, Write, and Understand Written Music, by Jonathan Harnum


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