I was at a friend's house earlier this week. They have a "jam" room at their house and it was wall to wall with instruments. Guitars, basses, speaker cabinets, a full drum set, keyboards, you name it they had it. On this particular day I was watching them jam out and the bass player wanted to know if I would take over for him while he had a smoke. Though hesitant at first, I remembered a passage from Victor Wooten's book that gave me the confidence to take the bass and not be too worried about playing "the right notes."
**Here is a paraphrase and and an excerpt from the book that I was referring to. The scene takes place at a house with two musicians. One of them is playing a song and asks the other join in. Before the other musician joins in he asks the other guy what key he was in. The musician refuses to tell the other guy the key and this frustrates him. After fiddling around on his instrument the frustrated musician finally finds the key of the song. Immediately after the first musician stops playing.
"Do you always know what you're gonna say before you start talking?"
"And does that stop you from talking?"
"Okay, then play!"...I fumbled around trying to find the root note so I could figure out something good to play but quickly got frustrated and put down my bass.
"What were you thinking about when you were playing?"
"I was trying to find the right key."
"And you need to find the right key before you can play Music?"
"I need to find the right key so that I can play the right notes."
"I see. Notes are so important that all Music stops until you find the right ones?"
"I didn't say that."
"Yes, you did. You said it clearly with your bass."
"Well, tell me then; when should I find the right notes?"
"No! Not at first anyway. There is something more important you should find first."
"And what is that?"
"The groove? Wait a minute. So the first thing I should do is find the groove when I start playing?"
"No. You should find the groove before you start playing. It doesn't matter whether you know the song or not. If you need to, let a few measures go by while you figure out what the groove is saying. Once you find the groove, it doesn't matter what note comes out; it will 'feel' right to the listener. People generally feel Music before they listen to it anyway. If finding the key is so important to you, at least find it while you groove...Forget about your instrument. Forget about the key. Forget about technique. Hear and feel the groove. Then allow yourself to become part of the Music!! (pg. 30-31).
Lesson: You should never lose the groove in order to find a note.