Experts in the study of body language believe that between 50 to 93 percent of the way we communicate with each other is nonverbal. That means things like posture, facial expressions, and physical gestures are saying just as much, if not more than the actual words you’re speaking.
Another way to look at it is the three V’s:
1. Verbal – This is the content, the words. In music, this would be the notes, chords, and lyrics of a song.
2. Vocal – This is how you sound when you speak. In music, your tone, the timbre of your instrument, or your voice.
3. Visual – This of course is how you look while you’re performing on stage.
Great musicians and entertainers are no stranger to this concept. When I was studying jazz at university, this was the farthest thing from my mind.
Recently I came across an article in Guitar Player Magazine written by session guitarist Carl Verheyen. He recalls, early on in his career, getting to play with drummer and jazz legend Max Roach. On a break between sets backstage, hoping to get some musical insight or advice on his playing, Max’s only words of advice were “You gotta work on your stance man”.
“A very small percentage of the listeners out there realize you’ve just played a flat 9 on a major seventh chord and made it work. For most people, it’s an emotional feeling they come away with”
Max then goes on and talks about the way Charlie Parker balanced his alto saxophone on his belly while ripping solos, John Coltrane intensely leaned into the microphone and Dizzy pointed his trumpet up towards the ceiling. “A very small percentage of the listeners out there realize you’ve just played a flat 9 on a major seventh chord and made it work. For most people, it’s an emotional feeling they come away with” Max Roach, Guitar Player Magazine March 2013 by Carl Verheyen.
Having enjoyed numerous concerts over the years, some of my most vivid memories are not only of how the artists sounded on stage but also of the visual impact of their performances. Mike Stern standing in place as he rocked his knees in time while playing blazing solos, B.B. King’s sheer presence when he first walked out onstage, Sade’s understated onstage sensuality, Buddy Rich playing most of his concert with a very serious look on his face that said: “I came to play the drums and I’m not here to mess around.” Maybe you have a similar concert experience that’s left a lasting impression and would like to share here. I would love to hear about it.
Until then thanks for reading and see you next month.