Words of the Music Masters

In this book, Words of the Music Masters, eight world-class musicians share principles that will help both beginners and advanced players to rethink the way they play and make music.

The musicians featured in the Words of the Music Masters are:

John Abercrombie — one of the most acclaimed guitar players in the jazz scene for the last 40 years. He has been featured in more than 150 albums. His latest album, Wait till you see her, has just been released.

John Clayton — former Count Basie´s double bassist and Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra`s First Bass, founder of the Clayton Brothers Band and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. He has lately earned high visibility recording and touring with Diana Krall.

David Ellefson — among the most renowned rock musicians of the last three decades, founding member of Megadeth, one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history with more than 20 million albums sold worldwide.

Larry Grenadier — one of the most active musicians in modern jazz, Larry has recorded and toured with maestros such as Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Joshua Redman and Larry Goldings, in addition to assembling the Brad Mehldau trio together with drummer Jorge Rossy.

Thomas Lang — one of the most proficient and virtuous contemporary drummers, Thomas has been the driving dynamo behind pop stars like Geri Halliwell, Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue. He has released three instructional DVD`s for drummers, one of them (Creative Control, 2004) being the all time best-selling instructional DVD for drummers.

Michael Manring — by far one of the most innovative musicians in contemporary music, a disciple of Jaco Pastorius, he has left his mark in an array of styles ranging from heavy metal to new age to electronic pop. Owner of a radically different approach to playing by defying preconceptions about tuning and sound exploration.

Chester Thompson — beginning his career playing in Frank Zappa´s Mothers of Invention in 1973 and later joining Weather Report to record the hit album Black Market (one of the finest albums of the fusion genre), he has reached massive exposure as Genesis' and Phil Collins' live drummer for more than 30 years.

Lenny White — being featured in more than 240 albums, having played in Miles Davis´s “Bitches Brew” at age 19 and joining Return to Forever in the early seventies, Lenny remains as one of the most remarkable musicians, record producers and film scorers of contemporary music.

The book is based on a set of questions asked to each master. The questions address issues concerning technique acquisition, jamming and composing, the life as a professional musician, and general advice and inspiration for the musician´s life.


My review is based on the 160-page eBook version of Words of the Music Masters by Tom Sawada.

The book is based on interviews conducted with eight different professional musicians, three of which are drummers; Chester Thompson, Lenny White and Thomas Lang. At first glance it looks like the opinions gathered by this small group would not be as diverse as one might hope, but after reading the book, I believe the editors did a fair job of getting a cross-section of professionals to interview ... especially when limiting it to eight individuals.

The book, minus the artist bios and summary, is divided into four sections with twenty-seven questions total.

  1. GROWING UP - The Principles Behind Technique and Skill Acquisition
  2. MAKING MUSIC - The Principles Behind Jamming, Composing, and Letting the Music Flow
  3. WORK IS PLAY - The Principles Behind the Day-To-Day of a Professional Musician
  4. FINDING THE PATH - The Principles Behind Not Giving Up and Climbing Back Onto the Wave


It's worth noting that not all of the eight professionals answer all of the questions. In fact some of the questions are answered by only one or two interviewees. I went through and counted how many responses were given by each of the eight pros, and the results are as follows: Manring (19), White (18), Grenadier (16), Clayton (14), Lang (15), Ellefson (17), Abercrombie (11), Thompson (14). As you can see, each "music master" had a response for just over half of the twenty-seven questions. May not be a deal breaker, but if you are picking up this book because one of the eight professionals interviewed is your music hero, you need to know that he didn't respond to all of these topics or questions. Several of the questions are drum related, so it does make since that only the drummers would respond. I also wanted to mention that Michael Manring and Thomas Lang had the most lengthy responses. If one of these two is your hero, you'll be pleased, although do keep in mind that many words or information doesn't necessarily equate knowledge. I personally felt that Abercrombie, Thompson and White had the most articulate, interesting and insightful responses.

At the end of the book, the editors gathered all of the opinions of the eight pros and summarized it all into ten statements entitled "What Have We Learned From the Masters?" For me, this was the best part of the book, simply because the synopsis was direct and concise.

I have to say that I was amazed to see that Words of the Music Masters, a paperback, 160-page book, was selling for around $60 USD. That's a bit surprising, especially when 18 pages are completely blank, and another 20 pages have only one small photo, a title heading or short sentence. Yes, I went back and counted, simply because the price shocked me.

In a day and age where the Internet is king, a book has really got to bring something special and unique before people are going to make the investment. Words of the Music Masters will be of value to musicians who desire to take a more professional attitude or approach in their music making, or who plan to make music their vocation. You'll have to answer the question "is this book worth the price?" There is, however, an eBook version and audio recordings from the interviews available at www.wordsofthemusicmasters.com for around $15 USD each, which may be a better solution for some.