May: Can’t Think and Play at the Same Time

Sonny Rollins: ‘You Can’t Think And Play At The Same Time’

sonny rollins cant think and play83 year old jazz musician Sonny Rollins has been playing music for over 60 years.

In an NPR interview he said: ‘You Can’t Think And Play At The Same Time‘.

He goes on: “The thing is this: When I play, what I try to do is to reach my subconscious level. I don’t want to overtly think about anything, because you can’t think and play at the same time — believe me, I’ve tried it (laughs). It goes by too fast. So when you’re into yoga and when you’re into improvisation, you want to reach that other level.”

I’ve heard that when you ask a successful comedian what he said in the routine he just did, he won’t know. He or she was in the moment, going where the audience wanted. As a speaker, do you know your material well enough to continue going where the audience wants, following the flow, versus stuck to your notes? I’m not saying wing it, I mean to really know your topic, to be an expert. Not necessarily the 10,000-hour expert, but an expert. Have 5 hours of material for a one hour talk.

Sonny goes on: “We were trying to find a way to express life through our improvisations. The music has got to mean something. Jazz improvisation is supposed to be the highest form of communication, and getting that to the people is our job as musicians.”

“Getting that to the people …”  Again, sounds like a speaker: expressing life, our talk has to mean something and getting it to the people.

Take the lesson from 60 years of playing music …

==> It’s time to “live” your material and do whatever it takes to reach your audience.

Get out of your head – and on to the stage, connecting with the audience.

To your speaking success,



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