Victor L. Wooten – The Music Lesson

In case you don’t know, Victor Wooten is perhaps one of the most influential and exciting bass players of our time. He’s best known for his work with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, but anything he plays on is worth a listen. In addition to his three (at last count) Grammy Awards, he’s also won Bass Player Magazine’s “Player of the Year” Award three times – the only artist in fact to ever win more than once.

The Music Lesson is subtitled “A spiritual search for growth through Music” and it’s pretty important to keep that subtitle firmly in mind while reading this book. On the surface, this is a story that’s been told more often than one can remember – a struggling soul is visited, almost as if by magic, by a “teacher” who, throughout the rest of the story, manages to make sense of the world in such a way that anyone can not only understand it but has no other choice but to become the teacher himself. Spirituality is both achieved and passed on from soul to soul.

But while it’s a familiar story, Wooten does an admirable and entertaining job spinning it in his own fashion. Life’s lessons are broken down into ten major elements of music: Notes, Articulation, Technique, Emotion, Dynamics, Rhythm, Tone, Phrasing, Space (Rests), and Listening. Each element gets its own chapter and becomes a piece of the “big picture.”

As a writer, Wooten manages to bring insights and smiles to the reader, much in the same manner he does when playing bass. Or just like “Micheal,” the mysterious mentor in his story. You could be cruising along enjoying the trip and then all of a sudden he’ll point out something and you find yourself thinking “wow” as well as “I should have known that” or “I wish I could have explained it that well.” If you liked the book Zen Guitar, this will probably appeal to you a lot.

Being a bit of fiction, and neglecting to keep the subtitle in mind, one might find parts of the book a little disappointing. Wooten’s occasionally suffers from a bit of lack of focus. There are times when some of the characters suffer from being too over the top and this leads to some of the elements, such as Phrasing, getting more noise than substance.

Overall, though, The Music Lesson is a delight to read and it’s telling that the first thing I did when finishing it was to give it to a friend to read. The lesson keeps getting passed along…