Victor Wooten on the way you should play music: "It needs to affect the world."
With his virtuosic playing and two-handed approach, Victor Wooten has long been a pacesetter on the electric bass. From his work with Béla Fleck & the Flecktones to a vibrant solo career launched with his outstanding 1996 debut, A Show of Hands, Wooten has proven the broad potential of the bass guitar. Not only is he a major force on the instrument, but he's one who's been more than willing to share his knowledge with other musicians. Wooten (due at Boulder Theater on Friday, May 30 and Gothic Theatre on Saturday, May 31) has written books such as The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music and spearheaded a number of music clinics, workshops and camps.
Wooten says one of his reasons for writing The Music Lesson was that he was finding lot of teachers and academics were essentially looking at music from one angle.
"People were looking at music from the angle of what we call music theory, which basically deals with notes and scales and things like that," he says. "In my opinion, all the good stuff was being left out. So I just decided to look it another way, to help free people up to play music, sort of like you do in the shower. You're not trying to be right, you just sing. So I wanted to help free people up and I wanted to write a book that made people want to go play music after they read it."
The youngest of five brothers, Wooten started learning how to play bass at the age of his two from his brother Regi, and by the time he was six he was playing in the Wooten Brothers Band. In a sense, Wooten thinks that music should be learned in a similar fashion to people learning their native language where they're speaking long before they learn the alphabet.
"It's because I learned it in that manner I try to teach it in that manner, but I also understand that not everybody was born into a band the way I was," Wooten says. "So not everybody can learn it exactly like me. But they still can learn from me quicker than I learned it. So I think that that mistake that many music teachers make is that we try to either teach the musical rules first, before the student can play, or we try to teach them rules as they're learning to play. And in my opinion, that slows you down or totally frustrates the student anyway. They quit. But if you think about learning your first language -- we talk for years before we even learn the alphabet. And much longer than that before we ever learn what a noun or a verb or a participle was.
"So in language you need to learn to speak first before you learn any rules. But in music we haven't figured that out yet. Most teachers will teach a new student as if they're a beginner, and I don't see it that way. Even if you're ten years old, that means you've been hearing music for ten years, and if a song comes on and you want to dance you don't have to ask questions. So when it comes to music, you're a ten-year veteran. All you have to do is put what you know into an instrument or express it through an instrument, and that's not as hard as it seems."
In The Music Lesson, the character Michael, based on a real musician (who Wooten says might join the band for these two Colorado dates), "seemed to think that all things were made up of vibrations, especially music." For Wooten he looks at it like thoughts - like how a thought can pop into your head.