What’s Your Creative Lever?

The process of creativity can be daunting. There’s so much raw material to choose from, and things can get complicated fairly quickly.

In music, for instance, there is a near infinite selection of note combinations, melodies, harmonies, rhythms, counter and polyrhythms. How’s it even possible to be creative under such circumstances?

For Bill Bruford, the answer is listening to the space between the notes. Bruford was the drummer for Yes, King Crimson, Earthworks, and numerous other bands and projects.

From Bruford’s autobiography...

“Was it a bang on a drum? No: no rhythm there; that’s merely a single event in time. Was it the banging of two notes on a drum, one following the other? No, not really. It seemed to me that rhythm was the space between the two notes, and that was what counted. Rhythm was a hole, an emptiness, a negative, a place you put yourself. It was a nothing – the silent space between two musical events.”

Bruford further elaborates on this concept on his website

“I come across younger players who could benefit from considering these things. When you sit down to practice today, set the metronome slow, at about 60 bpm, and try to play accurate quarter notes, or a simple rock rhythm in quarter notes. Then simple phrases with a few notes as possible, and wait till the last possible moment before you play the next note.

“In other words, try to play as slowly as possible while staying in time, and give all your attention not to the notes you’re playing, but to the vast chasm of space in between each one. That’s where the music lies. If you get it right slowly first, the faster tempos will look after themselves. If you don’t get it right slowly first, it ain’t ever going to work out. The three key qualities needed to begin life on any musical instrument are patience, patience, and patience. If the successful career is built on a 90/10 split between perspiration and inspiration – or stamina and luck – then the successful building of technique is 90 percent patience and 10 percent determination.”

Bruford’s lever to unleash creativity is to perfect the space between the notes.

What’s your lever?

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