3 Gems Harold Mabern Told Me

If you don’t know who Harold Mabern is, it’s time you did. The legendary pianist has played with everyone and is on the records of Lee Morgan, Hank Mobley, and Freddie Hubbard, just to name a few. I had the great honor of studying privately with him for over a year. Not only is he an incredible musician, but he’s also one of the warmest, most vibrant, and positive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Harold possesses great knowledge and he loves to share it. Sometimes he’d have a dozen students surrounding him listening intently to his incredible stories and words of wisdom. Here are three gems of knowledge that he repeated to me over and over during the time I spent with him.

1.) Your Ear Is Your Fakebook

Harold would constantly point to his ear while energetically expressing, “This is your fakebook! This is your fakebook!!!” He wanted to emphasize that you have to get tunes operating loud and clearly in your ear and to never be dependent on anything else. The same goes for everything. Get rid of your crutches and trust your instincts. Start to think of your ear as your fakebook and soon it will be.

2.) Be Greedy For The Music

He frequently said that you have to be greedy for the music like John Coltrane. Pursue all types of music. Anything you love, just absorb it. Figure it out and have fun doing it. Harold listens to and plays all types of music because he is greedy for the music. Music or not, you have to be passionate about what you’re doing and always be striving to soak up more knowledge because you genuinely love it. Remember to always be greedy for the music.

3.) I can Inspire You, But You Have to Motivate Yourself

I love this phrase and it is so important. Harold asked me once to describe the difference between inspiration and motivation. The point he wanted to convey was that inspiration is an external force acting on you, whereas motivation arises internally.

Think of a time you felt very inspired. The energy. The drive. What happened to that force? Did it materialize into something positive in your life, or did it gently fade away? Next time you get inspired, know that it’s up to you to then motivate yourself and turn that energy into action.

Speaking of getting inspired, check out Harold Mabern being featured with the George Coleman Octet!

Harold’s wisdom continually inspires and encourages me. He’s got a lot of knowledge and taking his words to heart will serve you well.

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