The need for spontaneous creativity

The way music is made has changed with the times. Is that good or bad?

By Jon Liebman
Week of January 18, 2021

How much preparation time should a musician get before walking onto a gig or into the studio?

Throughout my career, I’ve done tons of recording sessions, Broadway shows, full-scale concerts, and so much more. 

And I can count on one hand the number of times I was given the music ahead of time in order to prepare.

Players were just expected to be able to walk in, figure out – or read – the part, and give the music what it needs. 

Nowadays, things are often very different.

The topic came up in this week’s FBPO interview with rock and metal bass veteran Rudy Sarzo. Having seen a lot of changes in the music industry over the years, Rudy has a thing or two to say on the subject.

“As a professional bass player, I highly respect the creativity,” says Rudy. “I gravitate more towards the guys who have to be put on the spot and be creative because that’s what we are. We’re creative beings.”

I completely understand where Rudy’s coming from with that statement. To me, the ability to prepare for a session or a show ahead of time would be considered a nonessential luxury. In the old days, nobody sent you an mp3 of the recording and gave you time to figure out what you were going to play. You had to come up with something right there, on the spot.

“That is really what a studio musician should be,” Rudy says, “but it’s not.”

One example he cites was laying down the bass track for “Cum on Feel the Noize,” with Quiet Riot in 1983. “I had never heard the song before,” Rudy says. “And then, on the spot, I had to come up with that. And that was it. Done. And it’s on record forever.”

And if the song is a hit, that track is heard over and over again, both live and on the recording. “I’m still playing the same part that I came up with on the spot,” he continues.

I can see definite advantages to having prep time before being called upon to play. On the other hand, I hope on-demand creativity isn’t a lost art.

How about you? Have a thought on the subject? Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Rudy here.

Comments on The need for spontaneous creativity

  1. marcus davis says:

    Being able to lay down a groove without any preparation or rehearsal is good ,but i also think being prepped or well rehearsed is also good.It just depends.If i was doing a Studio Session recording for another artist then yeah i’d like to be prepared and have some idea of what i’m going to be playing ahead of time.So i’ll get a basic structure of the song chords etc and work around that.It all depends ,i could hear a track a couple of times and come up with something on the spot.But if its a highly complex track like a Jazz Composition then i’d definetly like to be prepared .

  2. Andrew Atwill says:

    In a perfect world you’d have the option to do both but it’s not a perfect world so you roll with what you are dealt.

  3. Walter Clark says:

    Peace And Prosperity To All…,”BASS RULES”…, Please Put Back In “The
    Select A Section Of Choices:Jazz”,So I Can Order Books/Instructions By:1)Ray Brown,And 2)Ron Carter

  4. ROBERT T Cotter says:

    The “spontaneity” you speak of here brings to mind the phrase “overnight success”.
    We, as musicians, put in many hours of work and practice (and experience)in order to be “spontaneous”, to be able to walk into a session or onto the stage and create something that to others may seem on the spot. Your fund of knowledge, your memory, and proficiency on your instrument all contribute that spontaneous moment.

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