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- Miles Davis may have been taken out of context here. We don't know what he was discussing such that this statement could perhaps be true. For example, if Miles was discussing whether there were any notes that should never be used in an improvised solo he might have responded that any note might possibly be used in an improvised solo, so therefore don't worry about making a mistake about having chosen that note at the start of a solo. Maybe!
- If we take this statement of Miles as an absolute claim, and not context sensitive, and we use the standard meanings for mistakes, then he is most certainly wrong. There are many kinds of mistakes both possible and actual that can occur during the playing of jazz music. Here is a list of the innumerable types of mistakes that can occur and that one should try to avoid and one should worry about not making:
LIST OF TYPES OF MUSICAL MISTAKES:
1. The musical instrument malfunctions producing the wrong sound from the one required by the musician or the musical score.
2. A note or sound is produced different from the one intended by the musician.
3. A musician plays either out of rhythm or in the wrong rhythm.
4. The improvised solo is inappropriate for this song. You should not play only Yankee Doodle Dandy in the middle of Thelonious Monk's 'Round Midnight as your solo. This would be a mistake because it is not the right melody in relationship to that of Monk's song.
5. A musician doesn't know where one is located in the beat/pulse.
6. A musician plays an inappropriate or wrong noise. For the trumpet this is known as a clam. It is considered a mistake by all parties.
- On the other hand, Ornette Coleman, one of the founders of free jazz, reported that when he started to make mistakes was when he started to learn some new things. Here is how he put it: “It was when I found out I could make mistakes that I knew I was on to something.” See more of his quotations at Ornette Coleman Quotations.
- It is impossible to do anything, much less something as complex and complicated as playing jazz, and not make mistakes. There are simply too many ways that things can go wrong. For examples, see the list above of "Types of Musical Mistakes." As philosophers it is incumbent for us to investigate with reasoned arguments answers to the following questions: