Are You Playing From The Neck Down?

Wynton Marsalis says that jazz teaches empathy.

That it sharpens your hearing because “you are trying to hear the human depth of someone else’s sound.”

Whew! That’s a big concept.

Trying to hear the human depth of someone else’s sound.

To get to that sound, I’ve heard musicians talk about playing from the neck down.

I asked my friend Russ Ferrara, who is a professional guitarist, if he could share with us what that means.

“Most of my career has been spent playing what most people would consider ‘serious music’. This is music which is demanding technically, and which is treated with great respect when it is performed. People are silent. They suppress coughs,” he said, smiling, as he is prone to do.

“Still, I find it important to feel the way the music moves, the ebb and flow of the phrases. It is important to feel the way the music reflects the rhythm of our lives – the big and the small moments,” Russ shared.

“That’s what happens when you’re playing from the neck down. It can occur in classical, jazz, rock, hip hop, whatever form the music takes. My job is to get people to hear and feel that.”

Of course, before this even happens, he was talking about playing the right notes.


That’s important, certainly.

But that is just playing from the neck up.

More importantly, he was also talking about playing from his heart.

That is such an important insight.

It is meaningful for whatever you are doing.

The real magic occurs when you are playing from the neck down.

Listen to your heart.

Trust your intuition.

Feel it.

So that others will too.

And play.

Like a musician.