As a bass player, I’ve always been fascinated by Victor Wooten’s playing. He’s such a diverse player with the ability to hold down the groove of a song or melt your face with a virtuosic solo. I’ve spent a lot of time watching videos of him explaining his technique and his approach to music theory. So, naturally, when I found out he had written two books I immediately jumped at the chance to check them out.
Over the last year I’ve read both of the books and figured I would share my thoughts on both of them for anyone who may be interested in checking them out.
The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music
In 2008, Wooten published his first book in this series called The Music Lesson. Right out of the box, Wooten takes an interesting approach to how he teaches musical concepts through a story.
This story is centered around a young Victor who finds himself in a bit of a musical slump. He’s trying to make his way as a professional musician but can’t find himself making ends meet doing so. Then, one morning, Victor wakes up with a visitor in his apartment that goes by the name of Michael. Through a somewhat strange conversation with Michael, Victor begins a journey to learn music from this new friend.
As you move through each chapter of the book, Victor and Michael go on a random adventure that ends up acting as a lesson to teach Victor (and the reader) one of the ten components of music. The really interesting part of this is that while you do learn more about what makes up music it also gives you a bit of a way to connect with your playing in an almost spiritual way.
I very much enjoyed this book and found Wooten’s writing style both entertaining and easy to read. I walked away from this book feeling inspired to expand my knowledge of music theory but also the dynamics of playing. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea for its sort of new age/hippie approach to sharing these teachings, it is super insightful. I highly recommend giving it a read.
The Spirit of Music: The Lesson Continues
Now we move into the follow-up to The Music Lesson, 2021’s The Spirit of Music. This book picks up more-or-less where the first book leaves off. Victor finds himself in a bit of a slump and decides to get away and visit his parents. Through this visit, he accidentally stumbles upon a young man that he takes under his wing as a music student. The idea of this being that no matter what you are practicing, teaching is the best way to complete the circle of learning.
As the story progresses, Victor finds himself on an adventure to save music from an Agent Smith-esque group known as Phasers. Their mission being to eliminate music from the world. Now Victor and his friends, many of which are returning character from the first book, including Michael, set off to stop the Phasers.
While not as straight forward of a lesson in music as the first book, The Spirit of Music contains a lot of subtext to entice the reader to pay more attention to the music they are playing or listening to. To listen and play with intent. Definitely something I think the world could use more of.
I like that the story, from very early on encourages sharing music with the people you care about and to support the artists that you love, something we very much agree with here at McPapaJ’s Music Room! Music is more than just a quick $0.99 purchase from iTunes or a quick listen on Spotify. To embrace music is to sit back, put on an album, and maybe check out the liner notes. A bit nerdy, sure, but an experience everyone interested in music should embrace, at least from time to time.
Now, I mentioned with the previous book that the style of the story could be a bit too “hippie” for some folks tastes. The Spirit of Music definitely doubles down on that style so if that’s not your cup of tea I would say don’t bother. I enjoyed this book but think The Music Lesson had a bit more substance to it. I still very much recommend The Spirit of Music to anyone who may be interested but think you’ll get more out of The Music Lesson if you are looking to learn.
Also, I decided to go with the audiobook format of The Spirit of Music which I enjoyed. Wooten himself acts as the narrator of the story and provides the voice of the character Victor. Each character has their own voice actor so the audiobook feels more like listening to a play or movie. Now, typically, I’m not into this style of audiobook but it was still a fun listen. A bit stale in terms of acting in some places but the content is still there.
Overall, I think both books are incredibly enjoyable and would highly encourage anyone reading this who is interested to check them out.