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Miles Davis Quotes on Music, Career, and More

Miles Davis is a legendary figure in American music. His songs have uplifted millions of people worldwide. We have curated dozens of Miles Davis quotes to share his eventful life from his perspective. 

What’s your favorite Miles Davis song? 

Born in 1926, Miles Davis is an American jazz trumpeter and composer. During his five decades-long career, he constantly shaped the growth of American jazz music as we know it today.

His discography includes 51 studio albums, 57 singles, and 72 collaborations throughout his long-spanning career. Davis is often regarded as one of the most influential and innovative musicians ever. 

Below you’ll find Miles Davis’ views on music, career, and more in his own words. 

Also check out these Louis Armstrong quotes that will help you push past your fears.

Miles Davis quotes on career

1. “I’m always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning… Every day I find something creative to do with my life.” – Miles Davis

2. “When you do anything too long, you either wear it out or lose interest.” – Miles Davis

3. “A legend is an old man with a cane known for what he used to do. I’m still doing it.” – Miles Davis

4. “When you get in front of an audience, you should try to give ’em something. After all, they’re there looking at you like this. You can’t go out and give ’em nothing.” – Miles Davis

5. “If it sounds clean and slick, I’ve been doing it too long.” – Miles Davis

6. “I always listen to what I can leave out.” – Miles Davis

7. “If you sacrifice your art because of some woman, or some man, or for some color, or for some wealth, you can’t be trusted.” – Miles Davis

8. “If you don’t know what to play, play nothing.” – Miles Davis

Miles Davis quotes on music

9. “In school I was the best, but the prizes went to boys with blue eyes. I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn.” – Miles Davis

10. “I know what I’ve done for music, but don’t call me a legend. Just call me Miles Davis.” – Miles Davis

11. “When I’m playing, I’m never through. It’s unfinished. I like to find a place to leave for someone else to finish it. That’s where the high comes in.” – Miles Davis

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12. “If you got up on the bandstand at Minton’s and couldn’t play, you were not only going to be embarrassed by the people ignoring you or booing you, you might get your ass kicked.” – Miles Davis

13. “Jazz is the big brother of Revolution. Revolution follows it around.” – Miles Davis

14. “You want to know how I started playing trumpet? My father bought me one, and I studied the trumpet. And everybody I heard that I liked, I picked up things from.” – Miles Davis

15. “For me, music and life are all about style.” – Miles Davis

16. “It’s always been a gift with me, hearing music the way I do. I don’t know where it comes from, it’s just there and I don’t question it.” – Miles Davis

17. “Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.” – Miles Davis

18. “The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas.” – Miles Davis

19. “Don’t worry about playing a lot of notes. Just find one pretty one.” – Miles Davis

20. “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” – Miles Davis

Don’t forget to also read these Elvis Presley quotes.

More Miles Davis quotes about music

21. “I don’t care if a dude is purple with green breath as long as he can swing.” – Miles Davis

22. “Anybody can play. The note is only 20 percent. The attitude of the motherf****r who plays it is 80 percent.” – Miles Davis

23. “You’d be surprised. Drummers ape each other. The way every rock n’ roll record sounds like something else but not all together. Everything other drummers play, if you’re playing drums, they all hear.” – Miles Davis

24. “I always hated categories. Always. Never thought it had any place in music.” – Miles Davis

25. “You know why I quit playing ballads? Cause I love playing ballads.” – Miles Davis

26. “Bebop was about change, about evolution. It wasn’t about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.” – Miles Davis

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27. “I never thought jazz was meant to be a museum piece like other dead things once considered artistic.” – Miles Davis

28. “Music is an addiction.” – Miles Davis

29. “In music, silence is more important than sound.” – Miles Davis

30. “Jazz is like blues with a shot of heroin.” – Miles Davis

31. “Good music is good, no matter what kind of music it is.” – Miles Davis

32. “Music is a funny thing when you really come to think about it.” – Miles Davis

Miles Davis quotes about other artists 

33. “The music I was really listening to in 1968 was James Brown, the great guitar player Jimi Hendrix, and a new group… Sly and the Family Stone, led by Sly Stewart from San Francisco.” – Miles Davis

34. “Prince got some Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix and Sly in him, also, even Little Richard. He’s a mixture of all those guys and Duke Ellington.” – Miles Davis

35. “He comes in on the beat and plays on top of the beat. I think when Prince makes love, he hears drums instead of Ravel.” – Miles Davis

36. “I don’t like to hear someone put down Dixieland. Those people who say there’s no music but bop are just stupid; it shows how much they don’t know.” – Miles Davis

37. “At least one day out of the year all musicians should just put their instruments down, and give thanks to Duke Ellington.” – Miles Davis

Inspirational Miles Davis quotes

38. “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.” – Miles Davis

39. “If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake.” – Miles Davis

40. “If you’re not nervous, then you’re not paying attention.” – Miles Davis

41. “Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery.” – Miles Davis

42. “Always look ahead, but never look back.” – Miles Davis

43. “When you’re creating your own shit, man, even the sky ain’t the limit.” – Miles Davis

44. “In improvisation, there are no mistakes.” – Miles Davis

Relatable Miles Davis quotes

45. “I’ll play it first and tell you what it is later.” – Miles Davis

46. “If you understood everything I say, you’d be me!” – Miles Davis

47. “As long as I’ve been playing, they never say I done anything. They always say that some white guy did it.” – Miles Davis

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48. “I have to change. It’s like a curse.” – Miles Davis

49. “If they act too hip, you know they can’t play shit.” – Miles Davis

50. “How far would I travel to be where you are? How far is the journey from here to a star?” – Miles Davis

51. “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterward that makes it right or wrong.” – Miles Davis

52. “A painting is music you can see and music is a painting you can hear.” – Miles Davis

53. “It takes a long time to sound like yourself.” – Miles Davis

More Miles Davis quotes and sayings

54. “First you imitate, then you innovate.” – Miles Davis

55. “Some day I’m gonna call me up on the phone, so when I answer, I can tell myself to shut up.” – Miles Davis

56. “You should never be comfortable, man. Being comfortable fouled up a lot of musicians.” – Miles Davis

57. “If you love them in the morning with their eyes full of crust; if you love them at night with their hair full of rollers, chances are, you’re in love.” – Miles Davis

58. “You have to practice for a long time before you can learn to sound like yourself.” – Miles Davis

59. “The only reason to write a new song is because you’re tired of the old ones.” – Miles Davis

60. “I think the greatest sound in the world is the human voice.” – Miles Davis

What have you learned from these Miles Davis quotes? 

The imprint that Miles Davis has left on the music industry can never be erased. Artists ranging from a variety of different genres have been inspired by Davis’ music. For example, WhoSampledWho reveals that there are 264 samples of Miles Davis’ music within other songs.

Some of the many artists that have sampled Miles Davis include Outkast, Radiohead, Warren G, and Kaytranada. Although Davis died in 1991, his legacy lives on in his amazing music and the many artists he has influenced.

Which of these Miles Davis quotes and lyrics is your favorite? Drop your comments below!

Nia Simone McLeod
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