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
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
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
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!
February 13, 2020 7:40 AM EST