95 Miles Davis Quotes from the American Trumpeter

Miles Davis, a prominent figure in the post-WWII jazz scene, influenced the genre for over 40 years.

Starting on the trumpet at 13, he quickly integrated into the New York jazz scene and worked with notable musicians like Charlie Parker and Coleman Hawkins.

He formed a nonet, recorded “Birth of the Cool,” and later assembled significant bands, introducing modal playing in “Kind of Blue” and collaborating with Gil Evans.

In the 60s, he formed a second quintet, incorporating more suspense in his playing and later pioneered electric jazz with “In a Silent Way” and “Bitches Brew.”


After a semi-retirement due to an accident, he resumed touring in the 1980s and remained popular until 1991, earning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.

Miles Davis was a key figure in the history of jazz and 20th-century music.

In this article, I have chosen the best quotes by Miles Davis.

Best Miles Davis Quotes


When the band plays fast, you play slow; when the band plays slow, you play fast. ~ Miles Davis.


Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player. ~ Miles Davis.


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


There are no wrong notes. ~ Miles Davis.


Music is an addiction. ~ Miles Davis.


We don’t play to be seen. I’m addicted to music, not audiences. ~ Miles Davis.

We’re not going to play the blues anymore. Let the white folks play the blues. They got ’em, so they can keep ’em. ~ Miles Davis.

Coltrane, you can’t play everything at once! ~ Miles Davis.


Play what you know and then play above that. ~ Miles Davis.

You can’t play anything on a horn that Louis Armstrong hasn’t played. ~ Miles Davis.

Jazz is an Uncle Tom word. They should stop using that word for selling. I told George Wein the other day that he should stop using it. ~ Miles Davis.


Food makes my mind sluggish. ~ Miles Davis.

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.

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

Don’t worry about playing a lot of notes. Just find one pretty one. ~ Miles Davis.

People will go for anything they don’t understand if it’s got enough hype… ~ Miles Davis.


Always look ahead, but never look back. ~ Miles Davis.

Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there. ~ Miles Davis.

Famous Miles Davis Quotes

I still got my Ferrari. ~ Miles Davis.


I ain’t no entertainer, and ain’t trying to be one. I am one thing, a musician. ~ Miles Davis.

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.

You can tell whether a person plays well or not by the way he carries the instrument, whether it means something to him or not. ~ Miles Davis.

Do not fear mistakes. There are none. ~ Miles Davis.


Knowledge is freedom and ignorance is slavery. ~ Miles Davis.

Jazz is the big brother of Revolution. Revolution follows it around. ~ Miles Davis.

If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad. ~ Miles Davis.

If you’re not nervous then you’re not paying attention. ~ Miles Davis.

Music is the framework around the silence. ~ Miles Davis.


I’m out there doing the best that I can, My lip is cut and I’m still playing. ~ Miles Davis.

My father’s rich, my momma’s good looking. Right? And I can play the Blues. I’ve never suffered and don’t intend to suffer. ~ Miles Davis.

White folks always think that you have to have a label on everything – you know what I mean? ~ Miles Davis.

Popular Miles Davis Quotes

I can tell whether a person can play just by the way he stands. ~ Miles Davis.

Monk taught me more about music composition than anyone else on 52nd Street. ~ Miles Davis.


My future starts when I wake up every morning. ~ Miles Davis.

First you imitate, then you innovate. ~ Miles Davis.

You have to know 400 notes that you can play, then pick the right four. ~ Miles Davis.

Good music is good no matter what kind of music it is. ~ Miles Davis.

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


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

Great Miles Davis Quotes

I’ll play it first and figure out what it’s called later. ~ Miles Davis.

If somebody told me I only had an hour to live, I’d spend it choking a white man. I’d do it nice and slow. ~ Miles Davis.

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.

I’ve always told the musicians in my band to play what they know and then play above that. Because then anything can happen, and that’s where great art and music happens. ~ Miles Davis.

A legend is an old man with a cane… ~ Miles Davis.

Keith, how does it feel to be a genius? ~ Miles Davis.

You have to be born with it. You can’t even buy it. If you could buy it, they’d have it at the next Newport Festival. ~ Miles Davis.


Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself. ~ Miles Davis.

Bebop didn’t have the humanity of Duke Ellington. It didn’t have that recognizable thing. Bird and Diz were great, fantastic, challenging – but that weren’t sweet. ~ Miles Davis.

I never thought Jazz was meant to be a museum piece like other dead things once considered artistic. ~ Miles Davis.

Thought-Provoking Miles Davis Quotes

I’m not messing around with nobody’s woman. If I want a woman I go get her – you know what I mean? ~ Miles Davis.

What’s swinging in words? If a guy makes you pat your foot and if you feel it down your back, you don’t have to ask anybody if that’s good music or not. You can always feel it. ~ Miles Davis.

The metric system ruined me. ~ Miles Davis.

My ego only needs a good rhythm section. ~ Miles Davis.

In Europe, they like everything you do. The mistakes and everything. That’s a little bit too much. ~ Miles Davis.

I always listen to what I can leave out. ~ Miles Davis.


If you don’t know what to play, play nothing. ~ Miles Davis.

In high school I was best in music class on the trumpet, but the prizes went to the boys with blue eyes. I made up my mind to outdo anybody white on my horn. ~ Miles Davis.

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

Profound Miles Davis Quotes

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.

In improvisation, there are no mistakes. ~ Miles Davis.

If you’re trying to be hip, be hip. ~ Miles Davis.

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.

All my inspiration comes from Ahmad Jamal. ~ Miles Davis.

John Lee Hooker is the funkiest man alive. ~ Miles Davis.

But you’ve got to have style in whatever you do – writing, music, painting, fashion, boxing, anything. ~ Miles Davis.

It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong. ~ Miles Davis.


Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing. ~ Miles Davis.

It’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play. ~ Miles Davis.

To keep creating you have to be about change. ~ Miles Davis.

When I heard Coleman Hawkins, I learned to play ballads. ~ Miles Davis.

Deep Miles Davis Quotes

I was minding my own business when something says to me, you ought to blow trumpet. ~ Miles Davis. I have just been trying ever since. ~ Miles Davis.

See, music is about style. ~ Miles Davis.

There are no wrong notes in jazz: only notes in the wrong places. ~ Miles Davis.


If you understood everything I said, you’d be me. ~ Miles Davis.

When I got into music I went all the way into music; I didn’t have no time after that for nothing else. ~ Miles Davis.

It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change. ~ Miles Davis.

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.

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

For me, music and life are all about style. ~ Miles Davis.

Top Miles Davis Quotes

Jazz is like blues with a shot of heroin! ~ Miles Davis.

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

I really liked Wynton when I first met him. He’s still a nice young man, only confused. ~ Miles Davis.

You should never be comfortable, man. Being comfortable fouled up a lot of musicians. ~ Miles Davis.

If you have to ask, you’ll never know. ~ Miles Davis.

You know why I quit playing ballads? Cause I love playing ballads. ~ Miles Davis.


You can’t eat a winner’s plaque. ~ Miles Davis.

In music, silence is more important than sound. ~ Miles Davis.

So these were the 95 top Miles Davis quotes and sayings.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Mandy Hale quotes and Ted Kaczynski quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar