A Gift to Your Future Self – Putting it Into Orbit

January 3, 2016

One of the first chapters in my new book, All In Good Time- a Book about Playing Music for the Aspiring Ukulele Musician, talks about what I call “putting it in orbit” – a little mental device I thought of to help you deal with information you don’t yet understand. Rather than imagining a new chord, song, or concept as being “over your head” – I suggest that you imagine it in orbit up and around your head – at arms reach for the time in the future when it all clicks and you “get it.” This works, and I have had many students tell me of the moment when they “got it” and all that previously hard to understand information suddenly became clear.

But just a couple of days ago, I thought of another way to think of implementing this concept: think of it as “saving it for your future self ” – a gift, if you will, for sometime in the coming weeks, months, or even years.

Like some people who buy extra gifts and store them in a closet somewhere to be used sometime in the future when they need a gift for someone’s birthday or celebration of some sort. They don’t really know who it will go to, or when it will be needed, but they know it’s a nice gift, and they know someone at some point will benefit from it.

So the next time you are in a class or workshop, or even just listening to someone more advanced in music than you, and you don’t really understand what they are talking about – don’t let that information go over your head and fly away. Put it into orbit – or that little hall closet – and know that it’s there waiting for you to find the right time to use it. Only this time you won’t be giving to someone else – you’ll be giving it to your future self.


Your mental music video will help you to play your song better.

December 23, 2015

I see a lone player, gently strumming a ukulele by the shore as the song begins. He sings the first verse by himself, but when the chorus of the song comes in, he is joined from the right side by two other people – a couple, holding hands. They sing harmony with the lead singer as they walk by, walking out of the camera shot as they chorus ends, leaving the singer alone again as he sings the second verse by himself.

With the next chorus, several people walk up from the left and the right, joining in the chorus. Among those arriving are other musicians: a bass player, guitarist, and another ukulele player. They all remain for the duration of the song and end with a celebration of sound and joy.

I often imagine a scene of this sort when working on a song, either for recording or for a performance. It helps “set the scene” in my mind, and guides me in making decisions about how to arrange the song. Is it a lonely song with the message being about one person? If so, then I might choose to use a single instrument to support that idea. (If it were a song about one person singing about their personal experience, it might seem odd to have another voice join them.)

On the other hand, if it were a song about a fun time with friends, then it would make musical sense to have many voices and instruments.

How can you use this method to help you with your performance or band rehearsal?


Order your All In Good Time book TODAY!

October 27, 2015

My new book, All In Good Time, with a foreword by the wonderful Joe Craven, has arrived and is available for you to order.

Though it is aimed at the Ukulele community in general, it really applies to anyone aspiring to play music together.

Just click on this link for more information on how to order:


All In Good Time Cover

Is playing simply getting too personal?

March 3, 2015

I have a theory I’d like to share with you – a theory I suspect that many of you will disagree with – but one that a select few may consider helpful in their artistic pursuit.

In the Pakistani style of music called Qawwali, there was an artist called Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – an amazing singer I very much admire, and in the liner notes of one of his CDs, there was this description of the music style: “… In this style, the singers chant and repeat the word ‘Allah’ over and over until all possible interpretations have been exhausted.”

My goodness, I thought – what a wonderful explanation of the art of repetition. What many may superficially hear as boring and monotonous – these superb artists use chanting as a means to dig in deep and explore their most personal connection with God.

And that got me thinking. We often use busy-ness to mask and conceal our emotions. When a conversation gets too serious, don’t we sometimes laugh, or change the subject to avoid facing our true feelings?

Well, I think that sometimes musicians do the same when it comes to dealing with simple songs. Many players get bored easily and want to add more chords, move quickly to another section, or play faster.

But I have found that a simple chord played slowly and repeatedly offers me the opportunity to explore a deeper meaning – a chance to let go of ego and instead, get in touch with my emotions.

And I understand that this, for some people, may put them in a position of having to get personal and even risk sharing too much of themselves.

But isn’t this what singing and playing is all about? To express ourselves and emote?

Sure, that’s scary sometimes. We may share too much about ourselves. We may cry. We may laugh.

We may truly experience life in its deepest form.

When we learn a new language – pronunciation is always the first thing to learn. How is that similar to learning music?

February 19, 2015

I remember taking my first official Spanish class.

I say “official” because I grew up with a Spanish speaking mother and had a familiarity with the language from a young age, but back in High School, I took beginning Spanish to try to really learn the language and be a fluent speaker.

One of the very first things we learn in learning a new language is how to properly pronounce the words we are learning. The vowels, consonants, and accents are almost as important as the actual word – the inflection is key to the delivery and understanding of a word.

With a proper idea of how to pronounce and deliver a word or sentence, we continue our learning; adding new vocabulary and sentence structure as we continue.

Yet often in music – I see the accumulation of data being the priority. New instruments, chords, song sheets, meetings, clubs, festivals….. with one thing apparently missing: pronunciation – or in a musical sense – delivery.

And there’s nothing wrong with all that. It’s fun and engaging and has, and is, bringing so many people together.

But if it’s music we are trying to play – let’s go back to the beginning for a minute and look at how we pronounce our musical words – how we express ourselves with however many, or few, chords we know.

Can we strum a simple C chord with feeling? Can we gently pluck an Am – listening to each and every beautiful resonant string? How about a G – can we play it strong with confidence and power? Can we simply play C, F, and G over and over with patience and consistency – not rushing and not lagging, but merely enjoying the wonderful sound we are creating?

This could be thought of as our “musical pronunciation” – the very basic part of music that once learned, can be applied to all new chords and songs as we learn them. This expression allows us to be musicians and artists, even if we only know three chords which, by the way, is all you need to know to play hundreds of songs.


I am not yet fluent in Spanish, but I speak the words and phrases that I have learned with such authenticity, that most often a Spanish speaking person will take me for a fluent speaker and engage me in conversation beyond my full comprehension. But that’s a good thing, as it values what I have learned and encourages me to learn more.

And so I believe that if we all took the time to learn to play what few chords or songs we know with feeling and artistic authenticity, then we in turn would be taken more seriously by those who know more than we do; and their willingness to engage us in conversation, albeit at times possibly above our comprehension, would encourage us to learn even more about the language of music.

I may know a lot of chords and songs –┬á but the most challenging and rewarding thing I do every time I pick up an instrument, is to deliver whatever chord I may be playing in the most authentic and musical accent I can muster.




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