Your Song is Not an Elevator Speech.

May 26, 2016

You know how sometimes in business, an executive is expected to be able to deliver an “elevator speech” – a condensed, brief summary of an idea or proposal? In the time it takes to ride the elevator top to bottom, an idea has to be presented and sold to the “big boss.”

But what does this have to do with playing music?

Well, I am most happy to announce that I am now a student again. I have begun to study Indian classical music, and in addition to actually learning how to play the sitar, I am also learning about how Indian music is thought about.

On my very first lesson, the teacher explained how a musical piece is crafted – often an improvisation of sorts – by slowly exploring the raga (set of notes, or scale) they will be using. Instead of simply playing the whole scale at once, they start with one note, add another, and another… sometimes taking up to 45 minutes simply setting the scene for the rest of the number. What patience and mindfulness, I thought.

In western musical terms, let’s think about our familiar scale:

Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do

Rather than simply singing or playing the entire scale at once, we might proceed like this:

Do……….. Do Re………..

Do…… (let that first note really sink in)

Do Re Mi….

Do Mi Re… Do…..

etc., playing with all possible combinations of just a few notes at a time.


For most of you playing the ukulele or guitar – you may not want to extend your intros for that long, but you can still borrow from some of this wisdom.

When you play a song or a solo – you needn’t be in a rush to show off everything you know. A simple solo using only a few notes can, when played with finesse, bring the listener into your world to hear your “story.”

We’ve all experienced being in the presence someone who talks endlessly about everything they know; dominating the conversation and not letting anyone else get a word in. Compare that to that of the person who wisely chooses just the right words to make their point, and then let’s the listener reflect on what they’ve heard.

You can do that in music, too.

There’s no rush. We’re not running a race with a timer keeping track of how much time we’ve “wasted.” We don’t have to “sell” ourselves to anyone who is off to another, more important, meeting.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and constructive comments about this. Please feel free to reply and share your response.


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.


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