Put It Into Orbit

(An expanded and edited version of this post appears in Rhan’s new book, All In Good Time – a Book About Playing Music for the Aspiring Ukulele Player. It is available at: www.rhanwilson.com/allingoodtime )


For those of you who may not know it – I teach music classes to a lot of beginning/intermediate ukers and guitar players, percussionists and singers.

One of the things I used to say was that when some new information was too advanced to comprehend, let it go over your head and instead focus on some other aspect of the information that is easier to grasp. There will always be something to be learned in any situation.

I have changed by advice lately – changing my statement to be: put it into orbit!

Instead of imagining to have something go over your head and away and then having to find it somewhere, somehow later, or even have it be lost forever –  imagine that same information stored close at hand so when you’re ready to understand it, it’s right there – in a metaphorical orbit around your head.

It’s nearby, ready to access.

For instance, I have often mentioned to my class a particular chord – the minor 7th flat 5 chord. I see the scared reactions from people.

“Oh my GOD that is a horrible chord!” they seem to think.

So I say, “Don’t worry about it – just be aware of that chord, put it into orbit, and it will make sense later.”

Then later I go about to explain this “other” simple to play chord that only uses two fingers over two frets. Everyone gets it. When I tell them that this chord is in fact a m7b5 chord (minor 7th flat 5), they all get this amazed look on their face. They got it!

And this technique has worked on me as well, though I didn’t know it at the time. Many years ago, I was working with a very skilled jazz musician who was explaining chord scales to me. I understood a little of what he was saying, but much of it went wayyyyy over my head. Somehow, I managed to file that information somewhere in my head (in orbit) and a few weeks later under a different circumstance – it all came back to me and made perfect sense.

So now, when you are faced with something that is a bit “over your head” – let it stay up there, but instead of imagining it zipping on past and away – imagine it floating around above you – ready to be understood and incorporated into your knowledge banks!

So here’s a question for you all – has anything seemed too difficult for you at a particular time, yet later under a different circumstance – made sense? It doesn’t have to be about music; it could be about cooking, assembling an appliance, gardening, work, money… anything.

I’d like to hear about it.

Rhan Wilson

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7 Responses to “Put It Into Orbit”

  1. Shelley Mai Says:

    I do understand that concept. Rhythms and strum patterns were just not coming together, but in the last week or so, a couple of them are starting to work. It must have been “in orbit” and something clicked and last night, I was listening to a song, and all of a sudden, I grabbed my uke, and was able to play the rhythm as it was being played in the song.

  2. Tony Russomanno Says:

    “Put it into orbit” is, to the human brain, just like a computer program that runs in the background.

    Another example is an answer or solution that suddenly pops into your head some time after you stopped racking your brain. Without consciously doing so, you had put your brain in “search” mode. Neural pathways light up with blinding speed, organic file folders are examined, and when the once-known answer is found, the bell rings, the light flashes, and the little printed card slides out the chute.

    In your case, you are filing away a solution that had yet to have a matching question. The Completion Backward Principle, as The Tubes put it!

  3. Chuck Buchanan Says:

    “Not getting it is what takes the time. Then, in a flash, you get it.”
    That happens most when the information or skill is already there.
    Then it becomes a BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious).

    BGO’s are what keeps us coming back.


  4. Martin and Syd Carlson Says:

    What a great concept.  I like it.  I run into students who tell me “I can’t do that”.  I always answer them with  “you can’t do that, yet, but you will be able to do it later”.  Keep up the good work.  Marty

    • Rhan Wilson Says:

      Thanks, Marty.
      There are people who will shake their head indicating that they can’t do something, while they are actually doing it.
      As they say in Church – get out of your own way!

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