Archive for the ‘sitar’ Category

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.