Before you can even start: On Tuning your Instrument…

OK, you may think this post doesn’t apply to you if you don’t play an instrument… of that this post is a giant CAPTAIN OBVIOUS moment if you have played for years… but just stick with me because there’s a bigger point, ok?One thing I forgot about when it comes to instruments is how much time you have to spend tuning them. This is especially true in the beginning. Before you can even start- particularly for a stringed instrument that you are frequently tuning yourself (as opposed to a piano where you have someone tune it for you and it is likely good to go for a while), you have to take time to figure out what the strings are supposed to sound like before you can even start tuning them. This sounds really basic and dumb but go with me…

If you’re just beginning it probably doesn’t matter that much. You just want a general idea- what do you want to use? a pitch pipe? a piano key? trying to match what you can hear of a beginner youtube video on how to tune that particular intrument? an electric tuner of some sort? The point is that if your string is supposed to be tuned to a D and you think it is supposed to be tuned to an F then most of what you play is going to sound awful because you are starting at an assumed common ground. Oh, and it is HARD to tune an instrument when there is chaos and noise all around you. Sound like any parallels in life? Because I can say in my own I am struggling with being able to tune in if I have chaos and noise around all the time. Or I start tuning to the wrong base pitch. And then wonder why I’m out of tune with my ensemble. Or vice versa- I have taken some really intentional quiet time to adjust and fine tune and then I find my instrument isn’t quite in tune with the ensemble I was playing with before because they are all still tuned to something a little different. I don’t have the answers for where to go in that situations… these are just thoughts that come up during my ten minutes a day of music that I thought I might share…

Here are a few more:

*I have found that new strings take forever to stay in tune. They are being stretched and that just seems to make them come out of tune sometimes mere minutes after doing all that work of tuning to the right pitch. But the more you tune them the faster you get at tuning them and the longer they stay in tune. This DEEPLY resonates with me in all sorts of life areas. New household routines take FOREVER for me to establish and they sometimes feel like they take more time than they are worth (especially when adjusting those routines includes the kids for the first few times…) but the more we stick to them and re-tune and make them habit, the longer they stay that way, and the faster we can get through the process and move on to making music.

Since I am just starting this new goal- some days tuning my instrument took the entire time I had set aside to work on music that day. I kept doing it and building on that. It’s the same principal as unrolling your yoga mat every single day, even if you don’t get the chance to practice a single sun salutation. Or lacing up your athletic shoes and forcing yourself to step outside your door, even if you don’t get further than that, it makes it a little easier to do that same thing and get a little further next time.

I wish you quiet time this week to get yourself in tune and take the next little step on whatever goal you are tackling!


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