I have taught voice lessons for over twenty years. One of the things that I have found at times the most challenging, and others the simplest to correct is pitch. If a singer is having trouble tuning, there are ultimately one or two basic problems.
They simply may not be able to hear clearly the pitch they are trying to match. This is the initial and fundamental challenge to overcome. An awareness that there is a pitch outside of themselves to which they must tune is crucial, but ultimately only half the battle.
Many times I have played a note and asked a singer to match it, only to find they simply can not. I have struggled to understand how they are hearing the note before they sing, and then their own voice as they begin to sing, and why they could not hear the difference.
Then I came across a different approach. I learned asked the student to sing a note of their choice, then after striking a note on the piano have taken their hand and instructed them to move their voice as I move their hand. Imagine their surprise when suddenly they are able to sing up to the note and match pitch. I know it may sound ridiculous, but it has worked for me time and time again.
The same thing that has happened in those voice lessons, happens in our spiritual lives constantly. God is the Perfect Pitch. If we are going to sing along with Him, making music together, and with our life glorifying Him, we must match His pitch. But it is funny how we can be oblivious to how far out of tune we can be with Him, just like some of my students.
First we must identify God as the Perfection that He is. We must listen to His Word, and become familiar with it. But it is not enough to hear it, we must respond.
As we begin to attempt to join God’s song, we must listen not only to God, but to ourselves. Only then can we identify the differences and work to make the necessary adjustments to be in tune. Even still, I would argue that we, like some of my students, lack the capacity to recognize this difference on our own, and need someone to take our hand and pull us up to where God is. That someone is the Holy Spirit.
Though for some, this epiphany is a one-time experience that changes they way they listen outside and inside, for many it is the beginning of a journey. A journey where a Teacher is very useful to guide the way to making the continual slight corrections that allow them to sing in tune.
We have such a Teacher, but sometimes we simply fail to give Him access, or be intentional to get in the practice room and do our part.
We would love to provide you a place to practice getting and staying in tune with God’s perfection. Join us as we head there regularly to meet with our Instructor and let Him guide us.
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So imagine hearing this beautiful saxophone line just below the din of the car horns and wet tires bustling down the busy street. You can not quite make out the tune, but mixed in with all these other sounds, you can definitely identify the soulful melody. Maybe that conjures a different aural image for you, but I wonder if you can allow yourself to imagine Zephaniah 3:17 in that context.
Or maybe for you it is a foot-stomping guitar groove muted from across the yard, and almost hidden behind the nearly closed barn
doors. You can feel it in your gut, even though your ears can not quite make out if all that sound is coming from just six strings. Can you hear it?
Zephaniah 3:17 English Standard Version (ESV)
17 The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
This is such an incredible, yet elusive view of God’s countenance toward us. Have you heard it? When you do, you are torn between just listening and joining in. But first you must hear it, and believe you really do. Only once to hear it, can you join it.
And I wonder what it sounds like when you do hear it? Jazz, bluegrass, classical, rock, R&B, etc. There are so many different styles, and God uses them all. But these varied ways God “sings” over us are not limited to musical styles as we might define them. Sometimes it is simply a gentle reassurance of His presence WITH us. Other times it is the awareness that once again He has saved us from ourselves, or someone else. It is laughter and smiles, and quiet rest, just to name a few.
Have you identified the ways God most clearly speaks to you? The ways He most obviously reminds you of His love. You may appreciate and even wish you could enjoy the way someone else describes how God speaks to them, but it is imperative that you get OK with the way He speaks to you.
You may have affinity for a myriad of styles, but nothing will get your blood pumping quite like those He has fashioned you to respond to in the core of who He has made you to be.
And that’s OK. Your approach to Him will vary from your neighbors, even though the central story you will each hear, when you really listen, will be the same. You are loved.
I want to encourage you to listen again, with your heart, and learn to rest in the ways that the Mighty Savior sings His love over you. That’s why these words are here, to help you identify and more passionately and consistently resonate with the song He is singing even now.
Keep listening, and reading…
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Your life is like a…guitar. I know, you thought I was going to say a box of chocolates, right? Well, while that is equally as profound and ponder-worthy, I want to invite you to instead consider this analogy.
While the chocolate imagery sets forth the variations and surprises of life, the guitar brings to light some very different realities. Much is said nowadays about having balance in the all the different areas of life, work, family, leisure, etc. When one area is out of balance, it affects all the other areas, albeit in ways that are sometimes difficult to grasp.
Every musician knows how important this balance is when it comes to tuning. If the instruments in a ensemble are out of tune as they relate to one another, the music making will likely be poor, if not hideous. With a guitar, each string must be tuned so they may sound good together. This tuning is imperative.
For our discussion, each string represents a different facet, of your life. If we use a typical six string guitar, let’s define those areas, or strings, as follows:
[There are a lot of different ways to break this down, and I must say I have found great usefulness in Dan Miller’s material in 48 to the Work You Love. Check out this link from a great resource.]
Let’s think about this a little. Depending where on the neck pressure is applied, that is which fret, the pitch varies. The same is true in life. When difficulty comes in any area of your life, the outcome changes.
If you are trying to play a chord, the position of your hand affects how far you can reach to impact other notes. This is true in life as well. Once you commit to something in one area, it constrains what you can do in that same moment in other areas.
Finding balance in your life only comes as you develop an awareness and familiarity with each area and how they relate. As I was learning to play electric, I would play up and down the neck on the same string, as opposed to finding a comfortable position from which to manage all six strings. Though it worked, it was very limiting and simply sounded amateurish.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Though I am learning to love to play lead lines, some of my favorite moments in making music live happen when I play a power chord consisting of three strings, or even better a fully voiced six string chord. The energy in the room changes with that first big chord, everything working together to fill the place with sound.
Different parts of life must harmonize. If you correctly play notes that should sound out a beautiful chord, yet are not in tune, forget it. The chord, which in our analogy is your life, will simply sound bad if even one note is out of tune. How often have you felt this in your life? Everything seemed to be in pretty good shape, but there is this nagging feeling sometime is just not right.
What tends to happen in those moments is we realize we have been partially muting a string. We are striking it, but one of our fingers is touching it ever so slightly, which is keeping it from sounding clearly. When we listen a little more intently and make the adjustment to hear that note [area] in relation to the others, we are immediately confronted with the fact that we need to tune.
I would contend most of us go around muting troublesome, untuned strings most of our lives. It simply does not have to be that way. If we will take the time to tune, which I would contend is a particularly spiritual pursuit, we can greatly improve the quality of our music [lives].
I want to invite you to join me on a journey as we discover how to get and stay in tune. I promise it will be a rewarding and enriching one for us all.
So let’s turn our attention to the Tuner, and get started tuning…
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