Playing Out of Tune

In college, I played trombone in a jazz band.  The director, Lanny McAlister, would admonish us when we played out of tune.  But it was not because we were out of tune.  It was because we kept playing that way without correcting it.

Brass instruments are tuned by moving the tuning slides in or out to adjust the exact size of the horn to the temperature and the musician.

Lanny would say, “You’re playing out of tune and you know it.  Even if you can’t tell if you’re flat or sharp, move the slide.  If it gets worse, move it the other direction.  But don’t keep playing out of tune!”

I’ve thought of that direction many times through the years as a great analogy for many projects and even about life.  If something is not going well, I literally think to myself to stop “playing out of tune.”  Maybe I don’t know what the answer is but I need to try something different.  If it doesn’t make things better, then recognize it and try something else!

I also think of this advice when I see people failing in their communication with others.  They often keep repeating the very efforts that are failing them.  Maybe they repeat it much louder, but often with little other adjustment.  And the messages still fail.

Be sure to notice if your efforts are out of tune.  Be sure they are sweet music to your audience.  Something they will want to hear again.  And if not, don’t stop… do something different.  It’s not that hard once you learn to notice.




About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.