Parable #18: Playing in Tune

A Parable by Donald Lee

(This week is the 21stinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about oneness with God. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)

Tune yourself to God—because God has perfect pitch.

I believe that Jesus realized his oneness with God and he showed . . . how to realize our own oneness with God also.
(Spiritual teacher, writer, speaker)

“Flutes, hold that last note for me.”

The three girls in the flute section of my high school band complied. The G just above the staff is not particularly high for flute, but it sounded terrible. It was way out of tune.

“What is actually happening when notes are out of tune?” I asked.

No answer.

“How many of you have taken Physics 20?” A few hands went up tentatively.

“Do you remember learning about constructive and destructive interference?” Students looked at each other, shrugged, then shook their heads.

“We think of sound as traveling in waves, like waves on the ocean. There are crests of waves and troughs in between the crests. If two sound waves, like the notes two flutes are playing, are exactly in tune, or ‘in phase’ as we say, the crests and troughs of these sound waves line up with each other.”

I drew little waves on the whiteboard as I spoke.

“Then they reinforce each other. Two waves added together make a bigger wave. They affect each other positively; that is, they ‘interfere’ with each other in a constructive way. They amplify each other. We call this ‘constructive interference.’

“If they are exactly out of phase, the crest of one wave lines up with the trough of the other wave, and they partly cancel each other out—‘destructive interference.’ When two notes are close to the same pitch, or frequency, but not quite, sometimes the sound waves line up, giving constructive interference. Then they quickly move out of phase until they are exactly opposite, 180 degrees out of phase, and produce destructive interference. This rapid movement in and out of phase produces what we hear as ‘beats’ in the sound. The faster the beats, the more out of tune the notes are. The slower the beats, the closer the two notes are to being in tune. So our goal is to listen carefully to the sound and try to make the beats get slower, then go away altogether. Let’s try it.

“Brenda, you play that G and hold the pitch as steady as you can. Rebecca, you play your G and listen for the beats, then try making your note a little sharper or flatter. If the beats get faster, you’re going the wrong way. If the beats get slower, then you’re going the right way. Keep doing that until the beats go away completely.”

Naturally, it took some time. But most of the students could hear the beats and enjoyed the exercise of trying to make them go away.

“That’s better. Now, let’s try all three of you flute players on that last note.”

With two instruments, you can tell what’s going on if you listen carefully. With three, it’s just bad. So, of course, it wasn’t perfect. But then, nothing is. It was better than before, and that’s what we were after.

“At least you’re not oboe players. Have you heard the old joke, ‘How do you get two oboe players to play in tune’?”

Nobody knew.

“Shoot one!”


Life’s like that. In our relationships with other people (and with God), we often have both constructive and destructive interference. There appear “beats” in our relationships—the friction when our lives don’t quite fit together. Your vibes combined with their vibes produce some dissonance. To make beautiful music in our lives, we need to work at making the “beats” go away. We need to work at making our vibrations be “in phase” with those around us and, most importantly, with God. God is like the first flute player who kept her pitch constant. We are the second flute player who must adjust our pitch to be in tune with God—because God has perfect pitch.

Prayer and meditation are about getting “in phase” with God.

Sometimes we ask, “Is God with us?” The real question is “Are we with God?” We must adjust ourselves to be in tune with God—to be one with God. This is mostly what prayer and meditation should be about. Too often our prayers become shopping lists for God: bring me a new car, heal my sick dog, find me a good husband. Perhaps God is answering our prayers in ways we do not understand or do not want to understand. Edgar Cayce said, “For all prayer is answered. Don’t tell God how to answer it.8

It’s often hard for us to accept that God is already giving us what we need—that somehow everything truly is working together for good. In our pride, we often think we know better than God does how the universe should unfold—who should win the election or when we should get our next promotion. We’re trying to make God play in tune with us.

It’s not easy to play in tune with God. We have to listen carefully to the “God-within-us” that speaks so quietly. If the “beats” in your life get slower, you’re likely moving in the right direction. Keep going. Fortunately, we are not oboe players. We can play in tune with the infinite. We can live our lives in a way that we experience the presence of the Divine at every moment. I think this is what Jesus meant by the “kingdom of God.” It is that state of consciousness in which we are constantly “in Love”—swimming in the Divine Love in which we live and move and have our being.

God has perfect pitch—tune yourself to his Love.

Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website:, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.

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