Sour notes happen in music and in our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces. We can gain powerful insights from the live music world that apply in many areas of our lives.

Most of you know I’m a working musician on the side. I’ve been playing for audiences in bands since the late ’60’s.

Sour notes in a live band setting happen primarily because of three things: Tuning, key agreement, and dynamics.

Tuning must happen first. As a guitarist, I must make certain that my guitar is in tune before every song.

If it’s not in tune, sour notes occur.

Second, band members must agree on a key. By agreeing on a key and by playing the song in that key, a band or orchestra creates a musical, harmonious performance.

If the band is playing a song in the key of E but I’m playing in the key of G, bold, sour notes occur.

Third, dynamics come into play. Musical dynamics mean there quiet passages in some sections of songs, vibrant, loud passages in other sections, few people playing at one point, everyone playing at other points, etc.

Dynamics create a musical experience for the listener. Instead of everyone playing at once and as loudly as they can – at once – dynamics enable more effective transitions and emotions in a song.

In today’s four-minute episode of my Culture Leadership Charge video series, my Taylor T5z guitar helps me describe these three things in a live music setting and in our workplaces. Lousy bosses create really sour notes, every day.

My Culture Leadership Charge series features short (two-to-three-minute) videos that describe proven culture leadership and servant leadership practices that boost engagement, service, and results across your work teams, departments, regions, and even your entire company.

Each episode’s “charge” is a challenge for everyone in your organization – not just leaders – to refine their behaviors and ensure everyone is treated respectfully at all times.

You’ll find my Culture Leadership Charge episodes and more on my YouTube channel. If you like what you see, please subscribe!

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What causes sour notes in your workplace? How can you use these three ideas – tuning, key agreement, and dynamics – to reduce sour notes at work? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers: Good Comes First (2021) and The Culture Engine (2014).
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