Resonance 150 150 Paul Phillips

We’re on the same wavelength, aren’t we?

The man in front of me is a friend—a long-time friend.  I always enjoy seeing his face as the front door of the music store opens.  We share a love of music and the tools from which the music comes.  I’ve watched his children grow, as he has mine.

Today, we talked about politics—a dangerous minefield in which to venture, if ever there was one.  But, somehow his ire rose at the same time mine did; his anger was assuaged by the very same solutions I found to be comforting.

As if we were two strings vibrating on a musical instrument, we hit the same frequencies necessary to bring out the next tone in the chords of amity.

We were on the same wavelength.

It often happens.  You’ve seen it.  A conversation begins, and you’re drawn to a complete stranger immediately.  It’s hard to explain—perhaps their vocal inflection—maybe the manner in which they consider each word before speaking—whatever it is, you’ve made a connection.

In the music world, we call it a sympathetic vibration.

It’s not always good.

Today, a young man brought in his banjo, exasperated because it wouldn’t stop ringing.  Banjos do that normally too, you know—ring.  It is what makes them sound like a banjo.

The problem is this one had a ring that wasn’t supposed to be there.  Usually, when a musician tells me there’s a ring in his fretted instrument, I suspect a high fret which the strings bump against, causing an unwanted rattle of sorts, albeit a musical one.  It wouldn’t be that simple this time.

I listened to his complaint and then took the beautiful instrument out of the case, striking the strings he spoke of.  Sure enough, they had a strange overtone.

As I explored the strings a bit, I noticed a problem I could identify immediately.  There actually was a string which buzzed on a fret all the time because of a string guide which sat too high.  I could fix that easily, but I was more concerned with the other issue.

I explained to the young man (quite expertly, mind you) what the problem was.

There’s a sympathetic vibration in the instrument.  Something else is vibrating when that string is plucked.  It’s what all resonant materials want to do—vibrate with tones that are at the same wavelength.

This expert searched fruitlessly for nearly a quarter hour to find the source of the vibration.  I finally gave up, suggesting a couple of general cures which might work.  Might.

He had a question before he went.

Could you fix that one buzzing string for me? You know, the string guide thing?

A simple repair.  It was done in three minutes.

I plucked the other strings one last time.  I don’t know why I did it. I suppose hope springs eternal.

There was no more vibration.  None.  The strange ringing sound was completely gone.  Really.

I stopped to think for a moment.  Suddenly, it came to me!

The string which had been vibrating on the fret was at exactly the same frequency as the two other strings which were ringing.  Exactly the same frequency.  I had removed its capacity to buzz with my repair, so the rest of the problem disappeared.

I hope you’re not tired of my musical interpretations yet.  You see, all the world resonates with music.  Our Creator made it so.

Sympathetic vibrations are all around us.  The four-wheel-drive monster truck that roars down the street in front of your house and rattles the windows, as well as vibrating the wall, demonstrates it.  High-pitched sounds that break glass work on the same principle.

I want to tell you that my dogs, who howl loudly at the sound of an approaching ambulance or fire engine, exhibit the principle, but I think that might be something of a stretch.

Things which are alike, tend to exhibit the same characteristics as those similar objects around them.

Humans are not immune.  We see it in every direction.  As in the realm of music, it’s not always a beneficial thing.

Politicians vibrate with anger and name-calling, and their disciples soon resonate with the message of negativity and hatred.

Pastors embrace a radical belief and soon their adherents echo the tenets without consideration of the merits or demerits of the belief.

The bully on the playground selects a new victim and, within hours, the unfortunate soul is under attack from all sides.

All is not ugliness in the realm of resonance, however.

A properly tuned and maintained instrument, played well, resonates with sympathetic vibrations.  The overtones complement the original melodies and chords, causing the listener to marvel at the beauty emanating from a single instrument wielded by a lone talent.

Master luthiers carve and shape, adding bracing here, sanding the surface there—all to increase the acceptance of good overtones and mute the presence of undesirable ones.

The whole instrument resonates beautifully with sympathetic vibrations.

I wonder if we have lost the true meaning of being sympathetic.  We think sympathy is sadness, and the words that express our concern for that sadness.  We believe that sympathy is an emotion to be dealt out at moments of great need and sorrow.

Did you know that sympathy is simply the state of being like-minded?  It’s sharing what those around us experience—not as an onlooker, but as a participant.

The Apostle Paul begged for his readers to be sympathetic—like-minded.  He wanted them to resonate with each other. (Philippians 2:1-2)

It is what folks in fellowship with each other do, almost automatically.

Our Creator, the Master Luthier of all luthiers, has made the whole of His creation to move in resonance with Him.

It is only as we change the tunings and introduce faults into the instrument that the overtones become louder than the fundamental notes.  When the overtones are all that is heard, it is nothing more than mere vibration, a ringing in the ears of all listening.

Perhaps I need make no more application to the principle here.

It is likely these words have fallen on sympathetic ears, isn’t it?

What a beautiful thing it is, when His people live in harmony with each other.



What a beautiful thing it is, when His people live in harmony with each other. @HesTakenLeave Click To Tweet



Originally published on Paul’s blog at



Paul Phillips

Paul Phillips is a writer, a fifty-something grandfather, and follower of Christ. He's also a legend in his hometown, having been "owner, janitor, and gofer" of Whitmore's Music in Siloam Springs, AR since 1985. Follow Paul's blog, He's Taken Leave (, where he weaves nostalgic stories of life and faith.

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