by Payne Schanski
Site Director, Tennis Coordinator, Curley K-8 School, Jamaica Plain

Day 28 – April 13
Music and Hobbits

J.R.R. Tolkien once famously (and incorrectly) said that he was all out of ideas after writing The Hobbit. After coaching from home for a month, coming up with different plans and workouts with fewer and fewer resources, I was starting to think that way, too. Then I remembered something that a college professor shared on the first day of an Intro to Musicology class.

The professor shared that as a youngster, at the beginning of his musical journey, he worried that eventually there would be no new songs left to create. He figured that since there are only seven basic notes on a musical scale, there’s only so much that can be done, and sooner or later people would just run out of songs completely. It was only when he continued to learn about how music works that he began to understand the truth.

Take the seven basic notes, then add the sharps and flats and you have twelve. Then you have seven more octaves, and start adding chord combinations (twelve per root, a hundred per octave, seven octaves just on a piano)—that makes 8,400 possible chords already. We haven’t even gotten to all the other instruments that can be combined, the different rhythm structures, advancements in sound engineering that make new frequencies possible, an endless degree of lyrical possibilities in hundreds of languages.

Starting to see where I’m headed with this?

Maybe there are only seven basic tennis strokes. Perhaps there are only a dozen or so individual tennis drills. How about mixing in different fitness elements, rally challenges, target drills, changes of scenery – sharps, flats, chords, rhythms? 

Obviously, solo tennis is a different type of music. Coming up with new ideas is the same thing my professor found possible when he learned a little more about music. It’s the same thing J.R.R. Tolkien discovered when he learned a little more about writing.

As long as we put in the work, look outside for inspiration, and are willing to keep learning, none of us are ever going to run out of songs.