I’ll start with a cheesy, LA name-dropping story.

I was working with an amazingly talented actress, who was auditioning for a film role that required her character to sing.

I had also given her a discount as she had booked a large number of sessions in a short period.

After the first session, I decided to Google her name, as I wanted a better idea of her professional credits and experience.

The first thing that pops up?

She was married to ELON MUSK????

OH MY GOD!!!!!

I am a complete fanboy, but I had not to mention it (unless she did…..she didn’t) as it would be unprofessional.

So the story ends with me teaching the wife of a billionaire – at a discount, and I couldn’t mention him. Actually, she is a wonderfully gifted filmmaker as well and fantastic to work with.

But it does give me an intro to Elon.

Elon Musk is famous as the entrepreneur extraordinaire, creator of Paypal, and then Space X and Tesla.  He is now looking into creating hyperlink tunnels to make high speed travel a reality in LA.  Bless him!!!!

Elon is able to create breakthroughs in wildly different industries, even though he is not formally educated in them.

He created Space X because he wants to help future humanity explore beyond our planet, yet he is not a rocket scientist.

How is Elon able to do all this?

He employs a fascinating way of looking at all things, a process he calls “first principles.”

Singing Like Elon

I know, Elon doesn’t sing or play an instrument (that I know of) but the important thing is – he knows he could if he wanted to.

In a fantastic post on Wait But Why, Tim Urban breaks down Elon’s approach to his “software” or thinking.

Elon realizes we are supercomputers, made up of hardware and software.

The hardware is what you were born with – raw intelligence, talents, looks, etc. This is arguably fixed by nature and cannot be changed much.

Very few of us were born with the physical gift Whitney Houston was, her voice was superior hardware.

However, hardware can be trumped by something.


This is your accumulated knowledge, belief systems, skills, mindset, all of the amazing, and not so amazing, things our brain can learn and believe. The software is THE most important factor.

Do you think every successful singer had the same physical gifts as Whitney or Luciano Pavarotti? As a voice teacher, I can tell you most do not.

Yet every truly successful singer has a superior software system. Superior training, discipline, confidence, and beliefs.

They take their given hardware and program it to work better than almost every other singer.

You may be sitting reading this while possessing incredible hardware, but you are neglecting your software.

You have a wonderfully powerful computer – that’s running Windows 98.


First Principles

Elon uses a process he calls “reasoning from first principles” to break down his thinking and update his “software.”

First principles are essentially what we know to be true at the absolute foundation level, looking at a problem or goal from its most basic components.

First principles differ from the common way of doing or thinking, which Elon calls “by analogy,” or doing or thinking the same way others have done.

With Space X, Elon was told rockets are incredibly expensive, and that’s just the way it is. This made space exploration impractical on the scale he wanted to do it.

Think about it, being told by all the experts and the entire industry there is no way to make this product any less expensive.

But Elon took another approach – he employed first principles to break the problem down.

He discovered rockets are made up of four primary elements – aluminum, titanium, copper, and carbon fiber.

He then went and priced out each of these elements on the current market and they came out to 2% of a rocket’s cost.

He knew all he had to do was find a way to arrange these materials into a rocket in a more efficient, cost-effective way.

And now we have Space X!

By breaking the problem down into first principles he was able to find a completely new solution and disrupt an entire industry!

Singing With First Principles

When I do a masterclass I will ask attendees what one thing they would like to improve in their voice.

Inevitably someone will mention they want to have whistle voice.

Whistle voice? Well, that would be fun to have, wouldn’t it?  Being able to hit those crazy high notes very few singers can. Totally impressive, right?

You have likely given some thought to developing your whistle register, or at least wondered about it.

But let’s look at it from first principles.

I break singing down into first principle truths.

  1. We need to be able to make the sounds our music requires (Norah Jones does not need the same sounds Janis Joplin did).
  2. We need to make these sounds consistently and reliably.
  3. We need to make these sounds in the healthiest manner possible.

For me, that’s all singing technique is in terms of first principles – make the sounds we need and be able to repeat them when necessary.

We can use these principles to build our singing goals and approach.

If you are singing for a death metal band, your dictates from these first principles will be different than if you are singing Shubert song cycles.  You will be on a different path while keeping the same first principles.

I want you to take a moment and break down the music you do, or wish to do, in terms of #1, what sounds do you need to make for your chosen music?

What is the range, intensity levels, tone qualities, etc?

Now do an inventory of your current vocal state – where are you lacking?

I’m going to guess “whistle voice” was not on your list.

So what was? What key areas popped up?

This is what you need to focus on and work on. This is where you need to program your software.

By consistently looking at your voice through first principles, you will be able to more effectively create plans for massive improvement that YOU need – not what someone else does.

You don’t even need to use my first principles, you can break down your voice, music, career to the most fundamental truths and build from there.

You will then begin to think more like Elon, rather than looking at imitation and limitation, you look at possibility and growth in the most efficient way.

I am excitedly using Elon’s first principles to overhaul my teaching, my business….everything!

.Let me know how this works for you