3 enticing tips to play the violin like nobody else

Have you ever wondered what could set you apart from other players?

In this post I’m going to answer this question by giving you 3 tips to make you play the violin like nobody else!

Read on…

music, music educationPlaying the violin is really the art of noticing the nuance. For every nuance movement, sound and adjustment that you notice to improve your playing is the key to your success as a player. So, before you get started on these 3 tips make sure you understand that awareness of nuance is your first step towards success.

  1. Become an active listener. There is a drastic difference between active listening and passive listening. Passive listen is when you are listening to the music playing in the grocery store. Active listening is when you are singing at the top of your voice in the car to your favorite song. You are engaged with the music when you are actively listening. When you play the violin, become an active listen. Engage your mind in the sound that is being create. Listen to where the music takes you, the tune, the beat, and the melody.
  2. Play all the time. The more you play the better you get. You can’t do you best unless you know everything about what you’re doing. Play, play and yes, play! Think of it as if you were spending time with a person; the more time you spend with them the better you know them. Play during your free time if you can. You won’t get anywhere if you don’t practice. Improvise as you go along. It will teach you to listen to what the music tells you to do. Close your eyes while you play as well, force yourself to concentrate.
  3. Stretch yourself. Keep reaching for harder pieces to play. Look for more complicated exercises to work on. And, more of all, try something that you think is “our of your league” every once in a while. When you continuously reach past where you think you can go, you might surprise yourself. So keep reaching, keep stretching and, never stop exploring.

With Deep Appreciation,


Why music education is important in public schools

We all know this — but what do we do about it?

This article is a call to action. I’m asking you to contemplate the information I present and talk to your local school district about getting more music to more children in more places.

Music education contributes largely to the overall success of the student in both; life and academia. Music engages both sides of the brain in a way that will change the life of the child forever. 

At the end of the day, what we want is what we select to focus on. Now, it’s time for us to focus on what is best for the next generation.

The choice is yours…

But, while you are contemplating, I will showcase some cold hard facts regarding the benefits of music education in schools.

Recent studies have indicated that adolescent music education produces greater observable physical development in the brain,[2] and an average of 27% higher math scores,[3] 57 points higher SAT scores[4] and a 46% increase in IQ scores.[5] In addition to these documented benefits on intelligence, music education has been shown enhance learning in all other subject areas by improving their study skills, receptiveness to instruction, social and emotional development. Students that participate in school band or orchestra also experience the lowest rate of gang activity and substance abuse. Most importantly, the cognitive and behavioral advantages of music education are shown to affect all students, regardless of their ethnicity, “at-risk” status, or socio-economic background.[6]

“We believe the skills the arts teach -creative thinking, problem-solving, risk-taking, teamwork and communications – are precisely the tools the workforce of tomorrow will need. If we don’t encourage students to master these skills through quality arts instruction today, how can we ever expect them to succeed in their highly competitive business careers tomorrow?”

-Richard Gurin, Chief Executive Officer, Binney and Smith, maker of Crayola crayons


Music requires study skills, communication skills, and cognitive skills and as these are learnt and developed they expand the student’s abilities in other academic areas and help them become better students. – Students with coursework/experience in music performance and music appreciation scored higher on the SAT: students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal and 41 points higher on the math, and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on the math, than did students with no arts participation. — College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. Princeton, NJ: The College Entrance Examination Board, 2001.

The evidence is resounding and unavoidable. How much longer shall we stand by and allow our future to slip through our fingers?

The ball is in our court, we have the choice. We must take action today!

Will you make the choice and take the action today that will change your life and the life of our children forever?

If so, here are some action steps you can take TODAY

Action Steps

  1. Print this article.
  2. Ask for a personal “sit-down” meeting with a local educational authority.
  3. Hand deliver this article — in combination with personal research.
  4. Make it your overwhelming commitment to keep on the heels of local educational authorities until they MUST change the level of music education.


Live your inspiration deliberately! 

With Deep Appreciation,



Focused posts Facebook | Everything in-between @mcgregor_thomas | Me on video Youtube | Where all the magical stuff happens http://www.THOMASMCGREGOR.com

[1] Brian Foster, “Einstein and his Love of Music,” Physics World (Jan. 2005), .
[2] G. Schlaug, L. Jancke, Y. Huang and H. Steinmetz, “In vivo morphometry of interhem ispheric assymetry and connectivity in musicians,” Proceedings of the 3rd international conference for music perception and cognition (Liege, Belgium, 1994), 417-418.
[3] Amy Graziano, Matthew Peterson and Gordon Shaw, “Enhanced learning of proportional math through music training and spatial-temporal training,” Neurological Research 21 (March 1999).
[4] College-Bound Seniors National Report: Profile of SAT Program Test Takers. The College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, NJ, 2001.
[5] Rauscher, Shaw, Levine, Ky and Wright, “Music and Spatial Task Performance: A Causal Relationship,” University of California, Irvine, 1994.
[6] “Benefits of Music Education,” MENC: The National Association for Music Education, 2002.

Apply These 2 Secret Techniques To Improve Music Education

Okay, these secret techniques may not equal to something the government would deem “secret” but, these are techniques I can personally vouch for drastically improving the way I teach music.

We all want improvement. We all want to better. But we often don’t start with ourselves. We look to outside resources to improve what we are doing.

Let’s shift our focus to our selfs, and apply these techniques in order to change the game of teaching forever.

  1. Check ourself at the door: This technique requires you to stop before you inter the classroom. Make sure to keep your personal life, daily stressors, and anything else that may hinder your teaching at the door and not in the classroom. You must leave everything behind. This will drastically improve the way you teach. You will be leaving all that mental baggage, therein, not allowing it to influence your choices as a teacher.
  2. Ask the Student and Listen: Ask the right question of your students and listen, deeply, to their answers. This will give your massive insight into how they are thinking and what their needs are. Ensure that your questions are direct and with intention. If your intention is to gain insight, your questions should reflect this. The answers you receive from your students will not be what you’re looking for. You are looking for how they are responding and the implications of how they respond. This will give you an edge in your teaching game.

Live your passion deliberately!

With deep appreciation,





Focused posts Facebook | Everything in-between @mcgregor_thomas | Me on video Youtube | Where all the magical stuff happens http://www.THOMASMCGREGOR.com

Exploring the 5-String Violin


Most of everyone knows I play an acoustic 5ing violin, even though I don’t treat it as such. When I first started playing the violin with the newly added, and sometimes controversial, 5th string I wanted to ensure that I didn’t over-use the string as if a new toy or gimmick. Something of this nature, an innovation of sorts, needs to be handled with care as to not allow it to become something that sticks out as a thorn. Rather, the fifth string should be treated as an equal member of the family. A 1/5th component of a larger unit. If this mind set isn’t adopted, the addition string becomes over played and subject to auditory abuse.

Technical Alterations:
A common question that arises is whether the technique of the 5ing player is different than that of a traditional player? The answer is, yes. Although, maybe not as drastically of a difference as you might think. The main technical difference is mainly in the openness and reach of the left hand fingers. This is obvious due to that new string you have to accommodate for. As for the right hand, the strings are often closer together. This can make string crossing either easier or far more difficult. Easier in the sense that there is less distance between strings. More difficult in the sense that you can no long rely on that G string as your bottom string. These adjustments are easily adapted once some practice is had. Julie Lyonn Lieberman said that, “Playing a four string and a five string fosters the development of spatial acuity in the right brain, creat(ing) a vital and useful mental heirarchy betwen the motor cortices and both hands.” Chiming in, Daryl Silberman feels that the five string was best for students that was “specifically interested in the technical challenges” of a 5ing violin. In other words, after you beat the “4ing level” you can go on to the “5ing” level? I believe, and know first hand, that playing a 5ing is extremely building of character. Also, the creative component is inspiring.

Although you can do a very many fun musical things with a 4ing, one more string couldn’t hurt. The covenant C string adds a new way of looking at the instrument and the approach to performance. Like a child that has jut received the colour turquoise to add to is crayon collection, a musician with a 5ing is just the same. The crafty use of the new string is found in conscious use, lest everything become turquoise. Nevertheless, this new colour allows for new ideas to emerge, now that the opportunity has been given. To be clear, I don’t think every violinist has thought “I wish I had another strong.” Rather, the new ideas are exciting due to the new string’s availability. Therefore, this creative availability establishes new thought processes and instrument exploration. Now there are options to explore the other areas of the instrument in relationship to the new string. The entire creative landscape alters as the mind can expand along with the music.

Viola Appreciation:
As a colleague of mine stated, “The five string; the wanna be viola” The 5ing can offer some appreciation for the violin’s close family member the viola. As if to transport you to another world, you can suddenly read two new clefs. When playing the 5ing we are able to understand playing from the violist point of view, or at least a good sense of it. This is both humbling and character building at the same time. As this perspective grows collaborating with violists might become easier and simpler.

Whether you agree with the 5ing alteration or not, I hope everyone can see the many benefits that accompany attempting the 5ing experience. I truly believe that any challenging experience builds musical character and creative development. In the case of the 5ing violin, the truth lies in practice. The rewards in the results. The inspiration in the creation.

(Article originally featured on Violinist.com)

Live your passion deliberately!

With deep appreciation,





Focused posts Facebook | Everything in-between @mcgregor_thomas | Me on video Youtube | Where all the magical stuff happens http://www.THOMASMCGREGOR.com

These 3 hacks will make you play the violin like a pro

In this day and age, “hacking” things have become the norm. We like to think that we can hack out body, mind, and spirit in our pursuit of higher and higher achievement. To some extent this is true because in every system is a loophole, no matter our diligence in securing it.

When it comes to playing the violin, there are some “hacks” that you can apply to your every day practice in order to hyper-speed your progress.

WARNING: The hacks listed below will make you play more accurately, consistently and with more emotion. You have been warned.

  1. Be Relaxed:  One of the first hacks you can apply today is to hack your nervous system by overriding the feeling of anxiety. You can do this simply be concentrating on your breath every time you pick up your instrument. This will train your brain and body to be in a relaxed state when your instrument is in your hands. We become stressed via triggers. These triggers can be caused by past experiences, environment and other people. By concentrating on your breath and relaxing your muscles you will open up your tone and notice your volume to increase. You will need to control this new found power — but I trust you can manage better tone. :)
  2. Focus On ONE Thing: Don’t discount the simplicity of this hack. This means you will NOT focus on multiple things that you need to work on in your practice. It means that you will focus on ONE things — thats it. Scales? No, Scale. Songs? No . song. Every component of your playing should be broken down into a singular task that you can singularly focus on. This will completely change the game for you and your playing. Your accuracy will become better, with in increase in tone consistency. Make sure to always ask; “Is this the ONE THING that will make me better?”
  3. Increase Your Personal Standard: This is a mental hack. You will need to bypass your old way of thinking and start applying a new standard that is way higher than where you are currently. If your standard rises then you playing will rise. Your personal standard is the part of you that sets the ideal for the moment. If your ideal for the moment is only slightly above where you are, you won’t strive to get it. If your ideal is massively higher than where you are, you will strive to hit that higher target. Then, once you have set that standard as where you NEED to be, then your “must” has changed. This will drastically change the game for you in every way possible. Raise your standard — raise your playing!

Live your passion deliberately!

With deep appreciation,


Focused posts Facebook | Everything in-between @mcgregor_thomas | Me on video Youtube | Where all the magical stuff happens http://www.THOMASMCGREGOR.com

Here are 4 ways to play the violin better

We can be honest — we want to be better at playing the violin. This is a nobel aspiration and we should take every opportunity to become better!

In this post to you I hope to illuminate the 4 ways to play the violin better that have greatly impacted my performance on the instrument.

Take time to contemplate each tip. They have been carefully thought out and I truly hope that they benefit you in every way possible.

I know — the violin can be a challenging instrument to master.

Keep the faith! You can do it! 

The rewards will be well worth everything you put into your advancement on the instrument — and that’s a promise.

The key to the success of these betterment keys is to apply them where you are as a player. Be honest, and approach the tasks in a way that will springboard you from where you are to where you want to be.

  1. Analyze: Take time to analyze the are of study you are currently in. What this means is that you take time to become more aware of what you are studying in an effort to gain an larger vision of where what you are studying is taking you. Everything we study contributes to the map that we are following to achieve our dreams. When we study the violin this rule still applies. Analyze why you’ve decided to study a particular area. Is it actually helping you? Or, is it keeping you from more important areas? Pro Tip: Take 15mins before you start each practice to become more aware of how what you are studying is either helping you or hindering you.
  2. Listen: Do whatever you need to do to gain access to great music — the masters. Listen to every breath they take. Listen to how they phrase things. And, listen to them playing something you’re working on. By studying the masters we can shortcut many of our challenges. Furthermore, we can find new avenues for our own expression when we are given tools from the masters. Pro Tip: Find the song you’re currently practicing on youtube played by a master and copy the way they phrase it. This will give you deeper insight into how they think about the piece.
  3. Practice: You didn’t think I’d leave this out did ya? But before you scan past this tip, let me put a twist on it. Practice should be done in short hyper-focused sessions. Why short? Because our attention spans our getting shorter and shorter. Also, when we hyper-focuse our attention we absorb, remember, and articulate more. Pro Tip: A 20min hyper-focused practice is better than a 90min practice that’s scattered.
  4. Experiment: This might be my favorite! Don’t be afraid to experiment with your instrument. Try to make new and different sounds, rhythms, and songs. Try something crazy with your instrument. Go play for someone randomly in a gas station. I’m not kidding! Experiment with ways you can better impact and influence your community. This will give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Pro Tip: The more you explore your instrument the easier it will be to play. Think of your instrument as if it’s a person you need to get to know. Remember, you are in charge of how far you take your exploration; so, go CRAZY — and enjoy!

Live your passion deliberately!

With deep appreciation,





Focused posts Facebook | Everything in-between @mcgregor_thomas | Me on video Youtube | Where all the magical stuff happens http://www.THOMASMCGREGOR.com