A new way to look at practicing music

We all hear it from our music teachers, “Practice! Practice! Practice!” But, what does it mean for us in the long term? I think what many music educators miss is the explanation and example of what long-term practicing can do for the student. For the student the drudgery and monotony of constant practice can create a grim outlook on their daily musical activities. Music students need the following two components for practice success:

1. Fun: Practicing needs to be more like play. After all, we do call it “playing music.” Practice should be outlined and described to the student as a time for them to explore and compete with themselves. They need to perceive practice as a time to be curious and to take risk. To try new ways of doing things and to engage self-teaching mechanisms.

2. Practicability: Students of all ages need to fully understand how practicing will impact their future musician-selves. This can be achieved by showing them examples of world-class musicians, explaining to them all the daily hours that went into becoming that great; with an emphasis on the musician competing with them self for that mastery. Students need to see how what they do now will impact their future as a musician. By seeing this in actuality via professional musicians, students will be inspired to work harder and longer than ever.

Once these two elements are seen by the student the teacher can prescribe practice goals that make sense for the individual level of the student. There will be a drastic shift in both, attitude and focus when the student understands more clearly why practice is such a good idea.

According to Edward Droscher, founder of Real Music Production, there are two major keys to effective practice.

1. Goals are key. It is human nature to take pride in reaching a goal whether a promotion at work or winning a competition. If you have a set goal to reach you will be more willing to put in the work required to achieve it. Some examples of goals could be to learn the latest song you’ve fallen in love with, to be able to sight read in a certain key, to develop faster, more technical playing or to reach a certain exam grade before a certain period.

2. Little often is better than a lot occasionally. One key point to remember is that repetition is the quickest way to learn something due to your brain and muscles ability to develop and store a so called ‘muscle memory’. It will take a substantially longer time to learn and retain your new knowledge if you practice for a long period but only occasionally. See tip 3 on how to easily incorporate regular practice sessions into your daily routine.

When you are having a bad day and nothing is going right . . .When the pressures of life are crowding in on you and you need some time by yourself . . When someone, or something has made you angry . . When you are bored, or when you are feeling flat or unhappy, don’t complain, just go and do some music practice. That will lift your spirits and energise you. — Ron OttleyOttley, Ron., Now I Love Music Practice (Eileen Margaret Publishing, 2009) Pg 62-63

Practicing should be taken out of the “nose to the grindstone” light, into the “play and exploration” sunshine. Students need to see an overview of how what they are doing now will make an affect on their future selves. This is enabled when the responsibility of this eye-opening is taken on by the teacher. After all, the teacher is the guide for the student to reach full potential. Therefore, the teacher’s J.O.B. is to bring the students narrowed vision of practicing into full vision of how fun and explorative it can be. Once this is achieve, the sky is the limit for both, you and the student.


The Genius Guide to Success | Article Review | Does Practice Makes Perfect?


I excitedly picked up my March/April copy of mental_floss today, lured in by what the titled promised; “The Genius Guide to Success.” 

I read through the pages, enjoying each tip, strategy and idea that came from top achieves in our society both, past and present. Then, found myself on page 36 where MF cited the idea of practicing and how it applies to successful execution. Some interesting things came out of this section of the article as it exposed the habits of top performers. I outline these below:


Glen Gould, pianist : Preferred to practice mentally. Believing that he performed best when he didn’t touch a piano for a month.

Slash, Guns N’ Roses guitarist : Practiced 12 hours a day while in high school. Doesn’t practice now.

Wynton Marsalis, trumpeter : Played 4-5 hours per day in high school.

Jonas Salk, scientist : Spent 16 hours researching the polio vaccine.

Nik Wallenda, tightrope walker : Practiced 3-4 hours a day before walking between two Chicago skyscrapers.

Eminem, rapper : Read the dictionary 2-3 hours every day in order to improve his vocabulary and rhyming skills.

After looking at all these practice habits by top performers, you may be wondering what the commonality is. Well, this secret is hidden in plain sight. The answer is not found in the amount of practice they sustained rather, what they practiced. They all zeroed in on the main skill or technique that would give them the edge. They focused in on the routine that worked best for sharpening their skills. Then, they refined it over and over and over again. Something else you may pull from this is the shift in perspective from practice as work, to practice as refinement. Essentially, that’s what you’re doing when you are rehearsing a key skill. You are refining it in order to embed quality habits so that the practitioner is able to call on these skills at a moments notice with a limited amount of risk.

In conclusion, we learn that top performers take sharpening key skills, seriously. They, as we should, look for the ONE skill that will give them the greatest benefit. Therein, allowing them to access this skill at any time under any amount of pressure. This makes them quick, efficient and the best. Ultimately, in order for this to work we need to clear the clutter that takes up a lot of our time and focus on the main skill that will leverage a competitive advantage. By doing this we can soon see ourselves among the greats in our society.
With Appreciation,


Music Education Theory

rkG39rZDo you know what music education theory is? Well, MET is a complicated way of describing the concepts and building blocks of teaching music. There are different ways of approaching the teaching of music. This is dependent on each individual student and their needs. The teacher is the one really in charge as the guide to support the targets for the student. The teacher must then construct the adequate building blocks that will support the vision the student has in mind. Success is achieved when the student reaches a point at they feel like they’ve achieved the vision in their mind.


Here is more by Eddie Tobey:

Music education is a concept mainly dealing with the employment of education methods in teaching and learning music. There is a theory behind every concept, which underlines a principle.

Music education theory is the basis for either teaching or learning music. Basically, music education theory is a study of the elements or rudiments of music. As we know, music consists of certain basic elements, which should be studied before proceeding further. A pre-requisite to learning is that the matter of study should be interesting and any drabness associated with it should be alleviated first.

The music education theory helps in standardizing music as a field of study. This is useful to maintain a minimum standard for music so that it gains due recognition than just a hobby.

Moreover, music education theory explains the rudiments of music clearly so that the foundation is strong for a learner of music. Only if a learner is strong in the basics, will he or she be in a position to appreciate music.

Another utility of music education theory is that it guides a user to apply the correct form at the right place. The theory can be applied to any function, like composing, singing, playing an instrument, reviewing and more.

Audiation is an area of music where the listener does not listen to the music at the surface level. It refers to the function of grasping the exact meaning of the words and also analyzing what the music conveys and why the song written in such a way. It is a deep-rooted study, applying the music theory.

Prior to the establishment of a standard or theory, music was learned either by rote or listening by ear. The religious Psalms were among the first songs to be learned through these methods.

Music theory helps you in understanding and appreciating the fineness of music by thoroughly learning its theoretical elements like sound, pitch, harmony, melody, notation, and rhythm.

Article Source

How I played violin for 10+ HOURS

Have you ever reach a point of great effort when climbing a mountain? Well, maybe you’ve never climbed a mountain but, metaphorically speaking, have you?

This same feeling occurred when I reached over 10 hours of playing the violin in a single 48 hour period. You might have some questions regarding the authenticity of this statement that I fully intend to clear up.

Playing Time Outline


Practice: 1 Hour

Video: 30mins

Performance One: 2 Hours

Performance Two : 2 Hours

Total: 5.5 hours of playing time


Practice: 1 hour

Video: 30mins

Performance One: 2 Hours

Performance Two : 2 Hours

Performance Three: 1 Hour

Total: 6.5 hours of playing time

Total Hour Accumulation: 12 Hours of Playing Time

Here is my tip to players of any age or level; pace yourself and concentrate on being relaxed.

Now, I would not recommend this type of behavior for any elongated period of time. But I think it still can be character building. Just like you wouldn’t want to climb a mountain every day, every once in a while will give your great insights to your strength and mental capacity. Playing violin for long periods of time allows your to understand your limits and how to push through them. As stated before, it’s imperative to keep relaxed and your posture intact as not to gain injury from this activity.

Throughout the process I kept thinking of new ways to play in order to establish a more relaxed approach to something I had played differently in the past. What this did is open my mind to new ways of thinking about each song that I play. In other words, playing for this long enable (or forced) my mind to open up into new ares of technical flexibility. Just like when you are working out and don’t think you can go any long. When you finally push through your perceived limits, you find new strength and energy you didn’t know you embodied. While playing, I found this same strength.

Intelligently, I kept known beneficial arm and hand stretches at the ready in-between each long jot of playing. This allowed my hands and arms to not stiffen when at rest, as sometimes can happen — muscle constriction after intense stress. I also maintained a steady diet of high protein and water. The protein was to keep my muscles building and nutritionally supported. The water was to keep flushing any toxins that may results from the stress of overwork.

I learned that you can do anything you set your mind to. Allow for proven tools to come into play and for better ways to establish. My major take-away here is that you are always ready to do and be more if you’ve prepared in a way that supports your dreams.
With Appreciation,


An Open Letter to Gov. Brownback | Music Matters

Dear Gov. Sam Brownback,

I was inspired to write this letter to you after reading the article in The Kansas City Star titled “Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts, not a piano purchase, are to blame for Kansas budget woes” by Barbara Shelly.

As an artist/musician myself, I firmly believe that music education is important for the future development of children. Students who have early musical training develop areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. When learning music, students are constantly using their memory to perform. The skill of memorization serves students well in education and beyond. In order to become accomplished in music, practice is imperative. This helps students to develop discipline in order for their musical works to sound good. Plus, they experience a sense of achievement when mastering even the smallest goal in music. Hand-eye coordination is improved and increased when practicing with musical instruments and motor skills are also developed, just like playing sports. The list of benefits goes on and on.

While the article seemed to focus on the large purchase price of the grand piano for the Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences, I would hate to see this used as a reason to divert funding away from music education in schools. I certainly can see your point in using funds more practically to help more students by hiring another teacher, reducing class sizes and improving academic achievement. But, as noted in the article, the piano purchase is a long-term investment. Perhaps there could’ve been a better use for the money that could benefit more students. But my vote would be to continue using funds for music education. Our children need another outlet for self-expression which also has benefits for their own personal growth and society. More children interested in music and the arts keeps them off the streets and focused on positive uses of their free time.

Thank you for taking the time to receive my thoughts about the importance of music education in the future development of children. As a successful young artist, I can personally attest to the benefits that music and music education have played in my life.

Thomas McGregor


Ref: Kansas City Star article:

Learning to Listen More with DiM13NSiON

The 2015 collaboration project DiM13NSiON is an ambient-electronic project with Cedric Theys of Mad Ducks Records that utilizes the 8-string guitar and 5-string violin, respectively. At this juncture we have recorded over 6 hours material and two live shows under our belt as we learn to expand out minds and technical abilities to accommodate the ever-expanding sound exploration. As a results of this expanding, I have been required to open my ears to the possibilities that are available when you do so.

Collaborating is an interesting process, as it challenges your preconceived notions of what music should be and how it should sound. This is a result of playing with someone that approaches the creative process in their own unique way. Therefore, there are two way we can handle this: 1. Be closed off to their perspective 2. Be open and learn from their perspective. By collaborating you are privy to a new way of looking at melodies, textures and layering. You will start to develop knew contributions to the collaboration as you assimilate concepts and ideas from the other person.

Throughout this process I have felt that due to this required opening of ears that my ears have been expanding to hear different ways of contributing, a side benefit of a wider creative listening. By allowing myself to listen, versus simply hearing, I open myself to fresh creative channels that aid in steering the direction of the musical conversation. The growth of the collaboration is completely interdependent on the listening of each contributor. This growth this enabled when the listening becomes deep and innovative. This is done when each player takes risks in order to push the envelope, allowing for new creative roads to be paved.

Top 4 Tips for Collaboration Expansion

  1. Listen to the other person more than yourself.
  2. Listen for new ideas that you can apply to your own contribution.
  3. Think win-win contribution to melodies, harmonies and rhythms.
  4. Strive to support the other player more than attempting to feature yourself.

Listen to DiM13NSiON HERE

With Appreciation,



How to Teach Violin to a Toddler



Toddlers are interesting little human beings. They are SUPER creative, curious, and bright. Toddlers mean well, but still seem to leave a road of destruction in the wake of walking through a room. But regardless of their organization skills, they are still the light that illuminates our future. They too, need support in creative endeavors — like playing the violin!

Many people are trying to find out things that are of interest to their children and teaching them these things at a very young age. Because kids are like sponges, the earlier they can begin learning specific things, they better they are at them. You can use a DVD to teach violin to your toddler. You don’t even have to know how to play yourself. You can get a beginning violin instruction program and help your child learn at home. All you have to do is follow the instructions given in the program. You will know shortly whether your child has an interest in the violin or not.

Top 5 Ways to Introduce Your Toddler to the Violin

  1. Live concerts
  2. Music games with and instructor
  3. DVD of fun violin concerts
  4. Bring a Musician in your home to perform for your child
  5. Buy a toy violin for your child to try out

If they show an interest and want to keep learning, you can find a private instructor to help them develop their talent even further later on. If they don’t take to the violin, you can always introduce them to other instruments and outlets of creativity.

With Deep Appreciation,