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Practice: It Adds Up!

Here at Matt Burk Music Studio we encourage daily practice for our students and here's why:  it adds up! Keeping rhythms and melodies fresh in the memory will ensure that you can play it correctly when you recall it. Unfortunately, much of the mechanics of music is learned through what is called Rote Learning. This type of memorization is very weak and needs to be repeated and reviewed often. Daily practice, even for just a very short time, helps solidify the actions in the muscle memory. Think about it like this. You once did not know how to tie your shoes and had to be shown. Now, when you tie your laces do you think about it or do you just let the action happen? I bet you will find that it is nearly involuntary once we decide on the action to perform it. Often music students find themselves saying, "I'll just practice twice as much tomorrow".  They may make good on our promise but often the next day comes and they make the same statement. A week later and they're back in lessons wondering where the time went and why forming the  E major chord or playing the groove fills at the same tempo as last lesson is much more difficult than it was a week earlier!

Luckily, this is totally avoidable with small, easily digestible goals. This is one of our core practices at Matt Burk Music Studio. We find music that inspires YOU! We use songs you like, break them down into chunks and help you move through each until you're playing the song! This is just one of our core philosophies: check out the rest on our website here or stop in to one of our locations in both Allen and Frisco, Texas. We offer customized private music lessons for piano, guitar, drums, bass, and vocals.  Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!

Don't Miss Your Cue!

We've been preparing for our bi-annual showcase and recital all this week. It gives students a chance to show off what they've worked hard to accomplish. Some play along with backing tracks and others are solo performers with new material or a polished cover. This year we've been able to put together a small jazz ensemble in hopes of broadening the musical horizons of our current students as well as keeping an American art form alive in the youth. We had a rehearsal last night and it was the first time the students had met each other, let alone performed as a group. We ran the song a few times and let me tell you how it is always a wonderful feeling to see new musicians really come in to their own. They played like seasoned performers and took what small directions the instructors had to heart. They truly demonstrated the attitude it takes to be a part of a team working towards a common goal!

After the rehearsal ended, the singer expressed concern about coming in at the right times. She told me that she had been watching my changes (on the bass) and cueing accordingly but was worried for the day of the performance. I told her that she had nothing to worry about; we were performing the song in a manner where we had a recording to reference, she had a great feel for the song, and natural talent! Cues for the band can rely heavily on the vocalists lyrics, so placement can be risky. However, with jazz being rather forgiving in that respect, vocal rhythms can be to the performer's taste.

Cues can be pulled from many different sources but your best bet is to listen to recordings of the song that you're performing. For Jazz, many pieces have "heads" or the melody. Certain forms that can be familiarized by reading through it many, many times. Drummers can also help with cues with fills and crescendos in places of transition!

We came to the conclusion that I would sit closer to the front of the stage so that we could make eye contact when big changes or long periods of rest were prevalent. Eye contact in ensembles is key, as it creates a line of communication that cannot be vocalized. This would help with cues for the entire band as well. Overall, I knew she had nothing to worry about but "when in doubt, listen, listen, listen!"

Matt Burk Music Studio creates an atmosphere where private music lessons meet performances with real world applications. We offer customized instruction for piano, guitar, drums, bass, voice, songwriting, and audio production. Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!


Major or Minor?








It is a very simple question but one that many people don't know the answer to: what is the difference between the major and minor scales? Well, it is an easy answer wrapped up in complicated language. First we have to understand that we're talking about  a group of tones to which we have assigned the name "scale".. In this example we'll use the C Major scale tones: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C (the next octave up).  There are no accidentals in the scale of C Major, it may be found easily on the piano, just the white keys, starting from any C note on the keyboard (see the picture!) and ascending to the next octave.  The major scale may be sung in solfeggio: do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do! Now sing it, like Julie Andrews!





Now here is the weird part. To create the C minor scale we have to make a few adjustments to the original Major scale. Those adjustments are as follows: We'll take the third scale degree, "mi" and drop the tone one half-step to "me" (this creates a minor third relationship between our 1 "do" and our 3rd "me"). Then we'll flat the 7th tone as well, from "ti" to "te". That's it, now we have do-re-me-fa-so-la-te-do! Our C natural minor scale! Now take a look at the picture above this paragraph. Can you see that if we were to play the C Major Scale, but started on the tone of A and played through to another A we would be playing the A Minor scale! Why is this? Well, they share the same key signature and tones!

Now wasn't all that easy to figure out? It wasn't? Well then, perhaps Matt Burk Music Studio can help shed some light on the theory behind musical ideas that many hold commonplace but aren't exactly sure how or why they work. We can incorporate this into fun, digestible, goal-oriented lessons on the instrument you choose! We offer private music lessons in piano, guitar, drums, bass, voice, songwriting, and audio production. Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!




Don't Drop In Cold!

Every once in a while I catch one of the numerous "singing competition" shows on television. Performances on these shows are always backed by a full band and backing singers. The contestants usually sound radio-ready, even when performing live. Why is that? Did they wake up, get to the studio, and immediately jump into the song? The answer is, probably not. To hit those astronomical notes, any good singer will tell you, "WARM UP!". Singing arpeggiated chords of the major scale  works wonders before belting out the show stoppers. Not sure how they're supposed to work? Let us help you get your voice to its performance peak! We offer private voice lessons with extensive know-how from teachers who work in the industry! If vocalizing isn't your thing, perhaps you'd like to learn an instrument to accompany your favorite singer? We also offer private piano, guitar, drum, bass, audio production, and songwriting lessons! Whatever your instrument, we can prepare you to perform not just in the shower, but on stage in front of an audience! Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!

What's Your Pick?












There are as many picking techniques as there are guitar players out there! Finesse and style vary from player to player, depending on what type of music they're playing. Fast stacatto with palm-muting for metal and wisp-like strokes for folk. Being a guitar player myself, I have a few techniques that I use depending on which genre of music I am playing: Finger-picking patterns for classical, finger-pull and walking bass for jazz, full strum and palm-muting single line melodies in rock. Each has its own sound and feel, perfect for that particular show or song! It never hurts to have a plethora of riffs and techniques to throw at songs. The best part is, we here at Matt Burk Music Studio understand that players are not always looking to box themselves into a single type or style of playing. We offer private music lessons that are custom-tailored to your needs! Not sure which instrument is the one for you? We offer private piano, guitar, drum, bass, and voice lessons as well as songwriting and audio engineering know-how! Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!!

Reading Music in the Modern Age

  A  long time ago, before radio and television, families would sit together and play through popular songs that were available as sheet music. Perhaps dad played piano while the rest of the family harmonized with mom. Or brother and sister played violin to counter mother and fathers' viola and cello.   No TV programs for the family to watch, no radio to listen to. People made "conversation" through reading music together. These things still occur, of course, but with a modern twist. Here at Matt Burk Music Studio we have many students who have siblings, parents, and children taking lessons congruently. This allows for conversations about music between family members that may bring them closer together; they might play songs that they're working on, or at least have someone to talk to about music in general and help with tricky rhythms and melodies. Reading music may seem difficult to grasp, but no matter if you take private piano, drum, voice, guitar, or bass lessons with us, we can teach you to read proficiently! Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!


Metronome: Metro-NOPE!? Keep it Between the Clicks!

CLICK-CLICK-CLICK-CLICK. Every musician knows that feeling. . .  We've completed our weekly assignment at our own pace, keeping in mind everything our instructor talked about, and it went swimmingly! And then it happens; we turn on the metronome and attempt the same result only to find frustration between the clicks. Many students find it to be such a daunting task that they simply do away with it. Worry Not! Developing a sense of rhythm takes time! If we allow ourselves to understand that perfection is not necessary (at least to begin with) and that the click is a must when practicing any exercises or songs, it becomes commonplace. Depending on whether you take private drum, guitar, bass, voice, or piano lessons, you can always find ways to involve the metronome. In my lessons, we use it for warm ups with drums, for counting measures when learning chords for guitar, and following the downbeat when playing bass. I have the metronome on so much that I barely hear it anymore! But when I need to, I can sync up instantly with it because I hear it on a consistent basis. The metronome helps us to "see" whether we are lagging (slowing down) or rushing (speeding up). At first the "feel" of playing with it can be off-putting, especially if the student is a beginner. One thing I can guarantee: if you use it daily, you WILL get better at keeping between the clicks! Keep at it and soon you'll see that it wasn't as big a challenge as you may have previously expected. We here at Matt Burk Music Studio can help you straighten out those rhythms, no matter what the instrument! Matt Burk Music Studio: Learn, Create, Perform!

Getting the Most Out of Lessons

At Matt Burk Music Studio we dream of every student experiencing the joy and passion that comes with expressing themselves in music, learning their craft proficiently and becoming a success in their own right. We want each student to have an exceptional experience with us. There are three elements that contribute heavily towards this goal. When these three elements are working in concert, then the greatest results are achieved!


Ian Osborne coaching voice students at a Jam Session

As teachers, we certainly play a key role in each student’s overall success. One of our primary goals is to listen carefully to find what inspires and motivates the student, and then customize a lesson plan with that in mind. We use a lot of encouragement and positive reinforcement in the teaching process. Our purpose is to help students achieve their unique goals in music. Our teachers work with each student to customize lessons and a practice plan that will work with their specific goals, interests and schedules.


Collin playing lead guitar at a student Jam Session

Each week, students spend a relatively short amount of time in lessons – typically either 30 minutes or 60 minutes in one-on-one lessons with their teacher. As such, the majority of the progress a student sees will typically take place at home, between lessons. What happens at home is one of the biggest factors that determines a student’s progress. With this in mind, our teachers work with students very specifically to understand how much practice time you can realistically commit to each week. Then they will work with you and structure lessons accordingly. We do not have any set amount of practice time that we expect, but rather understand that each student’s schedule is different, and work from there. It is important to keep in mind that often times, if practicing is not a scheduled part of the student’s week, then it simply doesn’t happen.


Parental involvement is also a very important element in the student’s musical journey. Our desire is to keep the parents informed about what is happening in lessons, and to keep the lines of communication open at all times. The more information that we receive from parents (and students), the better. If the student’s musical interests have changed, or they need some different inspiration, or they would like to further explore another aspect of music (e.g., songwriting, improvisation, etc.), or whatever it might be - we would love to know that, so we can adjust lessons accordingly. So communication is key with us. We want to make sure that we continue to meet each and every student where they are.

Parents often ask us what they can do to best support the learning process.

A grandma taking picture of her granddaughters after performing at House of Blues Dallas.

Parents also play a huge role at home. The support a student receives at home is critically important in the overall success of lessons. In order for the student to get the most out of lessons, the parents need to be involved in a positive, encouraging manner. Some students thrive with more parental involvement and some students thrive with less. We know that you know your child best, and as such, we generally defer to you in this area. However, from time-to-time, we may make suggestions and ask you to help us by trying different approaches (e.g., being more or less actively involved in lessons or practice) as a part of our teaching process.

Australian musician, music teacher and author, Philip Johnston, in his renowned book, “The Practice Revolution” put together a list of seven key things that parents can do to support their child in the learning process. Below are those keys, along with some quotes from Johnston’s book. We have also included some of our own comments - based on our personal experiences with students of Matt Burk Music Studio.

1. Be interested.

“The single best thing parents can do to help their child practice is to be genuinely interested in what’s going on with their music lessons. To be hungry to find out what happened in the last lesson, and how their child plans on being ready for the next one.”

We know you have an interest in your child’s music lessons, or you wouldn’t be willing to invest your time and money in this process! Even still, we wanted to be sure you’re aware that questions about what song your child is working on, what made them choose that song, which scale they like or dislike the most, where they are struggling, where they are excelling, or what song they want to learn next, can have a tremendous impact on the student’s progress and overall excitement about music lessons. Whether you are a professional musician or have no musical experience whatsoever, your interest in your child’s learning process is extremely valuable!

2. Encourage.

Parents don’t need to be gushing over every correct quarter note, but calculated positive feedback from parents is a great way of reinforcing behavior.”

The best way to encourage your child, is to be well informed about what goals are being set for them to accomplish each week. The more you know about the specifics of the lessons, the more targeted you can be in your encouragement. In order to get you as much information about lessons as possible, we talk to parents at the end of every lesson (assuming you are available), and we also send home a practice and progress form each week. The practice and progress form will include information about the student’s strengths as well as specific practice instructions and goals for the week. And remember – your child’s instructor will work to strengthen their skills and correct their weaknesses. So we encourage parents to really focus on the positives!

3. Reflect.

Parents can ensure that the communication between studio and home is complete by having the student reflect back to them the essential information for the week ahead.”

It is of critical importance that when students leave the studio they have a clear understanding of what their practice goals are for the week. This is important since the vast majority of progress takes place during the week, in-between lessons. By having the teacher, student, and parents, on the same page and with the same expectations, it greatly increases the success of lessons.

4. Steer.

Even when kids are completely clear on what their goals are for the week, and have a comprehensive list of practice techniques to use to pursue those goals, they can sometimes be confused as to how to organize it all.”

Often times students can be a little overwhelmed as to how to properly manage their practice goals for the week. You as parents can play a helpful role in your child effectively practicing by working with them to plan out a “roadmap” for the week as to what should be accomplished first, second, third, and so on. For example if you hear your child playing through a part of a song, for an extensive period of time, that they feel comfortable with, then you can steer them to spend some time on a section that they need more work on. This is just one of many scenarios where you as parents can steer you child in the right direction for practicing.

5. Enthuse.

While praise can be useful for reinforcing what a student is already doing, being enthusiastic can help motivate students to be excited about things they haven’t even started yet - affecting practice sessions that may not take place for months, or even years.”

Often times students only see what is directly before them. It’s important for them to sometimes “look up” and see what’s down the road if they continue pursing music. It’s easy for any of us to lose traction or motivation if we don’t have a vision for what’s to come. As parents, you can help provide that much needed vision for your child by mentioning songs that they would love to be able to play one day, but aren’t quite ready for yet. It’s an important part of the process to be “hungry” for things yet to come. You can also really influence them to take advantage of our exciting performance opportunities! This enthusiasm can really instill a sense of purpose and drive that students need. It’s all about encouragement and inspiration!

6. Progress checks.

One of the best ways to assess progress is with a couple of well-spaced midweekcheckpoints,” and the parent is the perfect audience for the student to show off their work so far to.”

As we all know, the week has a way of flying by. Mid-week check-ups are a great way to assess what has been accomplished up to that point, and then to plan out the rest of the week. These “checkpoints” are not necessarily designed to assess how much practicing has been done but rather the way practicing has been done. The success of practicing should not be measured in the amount of time spent, but rather in progress made. Simply put, a student can accomplish more in 10 minutes of correct practicing, than in 30 minutes of incorrect practicing. We’re not interested in students racking up huge practice numbers, but rather accomplishing specific goals. Your teacher can help shed more light on this subject.

7. Knowing when not to help.

Sometimes the best help is not to help at all. Some students work best when they are given room to move, and will actively resent parents leaping in with solutions for every practice problem they face. As students become more autonomous with their practice, the parental involvement model moves gently from helping regularly to simply being available should the student need it.”

This, of course, is a very subjective issue. As parents, you know your child better than anyone. This is a process that only you and your child will be able to monitor, but we wanted be sure you’re aware that it can be an important factor in a student’s progress.

A final note – please talk with us!

Lastly, we want to reiterate the importance of an open line of communication with us. As your child communicates their likes, dislikes, concerns, passions, etc. with you, please share that information with us! We want the lines of communication to always be open between our instructors and our students and our parents. Please do not assume that your child is communicating as openly with us as they do with you. We truly want each student to have an exceptional experience with us. As such, we really want to know how to best connect with them, so please keep us in the loop as lessons progress!

This article is a part of a notebook that what we give to all new students who join our studio. We teach private lessons for piano, guitar, drums, bass, voice, songwriting and audio production at our Studio in Allen, Texas. You can check out this video to get a glimpse of what makes our Studio unique! If you have questions about lessons with us, be sure to check out the rest of our website, email us, or call us at 972.207.9353, and we'll be happy to help you!

The Correct Practicing Method

We are the premier studio for north Dallas, McKinney, Plano, Frisco, and Allen, TX. We have an arsenal of wonderful instructors teaching piano, voice, guitar, bass, and drums lessons. At Matt Burk Music Studio, we tailor each lesson plan to fit the unique needs of our students and strive to pass on to each student a practical, fun way to learn and play music. Do you wanna learn music? Heed these 10 Practicing Techniques!

Play By Ear?

Matt Burk Music Studio offers music theory lessons to each of our students. From the basics of the bass clefs and treble clefs to creating harmonies and rhythms, whatever your skill level, we can help you take your musical gift to the next step!

The Bass: Instrument Selection, Part 1

Matt Burk Music Studio explains the basics in choosing the right bass guitar body. Bass lessons are offered at Matt Burk Studio. Schedule an interview to answer all your burning questions today!

New {FREE!} Video Series

One of the fun new things we're working on this year at Matt Burk Music Studio is a new YouTube video series with videos teaching you how to play some popular songs! The first one that we've put together is of Matt teaching the intro to the popular Colplay song, "Clocks" on the piano. Check it out!

And as always, if you have an interest in learning to play piano, drums, bass, or guitar, or learning to improve your singing voice (and you're in the Allen, Fairview, Lucas, McKinney, Plano or Frisco areas) we'd love to help! Check out the Lessons page of our website to read more about our instructors, or the Get Started page to set up an interview or to enroll!