The Pathway To Musical Expertise


 “Genius! For thirty-seven years I have practised fourteen hours a day, and now they call me a genius.” – Pablo de Sarasate

How long does it take to become an expert? Daniel Levitin says “The emerging picture is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert (at anything)”. 10 000 hours of practice amounts to two hours and forty-five minutes of practice per day, every day, for ten years. Daniel Coyle says, “The true expertise of a genius is in their ability to practise obsessively”. Geoffrey Colvin endorses this theme. “The conventional wisdom on natural talent is a myth; the real path to great performance is a matter of choice”. Listen to experts in our society. They explain their achievement in terms of their sense of curiosity as well as their struggle, determination, perseverance, doggedness, self-discipline, and hard work.

Thou, O God, who sellest us all good things at the price of labour. – Leonardo da Vinci

Experts who have invested fewer than 10 000 hours are proving difficult to find, and in some disciplines, notably the virtuosic stage of the concert pianist and violinist, the hours required for international expertise are significantly more than ten thousand. The unique physical requirements of these instruments seem to demand more practice hours than most other instruments.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell cites examples of successful people who accumulated 10 000 hours in their formative years. His stories serve to encourage students to work hard to realize their aspirations. We want children to believe in their ability to improve through regular training for a sustained period of time. Thomas Carlyle said, “Genius is the infinite capacity to take pains.” The pathway to expertise, however, requires too much commitment for most people. If it were easy, there would be many more experts. For those who are prepared to endure Carlyle’s “pain,” distinction is possible. I like to read biographies of great achievers, and musicians in particular. What most interests me is their practice habits, level of family and community support, and early opportunities.

from ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’ by Michael Griffin

“A must read for all music educators” – Robert Adams, New Haven, USA.

“Fantastic book, simply brilliant! – Ian Cooper, Norfolk, UK

“Rarely do I come away feeling so inspired. Incredibly beneficial.” – Music Matters Blog

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“Most stimulating!” – Nicholas Carpenter, Prebendal, UK

“A must buy for every music teacher and music student” – William Bruce, Teacher of Strings, UK.

“Deeply impressive, the breadth of research is fascinating!” – Robert Chamberlain, Team of Pianists and Monash University Piano Staff, Victoria Australia.

“Awesome! I want to recommend it to every teacher I know” – Michael Williamson, Australia

“I have read your book and it has made an amazing difference in my teaching and in my studio.” Beth Cruickshank, Past President – Ontario Registered Music Teachers Association.

Also by Michael Griffin

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‘Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs’

Second edition. Bumblebee! is more than just a wonderfucollection of 130 choir exercises and rounds. The author shares timeless wisdom to help you get your choir – primary or secondary – into shape.
View Table of Contents.

“This is really good for all kinds of vocal groups, choirs, conductors. Bravo!!”

“The thinking person’s guide to training a choir. Love it!”

“It’s great to have some fresh warm-ups to add to the repertory. The tips for actions and techniques are really useful, and the advice at the back of the book has made me review some of my strategies.”

harmony bk cover

Modern Harmony Method: Fundamentals of Jazz and Popular Harmony (Third Edition, 2013) is a clear and well organised text suitable for students of arranging and composition, and for classically trained musicians wishing to grasp the beautiful logic of jazz harmony. Essential understandings include chord selection, voicing, symbols, circle of 4th progressions, extensions, suspensions and alterations. Included in the 107 pages are explanations, examples, exercises and solutions. The course can be started with students in year 9 and worked through to year 12 musicianship, composing and arranging. Available at


Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Fundamentals of Notation is a unit of work for general music middle school classes. Designed around the mastering of practical skills, it integrates theory, aural and history, and allows students to progress at their own rate. View Table of Contents. “This has been a great buy; the books are just superb! Interesting topics with a wide range of pieces. Great content with clear progression of learning. Fascinating teaching philosophy! BRAVO!” -The Grieg Academy, London. Available at

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Music and Keyboard in the Classroom: Let’s Get Creative! is the fun and creative extension to ‘Fundamentals of Notation’.

View Table of Contents. “We have been using your keyboard course and the results have been amazing!” – St George College, Australia

Available at


Public speaker, music education trainer, conductor and pianist. Author of 'Learning Strategies for Musical Success', 'Bumblebee: Rounds & Warm-ups for Choirs', and 'Modern Harmony Method'.

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