The ToneWay® Project: helping people play music

You've Got What It Takes... We All Do

Whenever I’m at a party or other non-musical gathering of people, it seems like I always get into a conversation about music education. The ubiquitous icebreaker question: “So… what do you do?” leads to an explanation of the work I’m doing with the ToneWay Project—which, for those of you who don’t know, is our family's decade-long effort to make music accessible to anyone who wants to play, using stringed instruments and mountain music as a foundation. Anyway, what comes next is usually hearing about their take on music-making. And after scores of these conversations, I’ve noticed some interesting patterns.

First of all, it is a rare person indeed who doesn’t have a hunger to play music. They won’t always tell you directly, but you can see it in the way they idolize their friend or relative who plays this or that instrument.

On the other hand, most people have discounted music-making as an option for themselves. Many feel they just don’t have the talent. Others were discouraged by a frustrating experience in the past where music was not fun. They still envy those who can play, but they conclude that, for one reason or another, they just don’t have what it takes.

As a music teacher, this is frustrating. After witnessing firsthand the musical growth of hundreds of students in our beginner classes, I have seen that pretty much everyone has what it takes. People with a complete lack of musical talent or experience, people who start out without the ability to sing on pitch, people with other, non-musical disabilities… folks from all these categories have discovered that music-making is within their grasp. Even the tone-deaf ones, who discover they were never really tone-deaf, only inexperienced.

The extent to which people underestimate their musical potential is staggering. I suspect this is partly because music seems very mysterious to an outsider; it’s hard to understand, so it must be hard to do, right? Nope. It’s easy to get started… and, it turns out that understanding the process is not important when it comes to enjoying what you’re doing. All you have to do is jump in!

I have come to the conclusion that the only critical requirement is motivation. If someone has the desire to play, all other obstacles can be overcome. Not everyone is going to become a fantastic musician, of course. Butanyone can learn enough to start playing with others, and to have fun doing it!

Our job is to make it easy for folks to get started. This is why we decided to put all this “Get Started” video instruction up for free on the web site. We want to reduce the barriers to music-making as much as possible. And so far, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many folks surprised at how simple music-making can be when you boil it down to the essentials!

But one barrier remains: convincing a beginner that it’s worth a shot. So, I encourage you to check out our free video series (especially if you're a beginner) and, if you like what you see, suggest it to a friend of yours who might be interested in picking up an instrument. Better yet, go through the lessons with your friend. Make sure they know it’s a no-talent/experience/understanding-required course!

Luke Abbott


I just rec'd my book and CD today and I am totally stumped! lol I think I would do better with a group to help me out. How do I find out if there are any of the TONE WAY groups in my area?


Got it! Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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