About

About

A “Master Composer”

Long ago, the Boston Globe tagged me a “master composer” for my work with my band The Indigo Invention Group. Since working with that group and Boston’s Jazz Composer’s Alliance, I have written music for choreographers, theater directors, and television producers. I thrive on collaboration, able to write in pretty much any style and sound palette you throw at me. My work composing scores for documentaries and animation can be heard on networks like Discovery, Nat Geo, History and PBS. My original scores for Portland Stage’s productions of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Snow Queen” live in their archives along with live production footage. I’ve also live-scored hundreds of short-form improvisation theater and educational performances. I love to compose, improvise, and collaborate. And I’ve done it a lot.

Deep Teaching Experience

I also love to teach. Inspired by Kodaly pedagogy while doing a graduate degree at the New England Conservatory, I went on to teach elementary and middle school general music in the Cambridge Public Schools while also developing an audience for the Indigo Invention Group in the early 2000’s. That’s when I also cut my teeth underscoring for live comedy at Improv Boston, which, under the direction of Will Luera granted the Indigo Invention group a monthly residency at their old Cambridge Street address. Amidst all this, I earned level 2 certification in Kodaly pedagogy, which became the cornerstone of my work with children at the Cambridgeport School.

Teaching Private, Elementary, Middle, College, and Graduate School

When I moved to Portland, Maine in 2006, one of my kids was 2 and the other was in utero. I began composing for television and movie scores while also teaching at Portland’s Friends School and later the Breakwater School. Here, too, I applied my zeal for composing with a solid foundation in teaching so that I could share with kids not only the imagination of creating original work, but also the ear-skills to bring them to life. I taught camps at Portland Stage’s Theater for Kids while also composing and music directing for some of their premier productions. I also taught private lessons through this period and eventually found myself teaching one of Dan Sonenberg‘s triplet sons. Dan was kind enough to urge me to apply for an open music theory and ear training position at the school of music at the University of Southern Maine. I’ve been there since 2015.

Weekend Code Warrior

Through all of this, I’ve tinkered with code. I’ve imagined creating games for people to experience music in a way that improves their music skills. Uncertain of what these might be and lacking funds or business savvy enough to raise money to hire a software and design team, I taught myself how to program for iOS. I made one game (Bubble Tones – now kaput) and have since gone on to create Tone Hole.

 

Focus On Play And Joy in Music

Teaching elementary school rooted my thinking in creating games that engage learners with singing and connecting to music literacy. Composing for media collaborations awakens my zeal for making special moments come to life in performance. Teaching college ear training re-affirms my devotion to pointing students to their true voice and giving them the tools to bring it to life. And as I lean back from all this pedagogy and performance, I yearn to create something new: ways for anyone – ANYONE – to develop their own musical voice; vehicles for music students and music fans alike to get deep inside tones evolving through time; methods for people to interact with music and hear melody in unusual and intimate new ways.

 

Every day, I wake up and seek to share these experiences to YOU. That’s why I’ve made Tone Hole. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it brightens your ears to all the other kinds of music you adore.

What is Tone Hole, Really?

I made Tone Hole so you could train your musical ear by playing a simple game, a game that plays like music.  You hear a tone and then match it to another that sounds the same.  You play in real time, just like playing music; you make an effort to play rhythmically, just like real music; and you aim toward playing fluently – or automatically – just like real music.  For the last two decades, I’ve taught classroom music in elementary and middle schools, and music theory, ear training, music education, and jazz at the college level.  Much of what I’ve learned and taught are distilled into Tone Hole.

Real Time: Just Like Real Music!

Tone Hole plays in real time, just like real music.  While other ear training apps isolate quiz items into stand-alone questions outside a musical flow, when you play Tone Hole, you find yourself playing music, where each question follows the next seamlessly.  Truly playing by ear means hearing the music in your mind, knowing what note to play, and then playing it.  With Tone Hole, you hear the note, know it, and then you play it so that the music can continue.

Play Steady: Get in the Flow!

Tone Hole rewards you for playing with a steady rhythm, even if it’s super slow.  Tone Hole reinforces rhythmicity and allows you to set your own tempo as you play.  You can slow down and speed up as you wish! 

When you are playing confidently, you will notice that it is possible to keep the tones playing in a steady pulse.  Tone Hole knows how long it takes you to place a tone and sends you the next one based on that time.  You control the speed and get rewarded for how steadily you play.   
Try playing super slow and steady.  Notice how a sense of ease and flow settle in as you do this.

Speedy? Anchor your fluency!

Tone Hole also rewards you for going fast! You want to We want music learners to name notes instantaneously, without thinking. Therefore, Tone Hole builds in rewards you for fluency.  The best players will do so with both a quick tempo and steady rhythm.  
This is automaticity: where doing something becomes effortless, almost subconscious. That’s where you want your ear understanding to be: clear as a bell, quick as a whistle.

Warm-Up. Practice. Challenge!

Tone Hole levels are organized into Three kinds of levels to guide you to ear expertise: warm-up, practice, and challenge. In warm-up levels, you match tones using both color and sound, getting the key in your ear and giving you practice with rhythm and speed. Practice levels eliminate the color cues, putting your attention on tone. Challenge levels get you to fully internalize the sounds by silencing your tones.  These different levels give you alternating periods of relaxation and concentration, which optimizes your learning.

Difficulty Increases Gradually: Ear Expertise Secured!

As you ascend through warm-up, practice, and challenge, you’ll also face gradually more complex game boards.  You begin distinguishing do from re, and before long incorporate mi, first as a neighbor to re, and then as a skip above do.  As you meet new tones, you’ll notice lines connecting some of them. These connector lines tell you which tones can follow which. This is a key feature of Tone Hole (and other effective ear pedagogies): you limit your answer options so you can master what you face before moving on. 
Like good physical exercise, you need to master one level before you move to the next. If you lift a heavy weight before you are ready, you will not progress, and you might even injure yourself.  But if you stay with the right weight until it is easy to lift and you can do so confidently with excellent form and control, your graduation to a heavy weight will be worth the… wait. 
Fortunately, you will not injure yourself playing Tone Hole! And if you stay with one level until you are absolutely flying, your ear will keep solidifying and solidifying until moving to the next level feels absolutely natural.

Immediately Learn From Your Mistakes

Most other ear training apps tell you if you are wrong or right, but they don’t let you correct and compare your answer to the right one.  Tone Hole gives you fun ways to check your guesses and still succeed even if you are wrong at first.  Why?  It is in this moment of comparison that your brain absorbs the true flavor of each tone. This is when the learning happens!
Tone Hole gives you an air-tight feedback loop so that every move strengthens your ear, whether you are right or not.

Repetition Strengthens Your Ear

Like good physical exercise, ear training demands repetitions.  You need to make your current abilities fluent before you move to the next level.  So you want to stick with one thing for a while before moving on. That is why you are rewarded for steadiness and speed. Stay with one level until it is EASY and you can play steady and fast.  In the meantime, you will be accumulating repetitions of known material to the point where you have it mastered.

Solfege Connects the Dots

Solfege (“Sol-fa” or “sofa”) is a centuries old system of associating notes in the musical scale to short words: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, and so on. By singing and naming notes using this system, you refine your sense of something truly magical: each tone in the scale has its own quality, or flavor.  Each tone has its own personality, and before you know it, each one will feel like an old friend.

Research Made Actionable

Trains your ear using the most up-to-date research out of the top music conservatories in the U.S.
We used to learn ear training by memorizing each interval (the distance between two notes) and then naming them or singing them outside of a “tonal context”. That means that you might encounter several intervals that aren’t even in the same key, but now we know that this is counterproductive.  Now we focus on the sound of each scale step using solfege.  Just like in playing actual music, we don’t need to know the interval between notes. We need to know what notes we’re hearing!

Technical Terms Be Gone!

Get the sound in you before grappling with fancy vocabulary and symbols.  Just seven simple words: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti.
Tone Hole doesn’t teach you music theory and doesn’t concern itself with the names of chords, key signatures, or any of that stuff. Valuable as all that is (and it is very valuable), there is a disconnect between knowing what you hear and mapping it all those terms. (I’m not even going to use them here!). Trying to remember nomenclature can make you think more than you want to when developing your ear. You want to perceive and know with the simplest mechanism possible to check if you are right.  Not music theory. Music knowing. Music feeling.

3 Ways to Score!

Tone: Place the tones correctly
Rhythm: Place them with a steady beat

Speed: Place them fast!
I made Tone Hole so you could train your musical ear by playing a simple game, a game that plays like music.  You hear a tone and then match it to another that sounds the same.  You play in real time, just like playing music; you make an effort to play rhythmically, just like real music; and you aim toward playing fluently – or automatically – just like real music.  For the last two decades, I’ve taught classroom music in elementary and middle schools, and music theory, ear training, music education, and jazz at the college level.  Much of what I’ve learned and taught are distilled into Tone Hole.

Real Time: Just Like Real Music!

Tone Hole plays in real time, just like real music.  While other ear training apps isolate quiz items into stand-alone questions outside a musical flow, when you play Tone Hole, you find yourself playing music, where each question follows the next seamlessly.  Truly playing by ear means hearing the music in your mind, knowing what note to play, and then playing it.  With Tone Hole, you hear the note, know it, and then you play it so that the music can continue.

Play Steady: Get in the Flow!

Tone Hole rewards you for playing with a steady rhythm, even if it’s super slow.  Tone Hole reinforces rhythmicity and allows you to set your own tempo as you play.  You can slow down and speed up as you wish! 
When you are playing confidently, you will notice that it is possible to keep the tones playing in a steady pulse.  Tone Hole knows how long it takes you to place a tone and sends you the next one based on that time.  You control the speed and get rewarded for how steadily you play.   
Try playing super slow and steady.  Notice how a sense of ease and flow settle in as you do this.

Speedy? Anchor your fluency!

Tone Hole also rewards you for going fast! You want to We want music learners to name notes instantaneously, without thinking. Therefore, Tone Hole builds in rewards you for fluency.  The best players will do so with both a quick tempo and steady rhythm.  
This is automaticity: where doing something becomes effortless, almost subconscious. That’s where you want your ear understanding to be: clear as a bell, quick as a whistle.

Warm-Up. Practice. Challenge!

Tone Hole levels are organized into Three kinds of levels to guide you to ear expertise: warm-up, practice, and challenge. In warm-up levels, you match tones using both color and sound, getting the key in your ear and giving you practice with rhythm and speed. Practice levels eliminate the color cues, putting your attention on tone. Challenge levels get you to fully internalize the sounds by silencing your tones.  These different levels give you alternating periods of relaxation and concentration, which optimizes your learning.

Difficulty Increases Gradually: Ear Expertise Secured!

As you ascend through warm-up, practice, and challenge, you’ll also face gradually more complex game boards.  You begin distinguishing do from re, and before long incorporate mi, first as a neighbor to re, and then as a skip above do.  As you meet new tones, you’ll notice lines connecting some of them. These connector lines tell you which tones can follow which. This is a key feature of Tone Hole (and other effective ear pedagogies): you limit your answer options so you can master what you face before moving on. 
Like good physical exercise, you need to master one level before you move to the next. If you lift a heavy weight before you are ready, you will not progress, and you might even injure yourself.  But if you stay with the right weight until it is easy to lift and you can do so confidently with excellent form and control, your graduation to a heavy weight will be worth the… wait. 
Fortunately, you will not injure yourself playing Tone Hole. And if you stay with one level until you are absolutely flying, your ear will keep solidifying and solidifying until moving to the next level feels absolutely natural.

Immediately Learn From Your Mistakes

Most other ear training apps tell you if you are wrong or right, but they don’t let you correct and compare your answer to the right one.  Tone Hole gives you fun ways to check your guesses and still succeed even if you are wrong at first.  Why?  It is in this moment of comparison that your brain absorbs the true flavor of each tone. This is when the learning happens!
Tone Hole gives you an air-tight feedback loop so that every move strengthens your ear, whether you are right or not.

Repetition Strengthens Your Ear

Like good physical exercise, ear training demands repetitions.  You need to make your current abilities fluent before you move to the next level.  So you want to stick with one thing for a while before moving on. That is why you are rewarded for steadiness and speed. Stay with one level until it is EASY and you can play steady and fast.  In the meantime, you will be accumulating repetitions of known material to the point where you have it mastered.

Solfege Connects the Dots

Solfege (“Sol-fa” or “sofa”) is a centuries old system of associating notes in the musical scale to short words: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, and so on. By singing and naming notes using this system, you refine your sense of something truly magical: each tone in the scale has its own quality, or flavor.  Each tone has its own personality, and before you know it, each one will feel like an old friend.

Research Made Actionable

Trains your ear using the most up-to-date research out of the top music conservatories in the U.S.
We used to learn ear training by memorizing each interval (the distance between two notes) and then naming them or singing them outside of a “tonal context”. That means that you might encounter several intervals that aren’t even in the same key, but now we know that this is counterproductive.  Now we focus on the sound of each scale step using solfege.  Just like in playing actual music, we don’t need to know the interval between notes. We need to know what notes we’re hearing!

Technical Terms Be Gone!

Get the sound in you before grappling with fancy vocabulary and symbols.  Just seven simple words: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti.
Tone Hole doesn’t teach you music theory and doesn’t concern itself with the names of chords, key signatures, or any of that stuff. Valuable as all that is (and it is very valuable), there is a disconnect between knowing what you hear and mapping it all those terms. (I’m not even going to use them here!). Trying to remember nomenclature can make you think more than you want to when developing your ear. You want to perceive and know with the simplest mechanism possible to check if you are right.  Not music theory. Music knowing. Music feeling.

3 Ways to Score!

Tone: Place the tones correctly
Rhythm: Place them with a steady beat
Speed: Place them fast!