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Welcome to Larry McDonald Guitar Studio

Located at Hartland Music/Waukesha County Conservatory of Music



Royal Conservatory of Music Certified Teacher

Nov. 1, 2015  



The Royal Conservatory of Music has seen fit to designate me as an Advanced Guitar Specialist, as well as an Advanced Music Theory Specialist.  


I sure fooled them!  Just kidding, it is a real honor to be so identified.  This doesn't mean that I will discontinue taking beginners. I enjoy teaching beginners of all ages and I look forward to our lessons.  I really do.




March 17, 2015



The 6th printing of The Conservatory Tutor Vol.1 is done and shipping!  Not too much was changed in the editing process, but there were several typos that needed to be fixed.   -Lare



November 7, 2014




Beginning next week, I will be updating my guitar method, The Conservatory Tutor, Vol's 1 & 2 (the text exists in MicroSoft Publisher format so editing is easy).  I'm thinking that I will be including more arpeggio practice in the early lessons since the one I have is so popular with students.  I am also seriously considering removing the miniscule anthology at the end of Vol.2 since most students cant wait to move on to "Not-Larry-Music".  What do you think? If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to let me know.


November 6, 2014


Here is a copy of a letter I wrote to for a topic called "Ballistic Motion" (I am one of the instructors there).  Folks in the past have asked me to post these things, so here is the first.



Luis_Br wrote:I agree fast muscle on/off, contraction/relaxation, is an important practice. But on the whole motion, I recall the slow RH videos topic so everybody can clearly see Barrueco and several other major concert players consciously extending knuckle up and not simply releasing them. I have no words against an image (or video)...

Good morning Luis_Br,

And right you are.
After watching all those slow-motion videos, I needed to revise my conclusions regarding flexion in the right-hand. As you say, Luis, observing the masters extending the knuckle (MCP) joints, while flexing the middle (PIP) joints and tip (DIP) joints is obvious, and undeniable. Hats off to guit-box for all that work. 

This is my thinking at this time. I'm sorry Kevin C., you are not going to like this -but we've disagreed before in a gentlemanly and scholarly way, haven't we?

When we were beginners, we were taught that the right-hand fingers should follow through into the palm. I still believe to be sound mechanics. This is the famous "grasping" motion from the digitorum profundis and superficialis flexor muscles in the forearm that we've read about for decades, complete with discussions regarding agonist and antagonist muscles ie;, flexors and extensors. 

I began to have misgivings about this model after Kent Murdick observed that the extensor tendons in the back of the hand were not engaged in advanced players. Hmm, if there is no extensor activity, then some other force is at work to pull the fingers out of the palm. For several years, I thought this to be gravity, but the slow-motion videos show otherwise.

I have often suspected that as the student gains sensitivity, they can begin to transfer the flexing impulses from the profundis muscles in the arm to the muscles that are intrinsic to the hand. I've thought for years that the lumbricals (and interossei) muscles had a role, but I wasn't quite sure what that role was. I think I understand better today.

Try this. "Point" with the index finger, and then flex its knuckle (MCP) and draw and hold the now straight index finger to touch the thumb pad/flesh (opposite the nail). This is the lumbrical muscle at work. See 1:07 in this video. Now release that tension and observe. The knuckle (MCP) joint extends and the middle (PIP) joint and the tip (DIP) joints flex, exactly as shown in the slow-motion videos! 

From wiki... "The lumbrical muscles, with the help of the interosseous muscles, simultaneously flex the metacarpophalangeal joints while extending both interphalangeal joints of the digit on which it inserts...".

So, my theory is that we are observing the RELAXATION (emptying of tension) of the lumbricals and interossei in the slow motion videos, AFTER they flexed to supply the force needed for the finger to displace the string.

Ok, so what.

Well, as teachers, I believe we need to get the student's hands in a position (no clawing) that allows and encourages this sense of refined sensitivity in beginners. I am unsure if we can do any more than this. Perhaps we just need to then be patient and let the student's body discover this easier, more efficient way to play. Also, as recent research demonstrates, those newly activated muscles in the hand can actually grow new fast-twitch (and super-fast-twitch) muscle fiber bundles, even in older adults. 

For the original poster, this is the ballistic motion I am encouraging in my "Release Exercise" post on my website.

All the best,
Dr. Lawrence A. McDonald, D.M.A., Art Kaplan Fellow
Author of The Conservatory Tutor for Guitar
2008 Michael Thames Cd/Br
7'6" St. Croix Legend Elite Fly Rod




August 17, 2014


Thanks to vereyone who came to my book signing at The Sharon Lynn Wislon Guitar Festival on August 14-16.  One friend even brought a 2006 first edition, all the way from the East Coast!


August 1, 2014



Welcome to my new website.  This is the place where I post articles and free sheet music for my students, interns, and fellow instructors.  You can find links to these items on the lower left side of this page.


This is also the place where you can purchase my method book, The Conservatory Tutor, and pay for lessons.  As a service to my students, I will soon have some commercial products listed as well; these would be my recommendations for books, strings/accessories, and guitars.


If you wish to contact me, you can do so by clicking the "Feedback" tab at the bottom of this page.  I welcome all criticisms/suggestions. 


All the best,


PS.  What'ya think of my Rock 'n Roll pic's in the banner?  Here is a video of Summerfest from 2011.

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