About Sound Formation

A Revolutionary Music Education Movement


Curtis Madigan, Sound Formation Founder & CEO

Curtis Madigan created The Sound Formation Method™ (SFM) after growing up performing with numerous groups and luminaries and studying with University of Iowa guitar faculty Steve Grismore, then attending Berklee College of Music on a guitar performance scholarship and realizing that there was still a huge gap in his music education. In speaking with his peers that studied at Berklee, New England Conservatory, USC, Julliard, Musicians Institute, and other top schools, Madigan knew that many high-level musicians felt the same. After graduating Madigan studied Liangong and other internal martial arts before returning to music to develop his theory of rhythm and groundbreaking method.


Curtis Madigan’s innovative theory of rhythm heralds the arrival of an entirely new paradigm for music education. In my twenty years of evaluating arts programs across America, the Sound Formation Method is the most exciting and promising music step-by-step learning system I have seen. It capitalizes on the natural integration of music and mathematics and catapults student learning in both subject areas. Fortunate are the students who have access to this program! This is the future of music education.  – Lynn Waldorf, PhD, Arts & Education Consultant

What is the Sound Formation Method?


The Sound Formation Method™ is a landmark method that contains a tremendous amount of information not found anywhere else. Method means “1. a body of skills and techniques 2. a discipline that deals with principles and techniques of scientific inquiry 3. orderly arrangement, development, and classifications” (Merriam-Webster). The SFM is rooted in explicit science, deals with many principles of music that are not taught elsewhere, and contains highly structured and gradated material in eight levels that develop the absolute novice to the highest levels of mastery. The SFM is being studied both by young children and top-tier professionals and contains: 

#1 A global movement in music education that includes a comprehensive theory of rhythm. This theory is unlike anything ever seen before and works for all genres, all instruments, and all levels from beginner to the highest level of professional musicians whether performers, arrangers, producers, conductors, or musical directors. It is being adopted by top institutions and musicians worldwide. The unique theory Madigan has pioneered is as vast and comprehensive as learning traditional music theory. The Rhythm Compass™ (RC) is part of learning this language of rhythm. It contains precise tools and evaluation systems for assessing and developing rhythmic proficiency on the instrument/voice, in ear training, and in sight reading. Madigan’s rhythm theory enables the student to practice mentally and off of their instrument in any location.

#2 Extremely specific and detailed tools for learning the physicality of feel in music. Traditionally believed to be unteachable as an either “you have it or you don’t.” This includes rhythmic perception abilities like how to discern the characteristics of different parts of the rhythmic cycle, entrainment techniques for superior ensemble cohesion, and movement mechanics for greatly enhancing technical ability. Madigan has trained extensively in Liangong and understands how to prevent and alleviate many types of movement injuries. The types of movement learned in the SFM are integrative within instrumental study and is not separated into dancing or walking/stomping which gets away from the deep internal perception in the body’s motor nervous system that does not require external movement to perceive and sense the distinct emotional characteristics of the rhythmic cycles. The SFM emphasizes the connective aspects of rhythmic timing which leads to incredible ensemble cohesion – a level of unification that is exceedingly rare.

#3 Prevent music performance injuries and enhance technique. According to one study, out of 377 professional musicians surveyed 84% of them had experienced pain or injuries that had interfered with playing their instrument. This can be prevented and eliminated through the understanding of proper biomechanics, alignment, stress reduction, increasing playfulness/creativity, and simple corrective exercises. Developing proper and superior movement on your instrument should occur during your studies and this is exactly what happens in The Sound Formation Method™. There are only a couple systems that deal with movement on musical instruments in detail and none are as explicit, scientific, integrative, precise, and geared towards dramatically enhancing instrumental technique/chops as in the SFM. Additionally, the SFM emphasizes the elimination of stress in music education and increasing creativity, joy, and fun. Check out this page for more information.

#4 A Whole Brain Approach to Learning. Text and music notation are both symbolic in nature and are usually processed predominantly by the left hemisphere. This is great for a particular yet small population of students. However, in order to truly comprehend and master rhythm, its nature and principles must be grasped and this requires a visual-spatial system. This is why The Rhythm Compass™ is an essential tool for both understanding and practicing rhythm. The RC allows right brain “chunking” of large amounts of information all at once. This is a huge advantage for learners that are divergent thinkers, dyslexic, or otherwise visual-spatially inclined. Madigan has seen that while notation is absolutely essential, the RC allows for intuitive processing and comprehension of rhythmic information. It also allows for bandmates to discuss rhythmic concepts whether basic or advanced in an effortless and concise way. The Sound Formation Method™ has been proven however to increase rhythmic sight reading abilities in music notation.

Beyond the incredible amount of rhythmic information, Madigan brings exciting curricula ripe with games, playful exercises to allow students to assimilate information without realizing it, and ways of teaching tonal music theory that are deeply rooted in musical feel and emotion.

How to Study The Sound Formation Method™

If you’re an individual looking to start or continue your journey learning music you can find a Sound Formation Certified Teacher. We teach online lessons and in-person lessons. If you’re a private lesson music teacher and want to study and teach the system visit our Teacher Certifications page. For teachers in K-16 that would like to become certified visit this page. We offer many virtual enrichment classes and if you’re in the Denver area we offer numerous after-school classes and summer programs. If you’re looking to greatly enhance your movement on and off the instrument visit here. Masterclasses with Curtis Madigan for colleges and universities can be booked by visiting the masterclasses page.


“Curtis Madigan’s courses are truly special. Students all over the world practice with metronomes all the time, but it seems there’s only a handful of players who really achieve great rhythm. It’s as if it’s in their bones and can’t be taught. Curtis’s method is the first that I’ve seen that can really teach that X-factor of great, deeply rooted rhythm. I feel like every musician should check this out.” – Drew Taubenfeld, Musical Director for Selena Gomez, Meghan Trainor, Demi Lovato, and Leon Bridges

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