Online Workshops

Video Replays of previous topics are available any time! If you sign up for any sessions that have already passed, you will receive links to the video of the session plus any materials that go along with it.

Upcoming: Making it up: Improvising, ornamenting, harmonizing, and playing what isn’t there

Think you have to be born with a special talent to play music that isn’t on the page? Think again! Just like learning to read between the lines or draw pictures of imaginary objects, anyone can learn to play notes that aren’t on the page.

“Improvisation” sounds like a huge, intimidating thing to attack head on if you don’t think of yourself as an improviser. So in this series, we’ll break it down systematically and focus each class on a specific aspect of making stuff up.

Of course, if you play Renaissance or Baroque music, the ability to ornament and embellish is an expected part of these styles. And there are lots of modern day settings where improvisational skill is useful.

These exercises are also great for improving your command of harmony and chords, great for your listening and ensemble skills, great for your recovery skills when you get thrown off in an ensemble, and also just really fun!

1. Ornamentation – March 28, 5PM-6:30PM EST
Ornamenting a melody is an integral part of many musical styles and traditions, and there are lots of ways to do it! We’ll go over several approaches to ornamentation, which will help you figure out how to invent ornaments, how to get faster at including them in your playing, and learn a bit about ways of thinking about melodic structure along the way.
We’ll also look at some historical sources of ornamentation and talk about how best to use these sources in your own practice.
It’s a great way to create variety and expand your expressive capabilities!

2. Playing from a lead sheet – April 4, 5PM-6:30PM EST
Today, a “lead sheet” is the most common way that melodies are notated along with their chords so that you can make up your own arrangements on the fly. We’ll go over the basic chord symbols and some methods for getting practice at reading them – whether your instrument can play chords or not. These skills let you play in all sorts of bands, and play fleshed-out arrangements of all sorts of pop songs, traditional tunes, dance tunes, and more. We’ll practice looking at both the printed melody and the chord symbols to come up with new melodies and accompaniments.

3. Harmonizing a melody – April 11, 5PM-6:30PM EST
The simplest kind of polyphony is the humble duet. But figuring out where to start in making up a duet part on the fly can be daunting! In this session, we’ll talk about how to figure out what the harmony might be, and how to add additional parts that sound like they belong. Harmony parts can be simple or decorated; they can be as prominent as the original melody, or they can be accompaniments. These skills are particularly useful for English Country Dance bands, for creating your own parts to fit in with music for theater or church services, for playing duets with friends who play other instruments, and more.

4. Improvising to a ground bass or chord progression – April 18, 5PM-6:30PM EST
Ground basses and chord progressions are repeating patterns of chords over which a song or melody can be created. There are many that have become extremely popular frameworks for many compositions over the centuries. And they can also be fantastic starting points for improvising in many different styles and moods. We’ll look at examples from several centuries as a starting point, and we’ll jam to some popular chord progressions and ground basses.

5. Putting it all together: Free improv, plus exercises and jams that combine the skills from sessions 1-4 – April 25, 5-6:30 PM EST
For this last session, we’ll tackle the topic of “free improv” and try out some less-structured activities. We’ll also have a chance to take requests and revisit any jams, exercises, or topics from the previous sessions you want some more practice at.

Dates don’t work for you? Not to worry! All registered participants will be sent a recording of each session after it’s over, so you can catch up on what you miss any time!

You can download video replays of any of these previous topics:

Video Replays of Previous topics:

These sessions have passed, but if you sign up you’ll be sent a link to the video replay and any accompanying materials where applicable.

Memorizing Music
Think memorizing music is a special talent that you just don’t have? Think you can’t do it anymore, now that you’re no longer 15? Feel like you mostly know your music, but you can’t quite get away from the page and you’re likely to forget it all under pressure? Think again!

Learning to memorize more effectively can help you internalize your music better, play more musically, and feel more confident when it comes time to perform. In most musical traditions and throughout much of musical history, memory has been a crucial skill in which every musician was expected to be proficient. If they could do it, you can do it!

1. Introductory Presentation Video Replay

In this lecture I discuss our various kinds of memory, and what we can learn from other ways people train their memory. We’ll discuss the benefits of memorizing your music; how to get started doing it; reasons why some music is harder or easier to memorize; circumstances that make memorization easier or harder, and what you can do about them.
And we’ll go over ways you can practice memorizing your music that help make it stick – whether it’s a new piece you’re just starting to work on or a piece you’ve been practicing for years.

2. Memorization exercises workshop Video Replay
In this 2-part workshop, we’ll do a variety of exercises to illustrate the concepts from the lecture and give you some concrete practice exercises and things you can apply to pieces you’re working on. The two parts of this workshop are spaced a week apart to give you some practice time in between (don’t worry, it won’t take too much time!). We’ll also have more opportunity for questions, discussion, and follow-up on the previous week’s exercises. Registration for this session includes the video replay of the Introductory lecture.