Here’s a free 5-week online course that you can take from your own studio and featuring one of the greats of jazz improvisation, Gary Burton from the Berklee College of Music.
Coursera is an education platform that partners with top universities and organizations worldwide, to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free.
It’s designed to be taken at home over 5 weeks and features videos and assignments, just like an official university course.
Learn the basic concepts of improvisation from Gary Burton, one of the most renowned improvisers in the jazz world, including the mental, melodic, and harmonic processes that contribute to the instinctive skills that an improviser puts to use when taking a solo.
While many people are fans of jazz and understand that musicians are often “making up” the notes they are playing during a performance, most people—often including musicians, themselves, who are beginning to learn improvising—aren’t clear about what exact processes take place to enable this to happen. The purpose of this course is to introduce the basic concepts of modern improvisation and how to go about mastering the different musical and mental skills involved.
Course author Gary Burton codifies a sought-after approach to improvisation that has been at the core of Berklee College of Music’s curriculum for decades. Students who complete this course will know what to practice and how to practice the various aspects of improvising, in addition to understanding how the improviser spontaneously communicates to the listeners through their musical creations.
You should have at least an intermediate level of playing ability on your instrument, basic note reading experience, a knowledge of chord symbols (C7, Gm7, F7b9, Abm7, for example) and should, at a minimum, have tried improvising on some basic songs such as 12-bar blues or some familiar standard tunes.
The course consists of video demonstrations, with integrated quizzes that allow you to reinforce your knowledge of the material before moving on. You will also have assignments that ask you to submit recorded examples of your playing for peer review.
Find out more at Coursera.
I’m going to be recommending this to my own teen and adult jazz piano students… what about you?
Let us know in the comments below.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.