A few weeks back I signed up to Coursera, an online organisation who offer a wide range of classes and courses in partnership with top universities and colleges. Gary Burton, of Berklee, is leading a jazz improv course at the minute, and I am enrolled on it. So far, it’s really good. Solid amounts of content in the video lectures (which are roughly half an hour long, with a new one each week), and awesome support on the forums – there must be thousands of students on the course and some seem really keen to help each other out.
Although I missed a couple of deadlines (detention!), I am learning quite a lot from the course. The way that Gary explains his thinking and methodology behind the spare-of-the-moment decisions that improvisers must make is illuminating, and even though I am not really a huge fan of his playing, I have respect for him as a musician and an educator. Some of the hand-in dates are long gone, but I don’t think it’s too late to jump onto the course and start watching some of the videos, or a different set of classes for that matter. Statistical Molecular Thermodynamics, anyone?
I’ve been drafted in to play a few covers for a friend’s college band on Thursday. After one rehearsal, I’m loving it. I’ve spent a long time now focusing on the rudiments vs. improvs concepts in my playing that it seems I’d forgotten about songs. Riffs are awesome, especially these:
(note the passionate headbangers at 00:28…)
I started off playing bass with Guitar Pro 5, learning every song I could think of by getting hold of the dots for it – and this taught me finger positions, right hand technique, and a lot of timing stuff too. Although now I do see some of the downsides to reading written music, perhaps I should get back into playing other people’s music. Perhaps some transcribing.
I’ve tried reading several music business books over the past few years, and I’ve found all but one of them to be out-of-date; written for an industry that no longer exists in the way that it had, irrelevant, unrealistic (‘first, you need to hire a tour manager…’), or just plain boring. However, this book isn’t. Providing an in-depth but comprehensible examination of the music industries from many angles, I’ve found myself really connecting with some of the ideas proposed by the authors, one of whom I already recognized as an interesting new music thinker from a great lecture he gave at Leicester College a few years ago.
If you’re a sociologist, a musician, a music teacher, or in any way involved in the creative industries, I recommend this book. Tectonic shifts brought about by changes in technology and culture mean that we can never truly define music, or the music industries – but Messrs Anderton, Dubber, and James’ guide is a good way to get a grasp of where we are at the minute. You can pick it up from the publisher here.
This is a great little 5 minute TED Talk from bassist Victor Wooten. Whether you like his music or not, he seems to talk sense.