Music Education Monday: Free Play-Along recordings, and a free class from Gary Burton


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It's time for another “Music Education Monday," the feature in which each week, we point to resources on the web that may be of particular interest to musicians, music students, and/or anyone who wants to understand the process of playing jazz.

This week, we spotlight a couple of links related to improvisation, starting with a page from the National Jazz Workshop offering a set of free play-along recordings in MP3 format.

The NJW is a summer camp held on the campus of Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, taught primarily by jazz educators and performers from Washington, DC. The play-along recordings offered to their students (and anyone else who wants to download them) follow a familiar template, offering several minutes of a rhythm section playing the changes to, say, “I've Got Rhythm," or a 12-bar blues, so that improvisors can practice soloing over the top.

Are these free play-alongs as slickly made as the commercial varieties produced by Aebersold, Music Minus One, and others? Well, not quite. But they're definitely good enough to be potentially useful as part of a practice routine for some musicians, and since they're free, what's not to like? And in addition to the play-along recordings, the page also includes links to other free educational materials and handouts used in the program.

Musicians interested in developing their improvising skills also may be interested in an upcoming free online course in jazz improvisation taught by the famed vibraphonist Gary Burton (pictured), a multiple Grammy winner who's played with many jazz greats and also is a longtime faculty member at Berklee College of Music.

Presented free of charge by Coursera, which offers free online courses in a variety of subject areas, the five- week program begins on Feburary 5, and will let participants “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."

Burton's improvisation course includes video demonstrations, quizzes intended to reinforce knowledge of the material, and assignments that ask for recorded examples of students'  playing for peer review. Participants “should have at least an intermediate level of playing ability on your instrument, basic note reading experience, a knowledge of chord symbols, and should, at a minimum, have tried improvising on some basic songs such as 12-bar blues or some familiar standard tunes."

You can get more details, or sign up for the course, here.

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This story appears courtesy of St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman.
Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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