What’s New at Musical U: November 2017

Hi, this is Christopher Sutton, the Founder and Director of Musical U, and thanks for joining me for this look inside what’s new at Musical U this month.

You can watch the video below or read on to learn more.

We had a lot going on this month at Musical U! The first was our new Instrument Pack resources, this month on the topic of “The Power of Dynamics”. We also did a total upgrade on one of our most popular training modules, 3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick. We published a whole new module on improvisation, specifically on improvising melody. We made some improvements to our Training Plan view, that helps you stay on track with your training and know what to do next. And we also lined up our free public masterclass for December. Stay tuned to the end of this video for all the details.

Resource Packs: The Power of Dynamics

So here we are inside Musical U, and as usual, we’re blurring out member names and some other details to protect member privacy. But you can see right here what’s inside the site and how it works.

First thing to look at is our new Instrument Pack resource packs. Let’s take a look at the one for bass. This month, the topic was The Power of Dynamics, meaning how loud and quiet your notes are. This is a really powerful topic if you’re improvising or even just performing. Being able to control your volume and choose how loud to play each note can bring such musicality and expression to your performance, compared with just robotically playing all the notes. So we wanted to do a resource pack to really dig into this topic. And it’s a little bit different for each of the instruments.

So for example, in our bass pack, Steve Lawson really picked apart the different ways you can control your dynamics on bass, which can be to do with playing technique, right hand technique, left hand technique, and also the choices you have about the equipment and how you set it up. Let’s take a quick peek.

And there we have the difficulty of changing between the two techniques. This is the thing that every single exercise that we cover, everything that we try and work on, has implications for other areas of our playing. So here there’s one that’s just about alternating between techniques, pick with the side of my thumb and switch to my fingers.

As always, these resource packs are a tutorial video, a quick reference guide with all the details to refer back to in future, and practice MP3s that you can use to put into practice all the stuff you’ve learned in the tutorial.

Revamp: 3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick

The next big change at Musical U this month was a total revamp of one of our most popular modules, 3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick.

Now, this module is terrific because it reveals the shortcut method we use to help people learn to recognize chords by ear really quickly. But it’s been bugging me for a while, because we originally published this as an eBook several years ago, and it was a really successful product. But when we brought it into Musical U, we initially just provided people with that eBook. And it’s actually not until this month that we went through and we turned all of the content from the ebook into a proper web training module, like all of the other modules inside Musical U.

That gave us the opportunity to go through and add and revise and improve all of the content in there. So you can see here, the table of contents. It goes through the basic concepts of 1-4-5 and 1-4-5-6 chord progressions, assuming you know pretty much nothing, and bringing you through to a deep understanding of why these chords matter, and how you can use it to learn to play by ear really quickly.

So I was really excited to get to do this revamp of the module, because it’s been coming for a while, and Andrew on our team did a great job of transforming that ebook into a really in-depth web module. And I’m sure it will continue to be one of the most popular training modules we have.

New Module: Improvising Melody

We also published a brand new module this month, in our improvisation topic. And this builds on our first one, which was Approaching Improvisation, all about the concepts and ideas you need to understand to be an effective improviser. And this new module is called Improvising Melody.

I love this one. It’s a “practice” module, meaning you’re getting hands on, and doing exercises, and developing your core abilities. But I love this in particular because it breaks apart the idea about improvising a melody, into different aspects that you can think about when deciding what notes to play.

And it also provides some really great opportunities to start doing it, whether or not you’ve built up your listening skills yet, or you’ve understood all the music theory yet. These are exercises you can do from day one, and start improvising melodies and making great sounding music, purely on the contents of this module. So it’s a really great way to quickly get into improvising in a way that’s genuinely free and creative, rather than just following patterns or improvising based on rules you may have learned. So that’s a great addition to our improvisation topic.

Training Plan improvement

The final addition to Musical U this month was actually a little improvement to our training plan system. So at Musical U, we have a really flexible and versatile system for planning your training, that lets you focus on exactly what’s relevant to you. And up until now, you could create a plan easily enough, and you could go back to it, but when you went back to it, it was all a bit messy, to be honest. It wasn’t an easy thing to look at.

So we made some visual changes now, and you can see it’s quite clearly organized, and all the information’s there, but it’s much more obviously a created plan. So this is something that probably is a big deal to our members, and doesn’t mean too much to you if you haven’t been inside Musical U yet! But take my word for it, this is a big improvement.

And as part of that, we actually made one thing that’s a bit easier to explain, an improvement, which is, when we have the steps of our training plan, which in all the training modules or exercises you can do, we implemented a feature where it will automatically check if you’ve done that module, and if you have, it’ll tick it off, and cross it out. So that means when you come back to a training plan like this, you can immediately see, okay I’ve done those steps, this is the next one to do. And you’ve got a link right there to go to the module and do it.

Free Masterclass with Ruth Power

The last thing I wanted to mention is our free masterclass coming up in about two weeks now, on Saturday the 16th of December. It’s gonna be presented by Ruth Power of PianoPicnic.com. We connected with Ruth recently, and she’s such a terrific instructor. She really presents it all in a compelling and fun way. And she specializes in piano, so she actually has a new course just out called Songs by Ear, which I would highly recommend taking a look at if you play a bit of piano and you want to play by ear, or you haven’t even started piano, she has some resources that can help you get up to speed. But this course is really just a terrific way to tune into how can you play songs by ear.

So we invited Ruth to come give a masterclass for us at Musical U, and she’s gonna be talking about how you can create a full arrangement of a song, by ear, even if you play a solo instrument. So if you play piano or sax, or whatever you play, you might have tried to play a song by ear, and just replicated what your instrument does in that song. But if you really want to perform what you’ve come up with, you need it to be a more full representation of the original song. So Ruth’s gonna come in on Saturday the 16th, and give a free live master class for us, and reveal some insights and recommendations to help you do that.

So we’re really excited to have Ruth coming in to give that masterclass for us. Use the link beside this video to sign up for free, and you can come along live. If you’re a Musical U member too, you also get access to the recording afterwards. And in the meantime, do head to PianoPicnic.com if you are a piano player, or you’re interested in starting to learn piano. Check out PianoPicnic.com, take a look at everything Ruth is doing, and then join us for the free master class in two weeks.

So those were the big changes and additions inside Musical U this month. Like I said, it’s been a busy one! Lots of improvements and lots of new stuff for our members to sink their teeth into.

  1. We had our new instrument resource packs on The Power of Dynamics, for guitar, bass, piano, and singing.
  2. We updated our 3-Chord Songs and the 4-Chord Trick module to be richer, fuller, and all accessible on the web instead of an ebook.
  3. We added a whole new module on Improvising Melody.
  4. And we improved the way you can look at your existing training plans, and get a quick sense of where you’re at with that plan and what to do next.

Thanks for joining me for this look inside what’s new at Musical U this month. I hope to see you at our live masterclass, and I hope to see you inside the site soon!

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