What’s New in Musical U: March 2018

Hi, this is Christopher Sutton, the Founder and Director of Musical U, and I’d love to share with you what’s new at Musical U this month.

This month was Improv Month at Musical U, meaning everything was themed around the topic of improvisation! We still have one week left in the month, but let’s run through everything that’s happened so far…

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

On the Podcast

First of all, on the Musicality Podcast, I had the pleasure of talking to four fantastic experts on the topic of improvisation. We had Nick Mainella from the 10 Minute Jazz Lesson podcast, David Wallimann of Guitar Playback, Brendan Lowe from Jazz Piano School, and David Reed, from Improvise For Real.

It was fascinating to hear each of their perspectives on learning to improvise. We also had teaching episodes on the podcast about how to approach improvisation, improvising rhythm, improvising using scales and chords, and how to add structure and phrasing to your improve. On the website we had a bunch of new articles about improvising including for classical music and three great guest posts from friends in the music education world.

Last but not least, inside Musical U we’ve been releasing a ton of new content to help our members learn to improvise step-by-step. Let’s have a quick look at the three modules we’ve released so far, as well as the new instrument pack resources for learning to improvise.

New Improv Training Modules

The first thing to mention before we dive into those new modules, is that we already had two modules about improvisation inside Musical U. The first is Approaching Improvisation, which is all about the mindset, and overall mental frameworks you need to be a successful improvisor, and avoid the common traps and pitfalls that lead to robotic, or very limited improvisation skill.

Approaching Improvisation is where we recommend everyone starts to really get clear on what is it you’re embarking on if you want to become a free, confident, and capable improvisor. We had also released Improvising Melody, a module all about the specifics of improvising one note at a time, and what goes into that in terms of pitch, and rhythm, what your options are. Then this month, as part of Improv Month, we released Improvising with Chord Tones, which connects melody to the idea of notes in chords, which we call chord tones.

This is a really interesting module because it’s something that a lot of people think is quite a sophisticated aspect of improvising, but it can actually be part of your repertoire from day one. As you’ll see, we break it down, and show you step-by-step how to connect the notes you’re choosing for your melody, to the notes that are in the chords you’re playing over. This has a dramatic impact on how musical, and how effective your improv will be.

The second module we released is Harmonic Tension and Release, which goes into more detail of that interplay between harmony and melody, and it has a bunch of listening exercises and explanations and opportunities to try it, so that you learn how to create tension, and how to release it in your improvisation.

There’s a lot that goes into this, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Again, it’s something that makes a really big impact on how musical and how moving your improv is.

The third new module this month was Phrasing and Structure. This was an interesting one because we started out putting it together as an improv module – but as you’ll see here it’s actually classified under Melodies now, because we realized as we were working on the material that what we wanted to share goes way beyond improv. The idea of phrases and the idea of structuring music is obviously universally applicable, it’s not just something for improv. Although we use improvisation as kind of the vehicle for explaining all this, and it’s a great way to play around with it, actually what you learn in this module helps you with interpreting written music, it helps you understand the music by ear, it helps you just perform the music you’ve learned before.

This is really a module that goes way beyond improv, but will have a big, powerful impact on how you shape the music you play when you improvise.

Something that wasn’t on my list before, but I should mention was we also had our “Fireside Chat” in Musical U this month on the topic of improv. This is an initiative that our community conductor Stewart put together, where it’s just an opportunity to come and hang out live with the team, and talk about a particular topic. This chat was all about improv. We had a bunch of members show up and share their experiences, their questions, their concerns about improv, and the team were there to share our own ideas, experiences and advice to help our members get into improv.

Improv Resource Packs

As well as our new training modules, we released new Resource Packs for guitar, piano, and bass on the topic of Improvising with Phrasing and Form. Here’s a preview post that gives you a little glimpse inside each of those resource packs. As always, these are about helping you connect to your core training as Musical U to the particular instrument you play with exercises, ideas, and technique specifics that apply on that instrument.

… and more still to come!

That’s all available inside Musical U now for our members. This week, we’ll be releasing one more module. It’s our Improv Practice module, that has a bunch of backing tracks you can use to practice all of the exercises in those other modules, and our full Improv Roadmap, that leads you step-by-step through these modules, and other exercises to help you learn to improvise from step one, through to being a capable and confident improvisor.

The final thing to mention is that this coming Saturday, we have a very special guest, Nick Mainella, presenting an online masterclass for us on the topic of improvisation. This is free, and provided online. If you haven’t already, please register to attend this masterclass and learn what Nick has to share on the topic of improvisation.

That was Improv Month at Musical U. I hope you guys have been enjoying it as much as I have!

This last week is going to be a fantastic one. We still have our guest expert roundup post with a whole bunch of pro improvisors and music educators sharing their favorite improv, and of course we have that masterclass you won’t want to miss.

Thanks for joining me for this look inside what’s new in Musical U this month. We also, I should mention, have a big special promo coming up this weekend, to round off Improv Month. That’s going to be a great opportunity to join Musical U if you’re not a member already. I would love to see you in there. Be sure to check out our Facebook page, and take advantage of that promotion!

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