I just finished up my second 12 week online course from the Berklee College of Music (the last one was their Blues Guitar Workshop). This go-round, I tried out Basic Improvisation, a multi-disciplinary course on the basics of improvisational soloing.

While it kept me away from open mics over the last three months (every free moment I could dedicate to music was consumed by this course!), it really was a wonderful experience. I’m really amazed that online music education can be so effective. Each week, students are presented with videos (from the instructors), lesson text, written music and web-based jukeboxes filled with tunes to illustrate key concepts. Online class meetings each week provide a chance to share with students and get direct, non-email teacher feedback. Each week, we worked through one or two major assignments that we had to record and post as MP3s.

As a computer geek who makes web applications during his day-job, their course site is top-notch and I’m a little jealous of all the bells and whistles it has.

In the improvisation course, we spent time working on transcriptions skills, listening skills, playing with accompaniment, note-based and rhythm-based motifs, chord tones, chord scales and chromatic approach shapes. While most of the class didn’t really deal with the type of old-school mono-bass blues I like to play, I was able to see how I can sally-forth and apply that knowledge to the way I play the blues.

If you can spare 5-6 hours a week of musical study time, it’s a great investment in learning. Check it out here.

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