Jazz Improvisation

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Below are the top discussions from Reddit that mention this online Coursera course from Berklee College of Music.

Offered by Berklee College of Music. Learn the basic concepts of improvisation from Gary Burton, one of the most renowned improvisers in the ... Enroll for free.

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Taught by
Gary Burton
Course Author
and 9 more instructors

Offered by
Berklee College of Music

Reddit Posts and Comments

4 posts • 96 mentions • top 23 shown below

r/piano • post
51 points • klaviersonic
On Hanon

Most Pianists greatly overrate Hanon. (Strangely, sometimes more often students than teachers). These studies in the most mechanical type of "typewriter" keyboard technique; this sequence of incessantly monotonous patterns. Many keyboardists have been dealt physical harm from these petite agonies!

Robert Schumann was crippled using a cruel apparatus to "strengthen the ring finger", which is a destructive pursuit- actively denying a relaxed, flexible, and coordinated piano technique.

Of course, the general idea of fingerfertigkeit is useful in the performance of all piano music. Especially good texts and studies are:

Hummel - Theoretical-Practical Guide to Piano Playing - A Key to the Pyrotechnics of Beethoven & Mozart's Classical Virtuosity

CPE Bach - Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboards - Immense artistic insight from the gifted son of Bach. Strategies for fingering in Baroque music, playing embellishments, interpretation, and improvisation in the Baroque/Classical style.

Clementi - Preludes & Exercises - Short studies in almost every key, with a culminating "Grand Scale" routine throughout all the Major & Minor Keys. Phenomenal preparation for Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven

Liszt - Technical Exercises (10 Volumes) - The greatest text on the technique of Scales, Arpeggios, Chords, Chord-Scales, Octaves, Double Notes, Trills & Tremolando. Amazing Work. Unlocks the Romantic Virtuoso Technique in the Lisztian style.

Brahms - 51 Exercises - Further deepening of the Romantic approach to piano technique. Fascinating harmonic colors, poly-rhythms, and keyboard patterns with coordinating arm & finger movement.

That's a solid foundation to play Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Brahms, & Rachmaninoff (etc.....). This is advanced repertoire, there's a a lot of work in building to this. Start with Scales, Chords and Inversions, and Chord-Scales. The book Alfred's - Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences is a great primer. Then the above studies become more attainable.

Generally, I think these exercises are only useful in small doses. Otherwise you run the risk of making the majority of your practice session into a gymnastic workout, without any sustained musical content to challenge your mind and ear.

If you must play Hanon, there are a handful that have some value. I'd pick like 2 or 3 exercises at most, run them through the 12 major keys, and that's it. For my taste, I think the best ones are nos. 2, 3, 5, 6, 15, 20. Playing the first 20 continuously is a masochistic torture. The full 60 exercises is a death sentence.

Eventually you'll want to create your own patterns and sequences, and put these in various modes.

Here's a good primer on the 10 most essential modes to know in Jazz: https://www.coursera.org/learn/jazz-improvisation/lecture/9BClj/10-most-important-scales

If you put these in 12 keys, that's 120 scales, so plenty to work with! The mental and technical challenge of creating a melodic pattern and shifting through these modes a la Hanon, will benefit you much more than playing vanilla hanon from muscle memory.

Naturally, you'll also want to be studying harmony. How chords are constructed, inverted, extended, altered. How they are related to scales and how to harmonize melodies. This is the more important part of the art!


r/jazzguitar • post
31 points • lesabre780
Berklee/Gary Burton's FREE Improv course

Today I found an archived post in this sub that introduced me to Gary Burton's free online Berklee improv course. Here's the link:


I have just got started, primarily motivated by curiosity, also because I'm a nerd and I find stuff like this fun. So far I can say that it is similar to the jazz improv courses I got at university while earning my degree.

Here the thing: this free course is based around peer evaluation. But it doesn't seem like anyone else is enrolled right now. So I'm hoping some more people might sign up, and then we will all have other students to comment on our work.

r/piano • post
20 points • Avnerium
The Jazz Improvisation course by Gary Burton in Coursera is starting (again) in a few days.
r/Guitar • comment
4 points • circleof5surecanjive

Why not try making one yourself? Disclaimer: this answer is in no way meant to be sarcastic or snarky.

Seriously, why not record yourself playing through a bunch of different keys and scales? It could be a really cool exercise and also would give you exactly the kind of thing you are looking for.

And that way you can choose exactly which scales and keys you are most interested in hearing. Because I honestly don't think something like this exist in the exact sense of what you looking for. Maybe something similar, but the chances of it being exactly what you are looking for is slim.

For example, I googled and found this vid: 10 Most Important Scales, but I am not sure that exactly fits your description.

r/jazzguitar • comment
8 points • JayDeeEss

I may be pegging your capability a bit low, but I recommend the (free/paid) Coursera course:


r/piano • post
7 points • eatwellsleepwell
Given a piece to improvise on, where do I start?

I am taking the jazz improvisation course on coursera and it's starting out really hard for me. I grew up a classical pianist - only learning to read sheet music and listening to the classical songs as I try to mimic as much as possible. And for scales, I've learned the sharps and flats by muscle memory.

I am really behind in theory and for some reason a lot of the sites I've checked out just doesn't seem to quite click into my brain. Either that or I'm just so overwhelmed at where to start.

Here is a small snipplet of what we are required to do - build some kind of melody/improvisation over this. There is a rhythm and a bass playing notes in the background. My task is using the piano and create some kind of notes over that background music but I just don't know what goes with these chords. I tried to play anything on the piano but everything I touch just seems to out of tune. How do I know what notes go into those chords? I am sorry if this has been asked but I've read a lot of other responses and they just don't quite click!

r/musictheory • comment
2 points • Saiboo

There happens to be a free course on jazz improvisation taught by Gary Burton. It has just started a few days ago.

r/Guitar • comment
2 points • RadiantMenderbug


Free college level introductory Jazz course, this website is great

r/Guitar • comment
2 points • Horme-Aergia


Starts today and it's free!

r/Jazz • comment
1 points • smegko


r/jazzguitar • comment
1 points • rapidient

I did this course about eight or so years ago https://www.coursera.org/learn/jazz-improvisation?. Like you, I was in need of some motivation. Don’t know if it has changed but the collaborative aspect of it is what made the experience fun: listening to other student’s recordings, and then listening to yours. Even though I had a good background on this stuff prior to the class, I got a lot out of it.

r/Jazz • comment
1 points • Topological_Parallax

This course is the best I' ve tried so far for learning how to improvise in Jazz. Also, it's free and from Berklee.


r/JazzPiano • comment
1 points • CrossRelations

Gary Burton has a great free jazz course on Coursera. It goes over a lot of fundamentals and gives you tools to continue teaching yourself. I took it recently and found it very helpful coming from a background of mostly classical piano, with repeated stabs at learning jazz piano over the years. Jazz piano is tough! I think the old adage that it's a marathon, not a sprint, is helpful. Don't be too hard on yourself because you're not where you want to be. Just keep putting in consistent effort. You'll get there if you keep working at it.

r/jazzguitar • comment
1 points • Ouchthathurtkinda

Try this, it’s free and taught my Gary Burton online. No need to commute anywhere, first day of classes is today.


r/Bass • comment
1 points • SmarmyYardarm

Some when I was having troubles was nice enough to send me a Berkeley Coursera course that happened to be free at the time. It pleases me to be able to return the cosmic favor of a different class that sounds like it might be of some help https://www.coursera.org/learn/jazz-improvisation

r/guitarlessons • comment
2 points • EduGuy33
r/musictheory • comment
1 points • thebraininajar

Try this free course if it's offered soon:


r/musictheory • comment
1 points • mapmyhike

There is a free online course offered by Gary Burton from Berklee School of music.

The link below should work for you. Make sure you interact with the kids in the forums for that is where you will learn the most, especially regarding modes because that seems to be a focus over there. Listen to all their recorded lessons and read all their analysis'. After you take the course, sign up and take it again. If you get stuck with a class of duds, don't log in for a few weeks and when you come back they enroll you where you left off with the next crop of students.


r/piano • comment
1 points • aclaussen

While Lang Lang is a prominent classical pianist, I have never heard him improvise and compose. Frankly improvisation hasn't been alive in classical music for a while (probably a century) and the pianist-composer has been pushed aside in favor of the pianist-interpreter when piano competitions became so big.

That being said I recommend the following:

-You might start by looking at guys like Tigran Hamasyan, who improvise in a somewhat classical style. You will need to develop some kind of faculty of playing by ear. Transcription is a good start, even to the melody of basic rock/pop songs. Considering jazz is purely improvisatory music (and has some roots in classical music) you might look at this course.

As a self plug, I too was in this situation as a concert pianist. Didn't know how to improvise or compose, but could play concert works well. Check out this book I wrote, which takes a familiar classical work, the Chopin etudes, and shows concepts that can be used from the work itself to improvise in a style similar to the original etude (or make your own!) https://www.amazon.com/Chopin-Etudes-Complete-Exercises-Improvisation/dp/1949950913

I wrote this book when I was starting to learn improvisation, and now some of my compositions have 10s of thousands of streams of Spotify. Take that as you will as to if the methods in the book work or not, but there are several good reviews of the book as well on Amazon.

Best of luck

r/Bass • comment
1 points • Mr-Yellow

Re-posting a series of questions I left for someone in the daily thread.


How's your theory? Harmonised chords out of scales? Played plenty of broken thirds and diatonic scale exercise stuff? Arpeggios everywhere?

How's your melody? Playing the same note more than once in a row? Gone back to basics and built up a foundation of really childish simple stuff which sounds like "melodies"? Got all the cartoons and TV shows from your youth in there?

How's your exploration? Mindlessly noodle while watching TV? Reaching for playing in ways you wish you could play without caring that it sounds bad?

How's your ear? Done some interval recognition training? Full 7th chord recognition? Singing along with your playing? If you sing something once, can you put your fingers on it? How loud is the signal? Is it's screaming melodies at you or whimpering with hesitant impressions?



Universal Mind of Bill Evans (1966 Documentary)

Gary Burton improv lecture

Gary Burton on Coursea

Words of WISDOM with Guthrie Govan at G4

Just because, looking for something else to include and can't really go past an introduction to this guy:

Barry Harris on 6th diminished system

billgrahammusic describing the above in a way a human can understand

r/pianolearning • comment
1 points • ElectronicProgram

/u/nazgul_123 is right - we need some more context here around the question, but I will attempt to answer based on what I think you are asking which is "how do you make melodies sound jazzy?"

I am not a jazz piano expert but have dabbled, so someone else might have a more comprehensive answer.

Basically Jazz sounds jazzy because of at least a few distinct things:

  1. The 'feel'. There's a cool program on mac (and I think android) called iRealPro which uses synthesized instruments to generate jazz harmonies for common jazz standards. You can select different 'feels' - but many times it's just variations on swinging 8th notes. Blues uses this as well. https://irealpro.com - try improvising over jazz backing tracks and see what you can figure out.
  2. The harmonies. Jazz music tends to use a lot of chords with extensions, and there's a lot of ways to harmonize those chords without using every note in them. A great book that covers this is called Jazz Keyboard Harmony by DeGreg, which walks you through the most basic type of jazz voicing (shell voicings with 2 notes) up and through more complex voicings in every key to get you comfortable with all your harmonic 'options'.
  3. The melodies. You have two paths to understanding these:

  4. Play melodies from standards as-is from a real book, then listen to recordings of jazz pianists playing them, and listen for changes and variations, and try to emulate those by ear.

  5. Dig into the theory of how to select the proper scales to play over the harmonies. A well-known course on this is Gary Burton's Jazz Improvisation course on coursera (I believe you can audit for free), and his materials include all scales and modes and walk through instructing how to pick the right one for a particular context. I have *not* taken this course all the way through as I never got that far in my jazz education. https://www.coursera.org/learn/jazz-improvisation

For melodies what you're looking for is understanding what notes sound good as passing tones (or color tones) in your melodies vs. what sounds good to 'anchor' on (usually specific chord tones). These concepts are easier to grasp in blues which tends to use simpler progressions and lighter scales, but then can be applied up to jazz as the scales and harmonies get more involved and complex.

r/Guitar • comment
1 points • Mahavy


Nice to hear you want to go in depth into jazz !

There are plenty youtube channels to learn jazz and my 3 favorites are :

- Jens Larsen : he does a lot video on jazz impro and theory. If you are into pure jazz you will love it. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqepSCHTyWj4BzHxEEUNvlg

- David Wallimann : also many licks, how to use modes, impro, theory. Great ressources if you're more into jazz fusion stuff. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn72qZqgRSUAO1u3T0_UeKw

- Tomo Fujita : Incredible jazz/funk guitarist (I recommend you listen "Just funky" from him). He does a lot a teaching on his youtube channel. I love his channel because he also focus a lot on rhythm. https://www.youtube.com/user/TomoFujitaMusic/playlists

If you don't like to learn on youtube, you might check MOOCS. This one from Gary Burton is very good to improve your ability to improvise : https://www.coursera.org/learn/jazz-improvisation

Finally, if you're able to afford yourself some courses on truefire, you'll have access to a very high quality content to learn jazz. https://truefire.com/search/?q=jazz

Hope you can find what you're looking for !