About this Course
4.8
580 ratings
177 reviews

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Intermediate Level

Students should be able to play an instrument at a beginner level and be familiar with basic music notation.

Approx. 25 hours to complete

Suggested: 6 weeks of study, 3-6 hours/week...

English

Subtitles: French, Chinese (Simplified), Portuguese (Brazilian), German, English, Spanish...

What you will learn

  • Check

    Use storytelling as a tool to improve your improvisation

  • Check

    Practice and use various scales to improve your improvisation skills

  • Check

    Identify harmonic motion in a song

  • Check

    Use guide tones and guide tone lines when you're improvising

Skills you will gain

Music PerformanceMusicJazzJazz Improvisation

100% online

Start instantly and learn at your own schedule.

Flexible deadlines

Reset deadlines in accordance to your schedule.

Intermediate Level

Students should be able to play an instrument at a beginner level and be familiar with basic music notation.

Approx. 25 hours to complete

Suggested: 6 weeks of study, 3-6 hours/week...

English

Subtitles: French, Chinese (Simplified), Portuguese (Brazilian), German, English, Spanish...

Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Week
1
1 hour to complete

Welcome to Jazz Improvisation

Welcome to the course! Here we will cover all the details about the course and what you'll need to know to get the most out of your experience....
3 videos (Total 9 min), 5 readings, 1 quiz
3 videos
Learning Music Online2m
How this Course Works4m
5 readings
A Note From Your Teaching Assistant10m
Connect with Your Classmates10m
Getting to Know You10m
Course Resources10m
Earn A Course Certificate10m
1 practice exercise
What Are Your Goals?8m
3 hours to complete

Improvisation as a Language

Since everybody who is taking this course starts from a different place in terms of their experience as an improviser, it's important at first to cover some basic material. We'll begin our journey by exploring the language used by jazz improvisors. Improvisation is analogous to language in many ways. With music, we become fluent when the vocabulary (scales and chords) and grammar (harmonic progressions) are assimilated into conversational content or story (melodic themes and structure) and we no longer have to consciously think about them while we play....
4 videos (Total 14 min), 1 reading, 2 quizzes
4 videos
The Relationship Between Spoken Language & Music4m
Story-Telling3m
Creating Your Assignment (week 2)3m
1 reading
Spoken Language and Improvised Music10m
1 practice exercise
SELF ASSESSMENT: Improvisation as a Language4m
Week
2
4 hours to complete

The Improviser's Vocabulary

In this lesson, we'll explore the improviser's lingo. We'll identify the most common chord scales and the type of harmony they relate to including major, minor, and dominant 7. ...
6 videos (Total 24 min), 3 readings, 3 quizzes
6 videos
Learning Scales4m
10 Most Important Scales4m
The Modes3m
Dominant 7 Scale Choices4m
Using Chord Scales3m
3 readings
The 7 Modes from Brightest to Darkest10m
3 Additional Scales10m
How to Record Yourself for Assignments10m
2 practice exercises
Identify the Scale40m
SELF ASSESSMENT: Understanding Others' Vocabulary4m
Week
3
3 hours to complete

Making Scale Choices in Real Time

Improvisers must be able to quickly recall chord scales and be able to play around on them fluently. This becomes important when choosing which chord scale to use on a given harmony—another thing we must be able to determine immediately. When a new tune is put in front of you at a session or a rehearsal, there isn't time to take the music home and spend an hour or two working out the correct scales. Improvisers need a quick, mostly intuitive way of making these scale choices in real time as the tune is being played. This week, we'll explore my method for making these quick musical decisions....
7 videos (Total 18 min), 3 quizzes
7 videos
Finding the Correct Major Scale2m
Chord Scale Method2m
Finding the Correct Minor Chord Scale2m
Minor Examples1m
Finding the Correct Dominant Chord Scale5m
Creating Your Assignment (week 4)2m
2 practice exercises
Scale Choices18m
SELF ASSESSMENT: 500 Miles High4m
Week
4
3 hours to complete

Harmony for Improvisers

It is important for an improviser to clearly imply the harmonies when improvising. It is not enough to just play correct notes on each chord. In this lesson we'll examine how the improviser helps the harmonies move. Part of the improviser's job is to help the listener follow the changes as the chords move from one to another. ...
5 videos (Total 20 min), 3 quizzes
5 videos
Guide-Tones3m
Using Guide-Tone Lines4m
Harmonic Motion 26m
Creating Your Assignment (week 5)2m
2 practice exercises
Harmony 16m
SELF ASSESSMENT: Memories of Tomorrow4m
Week
5
3 hours to complete

Theme and Variation

This week we will discuss how the improviser develops melodic themes in a solo. As mentioned in week 1, there are natural comparisons between speech and improvising that illustrate how this functions. The most common technique for telling a musical story that engages the listener for the duration of your solo is by using a traditional concept called theme and variation. That is, you introduce a theme—a musical phrase—then repeat it, making variations on it to develop an interesting storyline. A good solo is like an explanation, or a good story. The explanation or story is the content of improvisation....
8 videos (Total 31 min), 2 readings, 2 quizzes
8 videos
The Unfolding of a Story2m
Three Characteristics of Melodic Form3m
Variation3m
Musical Sentences2m
Analyzing Songs14m
Conclusion49s
Creating Your Assignment (week 6)2m
2 readings
Lesson 5 Learning Targets10m
Course Evaluation10m
1 practice exercise
Theme and Variation12m
4.8
177 ReviewsChevron Right

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started a new career after completing these courses

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got a tangible career benefit from this course

Top Reviews

By MGNov 20th 2016

This was a truly great course, I learnt so much. And I have been playing piano for almost 60 years! Thanks to a wonderful teacher and musician (brilliant rendition of Chick Corea's Crystal Silence)

By EIAug 13th 2016

Besides being a great musician, Gary Burton is a great educator and he teaches in a very simple way the basic knowledge that an improviser needs.\n\nThank you so much for having this course.

Instructor

About Berklee College of Music

Berklee College of Music was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music is through the study and practice of contemporary music. For more than half a century, the college has evolved to reflect the state of the art of music and the music business. Berklee serves distance learners worldwide through its award-winning online extension school, Berklee Online....

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Once you enroll for a Certificate, you’ll have access to all videos, quizzes, and programming assignments (if applicable). Peer review assignments can only be submitted and reviewed once your session has begun. If you choose to explore the course without purchasing, you may not be able to access certain assignments.

  • When you purchase a Certificate you get access to all course materials, including graded assignments. Upon completing the course, your electronic Certificate will be added to your Accomplishments page - from there, you can print your Certificate or add it to your LinkedIn profile. If you only want to read and view the course content, you can audit the course for free.

  • Yes. Learners should have basic proficiency on an instrument before enrolling in this course.

  • While prior knowledge of music theory concepts is not required for enrollment, it would be helpful for you to have a working knowledge of basic concepts, such as key signatures, chord scales, the circle of 5ths, etc. If you feel you need to review these concepts before enrolling in Jazz Improvisation, we recommend first enrolling the our Developing Your Musicianship course offered on Coursera.

More questions? Visit the Learner Help Center.