I have taught at CalArts for 22 years and in that time developed an approach to improvising that utilizes all parts of our human makeup (intellect, heart, and body). World music is such a strong presence at CalArts and it has taught me that a strictly analytical approach to music education is not sufficient. Its quite amazing to see students grasp complex polyrhythms after only one semester in beginning African ensemble! The knowledge that they possess is probably more centered in the heart and body than anywhere else. Once that kind of information inhabits those areas of your being, you own it in a deeper and more gratifying way. I have tried to incorporate educational elements that I have gleaned from observing these various folk based approaches.
Another area that intrigues me is the psychology of improvisation. Having gone through so much personal pain (self criticism) on my own journey as an improvising musician I have developed ways of seeing things in a more healthy and balanced way. There are so many stumbling blocks that we encounter before even picking up our instrument. The mere act of expressing our frustrations, pain, and insecurity takes away some of its stifling power. It is even possible to see the illusion of these things. The act of improvisation is so personal that each human being has to contend with all of these ego based “problems” in order to get to the “real stuff” beneath the surface. It is the human condition.
My workshops tend to emphasize these elements as much as possible. There are reams and reams of material on what cool scales or chords to use. It makes no sense to regurgitate information that is readily available with any quick internet search. In my teaching I attempt to take whatever information is available (mind) and bring other parts of ourselves (heart and body) into the process. Information is important but only as a tool for “expression”.
Below are some of the schools where I have conducted workshops or taught in other capacities:
Arizona State University
Berklee College of Music
Eastman School of Music
University of Southern California
University of North Texas
California State University, Northridge
University of California, San Diego
California State University, Long Beach
California State University, Fullerton
Portland State University
Los Angeles Music Academy
UCSD Jazz Camp
Stanford Jazz Workshop
Jazz guitar instruction via two-part video series is available at the My Music Master Class website (links below).
In this jazz guitar masterclass, acclaimed guitarist Larry Koonse explains his multifaceted approach to improvisation on the guitar. Larry delves deep into numerous topics that will help bring your improvisations to life.