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Improvisation & Meditation Syllabus

Note on Abbreviations: The two forms of non-religious meditation shown in the following classes are referred to as Noncognitive Meditation and Cognitive Meditation, herein abbreviated “NCM” and “CM”, respectively.  The method introduced in these lessons to teach these incorporates the use of Awareness Points, or, “AP”. 



MUSIC: Introduction to Improvisation

  • Defining “Improvisation”

  • Theme & Variation: Focusing on the Repetition of Rhythms: “Happy Birthday Model”

  • Scales Used in Complex Forms of Improvised Music

 MEDITATION: Overview - Cognitive & Noncognitive Meditation

  • Brief Introduction to Noncognitive & Cognitive Meditation and Their Relationship to Brain Function

  • The relationship between meditation and improvisation


MEDITATION: Introduction To Meditation

  • Carl Jung: Experiencing Spirituality on the Psychological Level

  • Intro To Non-Cognitive Meditation: NCM Awareness Point 1 - Being Aware of the Beginning of a thought During Meditation

  • Sanskrit Mantras

  • Introduction To Awareness Points 

  • Intro To Cognitive Meditation: CM Awareness Point 1 - Being Aware When You Stop Observing Thoughts and Are Participating in Thoughts During Meditation

  • Cognitive Meditation as “Awareness of Awareness”

  • The “Place Within” 

  • Contrasting Concentration & Awareness

  • “Triggering”: The “Dance” between Thoughts & Emotions 

  • Stream of Consciousness

  • Observer of Thoughts vs. Participant with Thoughts

  • Flowing Between NCM & CM

  • Living Life In “The Stream of Consciousness”

  • Practicing Being Aware of the Beginning of a Thought During Meditation 


MUSIC: Chords & Scales 

  • Steps

  • Intervals In Chords

  • Using the Major Scale Formula to Voice Chords

  • Triads

  • Chord Symbols

  • Chord Relationships

  • Chord Voicings-Root Position

  • The 5 Scales That Make Up the “Universe” of Basic Scales Used in Contemporary Improvised Music: Major, Blues, Diminished, Melodic Minor, Whole Tone

  • Improvisational Practice Techniques Used with Scales

  • Modes.   

  • Keeping a Practice Log

MEDITATION: NCM Awareness Point 2 - Being Aware Of Trying Not To Think

  • The Spiritual Path to Music and Life

  • Eastern & Western Meditation: A Comparison

  • Practicing Being Aware When Trying Not to Think During Meditation


MUSIC: Modulation & Key Centers, Part 1 | Seven Chords in Any Key, Key-Centered Improvisation, Greek Scales

  • Greek Scales 

  • Seven Chords in all keys

  • Chord Requirements to be in a Key Center

  • Key-Centered Improvisation & Composition Using Ionian (Major) Scales

  • Adding Diatonic Intervals in a Key Center

  • Using the Blues Scale of the 6th of the Key Center 

  • “Target Notes” in blues scales 

MEDITATION: NCM Awareness Point 3

  • Being Aware of Emotional Reactions to Thoughts

  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on the “The Evolution of Consciousness”

  • Practicing Being Aware of Emotional Reactions to Thoughts During Meditation


MUSIC: Modulation & Key Centers, Part 2 | Unaltered & Altered V7 Chords and Corresponding Scales

  • How to “Hip Up” your V7 Chords

  • Scales To Use with Unaltered Dominant 7th Chords: Suspended 4 Chords & Slash Chords; Adding the 9th & the 13th Intervals

  • Scales To Use with Unaltered Dominant 7th Chords: Diminished Scales; Melodic Minor Scales; Whole Tone Scales 

  • The Relationships Between Half/Whole Step & Whole/Half Step Diminished Scales 

MEDITATION: NCM Awareness Point 4 - Being Aware of Where Thoughts Go

  • Dealing with Positive & Negative Thoughts During Meditation 


MUSIC: Modulation & Key Centers, Part 3 | Tritone Substitutes, Half-Step Preparations | Relationships Between Major Keys & Their Relative Minor Keys

  • Introduction To Tritone Substitutes: The 5 Tritone Substitutes in All Keys

  • Scale Abbreviation Symbols

  • Examples of Tritone Substitutes

  • Introduction To Half-Step Preparations

  • Examples of Half-Step Preparations

  • Major Keys & Their Relative Minor Keys

  • Major Keys: Similarities & Differences

MEDITATION: CM Awareness Point 1 | Being Aware When You Stop Observing and Are Participating in Thoughts

  • Modes of Thought: Normal Thought, Unconscious Thought, and the Stream of Consciousness; The “Awareness of Awareness” Itself 


MUSIC: Modulation & Key Centers, Part 4 | Modulation Formulas

  • The 7 Modulation Formulas

  • Exercise: Determining Key Centers & Interval Requirements for Each Chord

  • How To Determine the Scales for Chords in a Modulation

  • How Altered Dominant 7th Chords “Play the Role of a V7 Chord”

  • How to Treat Major & Relative Minor Chords in Modulation 

MEDITATION: CM Awareness Point 2 | Being Aware of Positive & Negative Trigger Thoughts

  • Relationships between Cognitive Meditation, Buddhist Vipassana, & Mindfulness


MUSIC: Improvisation, Part 1 | Analysis & Basic Practice Techniques

  • Analysis of the Chord Progressions in Clifford Brown’s “Joy Spring”.

  • Beginning Scale & Chord Practice Techniques: Improvisation with Scale & Chord Tones of Major, Diminished, Melodic, Whole Tone, & Blues Scales

  • Arpeggiating With Chord Tones & Determining “Shell Voicing Intervals”

  • Adding Other Intervals for Arpeggiation

  • Creating “Internal Dissonance” in Chords

  • Practicing the Written Melody

  • Practicing the Transition Between Chords

  • Beginning Improv Practice: Focusing on Small Segments; Repetition; Staying Within Key Centers and Altered Scales

  • Developing Your “Own Voice”

MEDITATION: CM Awareness Point 3 | Being Aware of Emotional Reactions to Thoughts Rather Than Participating in Them

  • How Our Minds Process the Negatives in Life

  • Flowing Back and Forth from Cognitive Meditation to Noncognitive Meditation

  • Cognitive Meditation as “Self-Therapy”


MUSIC: Improvisation, Part 2 | Theme & Variation

  • Theme & Variation Improv Models: Bach’s “Minuet” Model 

  • “Stand By Me” Model 

  • Theme & Variation Examples 

  • “Yardbird Suite” Model: Charley Parker’s Solo

  • “Moment’s Notice” Model: John Coltrane’s Solo

MEDITATION: CM Awareness Point 4 | Being Aware of Where Thoughts Go

  • Intuition & Meditation: Contrasting Freud’s Concepts of Ego, Super Ego, & Id with the Therapeutic Aspect of Cognitive Meditation

  • The Choice to Engage Thoughts and Self-Knowledge


MUSIC: Improvisation, Part 3 | Bebop & Other Advanced Techniques

  • Bebop & Chromaticism

  • The 4 Basic Bebop Techniques

  • Improvising Bebop Lines 

  • Examples of Bebop Lines in “Joy Spring” 

  • Improvising With Harmonic Minor Scales

  • Improvising With Exotic Scales 

  • Improvising With Arabic Scales 

  • Improvising With Japanese “Iwato” Scales 

  • Alternative Options for Improvising with the IIm7-V7-I Progression 

  • Parallel Patterns

MEDITATION: CM Awareness Point 5 | Choosing Negative Trigger Thoughts to Observe During Meditation

  • The Importance of Flowing Back and Forth Between NCM & CM When Facing Negative Thoughts or Emotions During Meditation

  • Meditation Involves a Slow, Gradual Process of Moving into Deeper Layers of the Subconscious


MUSIC: Improvisation, Part 4 | Chord Substitution and Melodic Reharmonization, Part 1

  • Comparing Chord Substitution & Melodic Reharmonization 

  • Chord Substitution Techniques

  • Using Chord Substitutions with Tad Dameron’s “Lady Bird” 

  • Improvising With Chord Substitutions In “Lady Bird” 

MEDITATION: CM Awareness Point 6 | Choosing Positive Trigger Thoughts To Observe During Meditation.

  • Connecting with Our Inner Reservoir of Positive Energy 

  • The Source of All People and of All Created Things 

  • We Are Not Our Thoughts & Emotions

  • The First Law of Thermodynamics: The Conservation of Energy 

  • Practicing Choosing and Observing Positive Trigger Thoughts During Meditation


MUSIC: Improvisation, Part 5 | Melodic Reharmonization, Part 2

  • Melodic Reharmonization-The Basic Techniques

  • Reharmonizing A Melody Note With 11 Different Chords

  • Victor Young’s Song, “When I Fall in Love”-Reharmonized

  • “Lady Bird” Reharmonized

  • Improvisation Using Reharmonized Chords In “Lady Bird”

  • Leonard Cohen’s Song, “Hallelujah”-Reharmonized

  • Improvisation Using Reharmonized Chords In “Hallelujah”

MEDITATION: Meditation Review | The Daily Spiritual Practice of Meditation & Positive Emotions

  • Spirituality as the Quality of Our Emotional Life


MUSIC: Improvisation, Part 6 | Blues, The Hemiola, & Double Time

  • 6 Scales to Play With 3-Chord Blues. 

  • 12 Bar Blues: Boogie Woogie. The “CLAW” & Rolling Octaves 

  • Basic 12 Bar Blues Chord Progressions

  • 8 Bar Blues: Basic 8 Bar Blues Chord Progressions

  • 16 Bar Blues: Basic 16 Bar Blues Chord Progressions

  • Minor Blues: Basic 12 Bar Minor Blues Chord Progressions

  • Basic 8 Bar Minor Blues Chord Progressions.

  • 12 Bar Minor Blues with Jazz Chord Progressions 

  • Jazz Blues: 12 Bar Jazz Blues Chord Progressions 

  • Modal & Minor Modal Blues: Basic 12 Bar Blues Chord Progressions

  • The Hemiola: The Hemiola as a Polyrhythm & The Rhythmic Structure of Hemiola & 8th Note Triplets

  • The Afro-Cuban Experience

  • Examples of Melodic Lines Consisting of the Hemiola Rhythms with Accented 8TH Note Triplets

  • 4 Grooves Using the Hemiola in 4/4 Time, & 2 Grooves Using the “Reverse Hemiola” in ¾ Time 

  • Double Time: To Transition From “Single Time” to Double Time, “Straighten Out the 8th Notes” 

  • Swing 8ths and 8th Note Triplets

  • Intros, Turn Arounds, & Endings

  • A Practice Tool: For Improvising All of the Chords & Scales Used in Improvised Forms of Music. 

MEDITATION: Zen & Walks in The Summer Garden

  • Zen, Walks in a Summer Garden

  • Enlightenment: A Butterfly on a Cone Flower

  • The Infinite Sacred Energy of Creation.


MUSIC: Solo & Ensemble Techniques for Piano, Part 1 | Advanced Chord Voicings

  • Advanced Chord Voicings – Economy of Movement

  • Left-Hand Rootless Voicings

  • Shell Voicings

  • Rootless Voicings For 2 Hands

  • “Railroad Chords”

  • Upper Structures for Dominant 7th Chords

  • Block Chords (“Shearing” Chords”)

  • Voicing Chords with Clusters of Scale Tones

  • Piano Voicings for Diminished Chords

  • Finger Patterns for the IIm7-V7-I Progression

  • I-VI-II-V Progression with Tritone Subs & Half Step Preparations

  • Chord Voicing Formulas

  • 4th & Other Hip Voicings (Half Diminished & “Slash Diminished”)

MEDITATION: The Sources of Spiritual Experience

  • The Experience of the Sacred: Comparing Western & Eastern Religious Traditions

  • Contrasting the Experience of the Sacred with the Mind & Emotions

  • The Common Thread Between Theistic & Non-Theistic Religions




MUSIC: Solo & Ensemble Techniques for Piano, Part 2 | Playing The Blues • Comping

  • Playing the Blues – Beginner to Advanced

  • 4 Kinds of Rootless Chords for the Left Hand

  • The CLAW, Walking 10ths, Rolling Left-Hand Octaves

  • 4th voicings For Major Blues & Minor Modal Blues

  • “Stacked 4th” Voicings for the Left Hand

  • Comping When Soloing

  • Propelling the Beat & More Comping Tips

  • Comping When Accompanying a Soloist

  • Comping Popular Music Jazz Fusion, Bossa Nova, Samba

  • Afro Cuban Comping for the Piano: “Guajeo”; Claves & Montunas

MEDITATION: Awareness Points 1 & 2 While Performing

  • Improvisation & Cognitive Meditation 

  • Being Aware That You Are Thinking While Performing.

  • Being Aware That You Are Trying Not to Think While Performing.

  • Inspiration & Artistry

  • The Relationship Between Awareness Points When Meditating and Performing

  • The Inner Source of Artistry

  • A Yoga “Body Scan” To Ease Tension


MUSIC: Solo & Ensemble Techniques for Piano, Part 3 | Improvising Accompaniments for Solo Piano

  • Improvising LH Solo Piano Accompaniments for Pop, Rock, Funk, R&B, & Motown

  • Reproducing the Dynamics & Energy of Recordings

  •  Creating Original Arrangements

  • Chord Repetition Techniques

  • Right Hand Fills & Bass Lines & Country Licks

  • Rolling Arpeggiated Chords

  • Adding Color Intervals

  • Variations of the Root-5th-Octave

  • Waves of Sound

  • Adding Jam Sections to Songs

  • Imitating Different Styles of Music

MEDITATION: Awareness Points 3 & 4 While Performing

  • Choosing and Observing Positive Trigger Thoughts During Meditation

  • Being Aware When You Are Not Listening and Remembering What You Are Improvising 

  • Being Aware When You Are Not Listening to the Other Musicians That You Are Performing With


MUSIC: Solo & Ensemble Techniques for Piano, Part 4 | Meditation Music, Contemporary Gospel & Jazz

  • Characteristics of Meditation Music.

  • History of African American Gospel Music

  • The African American Source of the Blues Scale During Slavery In the US

  • Spirituals

  • Contemporary Gospel Music: Root, 5th, & 10th

  • Techniques for Playing Gospel Music on the Piano

  • Left Hand Solo Piano Techniques for Jazz Ballads: Variations on the Root, 5th, & 10th

  • Left Hand Solo Piano Techniques for Medium and Up-Tempo Jazz: Comping, Bass Lines, & Walking 10ths

  • Abstract Concepts for Piano Trios and Solo Piano. 

MEDITATION: Awareness Points 5 & 6 While Performing

  • Using Meditation to Achieve Your Artistic Potential

  • Being Aware When You Are Holding Your Breath

  • Being Aware When You Are Straining to Perform


MUSIC: Solo & Ensemble Techniques for Piano, Part 5 | Jazz (cont.) and Latin Music

  • Techniques for Medium & Up-Tempo Jazz: Chord Repetition and Stride

  • Bossa Nova Bass Lines

  • Samba Bass Lines

  • Afro-Cubano Montunos & “Tumbaos” (Bass Lines) 

MEDITATION: Awareness Points While Practicing

  • The Spiritual Path Within.

  • Being Aware When Your Thoughts Start to Wander When You Are Practicing

  • Being Aware How You Are Practicing

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