Music Theory Sessions, by video chat
One-on-One, Long-Distance Lessons in
jazz harmony, classical harmony,
musical analysis and composition
I teach jazz and classical harmony and composition to a small number of private, long-distance students. Sessions are one-on-one, by video chat, and are geared specifically to the goals and experience of each student. My students are professional and aspiring composers and performers from diverse musical genres, with backgrounds in jazz, classical music, folk, indie, R&B, early music, and more. Because I limit my teaching to a small number of students, each student receives my complete attention and individual care.
How I work
Each musician’s path is unique, and so are his or her requirements. For that reason, I begin each new teaching relationship with an in-depth ‘interview’, during which we discuss the student’s goals, cover their previous training and experience, and explore their abilities. Together, we then work out an outline of the study subjects, materials, and types of assignments most appropriate to that student’s needs and aspirations.
Many students want to develop a strong harmonic foundation, from which they can later branch out to the practices of their chosen genre. For them, the most solid way forward is often the study of "classical harmony", which addresses both chord progression and voice-leading. I like to use Harmony and Voice Leading, by Aldwell and Schachter, which is widely used in university-level harmony courses.
- Google "Harmony and Voice Leading Aldwell Schachter" to learn more about this text. You can find its table of contents online, here, at Amazon.com.
When I first created thinkingmusic.ca, long-distance lessons were often by email, and some thinkingmusic.ca pages date from those times. Even though lessons are now exclusively by video chat, those older pages still accurately portray how students and I approach the beginning stages of classical harmony:
- Check out , for an example of email lessons involving Harmony & Voice Leading.
By using video chat, my students and I can now work through voice-leading exercises together, in real time. Screen sharing allows us to display the student’s work, discuss and fix errors, and even write alternative versions — all while recording our video chat sessions for future reference.
The further one advances in classical harmony, the less distinct become the boundaries between it and jazz harmony. Here, I discuss a modulatory technique that is found equally in 19th century Romantic era music and 20th century jazz:
- Check out , for an example of email lessons that discuss more advanced harmonic techniques.
Jazz harmony is both the modern-day heir to the tonal harmony of Classical, Romantic and Impressionist traditions, and the master of its own intensely sophisticated – and ever-evolving - harmonic language.
Depending on the student’s requirements and goals, my work with jazz musicians involves anything from an in-depth study of the harmonic techniques particular to jazz, to analysing and discussing chord progressions and solos found in a specific piece. We use charts, recordings, transcriptions, and reference texts, in ways appropriate to the student’s wishes and goals.
For a detailed look at my approach to jazz harmony (and jazz time and jazz melody), check out these thinkingmusic.ca pages:
A webcam, video chat software (Skype, Google Hangouts, etc), and a reliable, high-speed internet connection.
Scanner (to scan/photograph your handwritten music);
Music notation app (so that you don’t need a scanner).
Session Frequency & Duration
The majority of my students meet with me on a weekly basis, and — while this is entirely optional — continue meeting with me for years.
I also accept requests for short-term consultations — e.g., help with a particular musical challenge, training for entrance examinations, etc.
I’ve been a professional musician for over forty years, as a performer (guitar and keyboards), arranger, composer, music consultant, and music educator.
I’ve been teaching music theory (rudiments, harmony, analysis and counterpoint), musicianship and composition for over twenty-five years -- mostly privately, but also at various institutions, seminars and workshops in Canada. (See about Michael Leibson, for further details.)
Since the 1980’s, I’ve also worked as a music consultant, acting as a forensic musicologist and music analyst/transcriber for many Canadian music publishers. The Clients and References pages, at my forensic musicology website, give details on some of the work I’ve done over the years. You can also find an example of my music analysis in DownBeat Magazine's "Masterclass by Michael Leibson".
My first loves are composing and thinking about music, and I do as much of both as I can. I get to think about music with my students, too, and I hope they also benefit from the exchange.
“I’ve known Michael Leibson for about twenty years, and can attest, without hesitation, that Michael is one of the finest musicians and is endowed with one of the keenest intellects I have ever known.”
— Dr. Alexander Rapoport, professor of composition,
University of Toronto, Canada
What my students (and others) have to say . . .
“Michael, your emails are so clear, and your generosity in
ing your knowledge really strikes me. I guess that this generosity comes from your love of all good music, which I share.
“There is no teacher here with your qualifications for approach-
ing harmony the way you have done in our emails. I would con-
sider it a privilege if you were to accept me as a student.”
jazz pianist and classical composer, Lausanne, Switzerland
. . . Two years later:
“I have been following justjazz discussions for a good number of
years. Yes, there are many ex-
cellent books and CD's at Aeber-
sold's shop. The Berklee on-line courses are also helpful because they imply some feed-back, and lively communications with fellow students and an instructor.
“However the best experience
I have had thus far in studying harmony is through an e-mail personalized course with one of the members of this group -- Michael Leibson, who can be found at thinkingmusic.ca”
“I've been studying with Michael Leibson for five years now and he’s taken me from almost zero musical education to being well ahead of the game in first year theory in a world-renowned jazz degree program. The things he has shown me have not only served as a theoretical basis but have also directed my understanding in all musical avenues and have inspired much creative thought.
“Having gone through several music teachers now, I find that Michael's approach is definitely the best. Before you start anything, he finds out exactly what it is that you know, what you don't know and what you want to know. The lessons are very detailed and you constantly get a sense that, in Michael, you are dealing with a tremendous wealth of musical knowledge, along with a lifetime of experience that keeps it alive and real. I never cease to be impressed with him.
“Michael and I have weekly lessons, which are conducted over the phone — we both set up with a phone at our instruments and computers. Everybody asks how such an arrangement could possibly work out, but it does! In fact, in some ways it’s better than being in the same place physically: there are no distractions, we get a tremendous amount of work done, and I have complete access to everything I need.
“I highly recommend him to ANYBODY who wants to know ANYTHING about music.”
“As owner and President of
Victory Drive Music Inc., I've been scoring and producing music
for film and television for over a decade, and have produced and arranged
for many Canadian artists, including The Tea Party,
Richard Underhill, Kim Stock-
wood, Jaymz Bee, Big Rude Jake, and many others.
“I first met Michael Leibson in the 1990's, when I studied music theory
and composition with him. He was a great teacher — not only really
knowledgeable about class-
ical composition, but very hip about all kinds of music. He un-
derstood and appreciated where I was coming from (and where I wanted to go), and was able to present detailed compositional concepts and procedures in a clear way, in a context that was very meaningful to me, and relevant to the styles of music in which I was interested. He was very person-
able, articulate and helpful.
“I've stayed in touch with Michael, over the years, and I've yet to find anything in music that he either doesn't already know, or can't quickly grasp on a deep and detailed level. No matter what the style of music, Michael's musical knowledge and insight is very deep, and his analyses are rock solid.”
President, Victory Drive Music Inc.,
“Michael, your descriptive and musical analysis of Jobim’s Wave
is one of the best introductions to Jobim’s “Music Magic”, in both the
Geometry. . . AND . . . the Spirit. . .
that I have read. Thanks!”
“I revived my interest in writing music late in life, and was fortunate
to find Michael Leibson and study with him for about five years. Michael has
pedic knowledge of musical composition and a sympathy for the needs of his students. The foundation he gave me enabled
me to develop musically – I now arrange for a choral group and am writing a chamber opera.”
“Whenever I need a truly in-
formed and insightful musical mind with whom to discuss aes-
thetic or technical matters, I get
in touch with Michael Leibson.”
Director, School of Music,
Harlem School of the Arts, New York, U.S.A.
. . . I hope
I can do
. . . for further information