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Thread: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

  1. #1

    Default Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Matt's 8-lesson course Fiddle Tune Harmony just wrapped, and I thought I'd tell anyone who missed out or is thinking of future courses (BG101, 102 and 103 coming up) how his program works.

    First of all, Matt is incredibly well organized, generous, and thorough, as well as supportive and friendly and fun during the live sessions. He answers all questions and still keeps the lesson on-track to cover the material. He thoughtfully designs a multi-week syllabus that supports the course title topic. He has a great understanding of skill levels and suggests an approach to the material that will challenge anyone if all exercises and tunes are mastered.

    Nuts and bolts: the custom course website hosts general information; downloadable .pdfs for tunes and exercises; downloadable .mp3s of tunes in parts at three different tempos; streaming videos for prior live lesson and practice sessions as well as re-recorded segments from the lessons for each exercise and tune; some background info on some of the tunes; and a forum area where students can post text, .pdfs, .mp3s, images... for fellow student and Matt feedback. The website is up for the course duration and until the next courses start, but if you have downloaded all the support material you no longer need ongoing access to the site.

    The magic for me was the two live sessions per week. The weekly Lesson started at 9PM ET and lasted well over an hour. Sometimes there was a brief warm-up, then new ideas and concepts were introduced first as examples and exercises, then as a primary tune (and then its harmony part, for this course) with playing tips, and finally a bonus tune. Matt strives to teach learning by ear, but makes the notation available as the lesson proceeds.

    The GoToMeeting web lesson engine has a re-sizable video window, a chat window (which Matt checks often and responds to during the lesson), and a resource window from which you can view or download the .pdf of the exercise or tune being taught. You get email reminders through the week and day of the upcoming live session with a button to link to the lesson. I never had a problem configuring or connecting although there was clearly some stuff briefly going on in the background to make it happen. The audio and video from Matt were crystal clear and high resolution with no delays or gaps.

    Now, the Practice Session. Matt has cleverly realized that the key to adult learning is repetition. Should I say it again? So, on Saturday (four days after the lesson for this course), he has a second live session that goes over all the lesson material again. If you didn't quite pick up a concept the first time through, it may well be clear hearing him explain it a second time. If you practiced the material from the lesson and have a question about note choice or fingering, you can ask now and get a live answer. I think this aspect of Matt's lessons certainly eats up his time! (I said he was generous) but makes it much more likely you will assimilate the week's material.

    And if you miss a live Lesson or Practice, they are available to stream from the course website within a day.

    This particular course -- Fiddle Tune Harmony -- covered how to create and play harmony parts for fiddle tunes in keys of G, D, A and C as well as minor tonality. The first seven lessons addressed high harmony, generally involving the next highest chord tone above the melody on strong beats while mirroring the melody line for the passing notes. This often involved playing high on the neck which was a good introduction to position shifting and surviving in the thin air up there; Matt demonstrated various approaches to fingering strategy. The final lesson introduced a second harmony part playing baritone (three mandolins at once). The drills and exercises involved identifying I-IV-V(7) chord tones in various keys as well as crafting a harmony over various licks. In general, I found it very useful to incorporate triad knowledge and patterns with accurate and prompt fretting on the fingerboard. Nothing mechanical about this process--there are choices about blue notes and 7ths for the V chord that will express your own taste.

    Instruction on theory, technique, drills and exercises, and sixteen beautiful tunes with play-along tracks and notation for all parts. After eight weeks I can learn a tune more quickly, better see the melody in context of chord, have greater facility in higher FB positions, and have understanding (theoretical, at least) of creating harmony parts on my own. And I dig the sound of two mandolins together--nothing more beautiful as Matt says. Clearly I loved this course, and look forward to many more with Matt. It was one of the most productive and fun eight weeks in my mandolin journey.
    Last edited by MandoAblyss; Mar-18-2017 at 1:38pm.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Thanks for that review!

    I was also in this class, and the main reason I took it was to get a better understanding of what makes up tunes, as well as to help me get around the fretboard more. I was able to play the easier tunes in both parts, and am getting Billy in the Lowground under my fingers. The sound of two mandolins playing together is sweet. I highly recommend this course to anyone!

    The practice session is nice, and like all things, repetition is key. The concepts that really stuck, and the songs that are easier to play are the ones I practiced on over the week. Simply practicing twice a week in addition to the scheduled classes really reinforced the class material. I must admit that this was the exception, not the rule for me.

    Plenty of material to work on after the course ends, and I have a backlog of stuff from the three other courses I have taken from Matt, so I will be taking a break from Matt's courses for a while.

    The only feedback I would give to improve the course would be to step away from tab for some (but certainly not all) of the course. A major part of this course was built around chord tones, and to have the notes called out by numbers led to an unnecessary translation back to notes. Perhaps doing this on G C D7 with just standard notation, then leaving the others as an exercise for the student, encouraging them to not only call the notes out by root, 3rd, 5th and 7th but by note also. This is my take coming from an advanced beginner perspective.
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    I've been taking courses with Matt for a few years. I took up the mandolin roughly at the same time he started the online courses so my trajectory as a player has been highly influenced by his approach I suppose.

    For what it's worth, it took some time but I've really made some progress as a player even though I can't say that at any point I really could grasp all of the material Matt presented. Rather, he has some real consistency in his system and method and always encourages us to try to pick up a few things from the lessons and try to bring our own ideas into it when playing the tunes. Slowly but surely I've integrated some of the concepts into my head and fingers. I sometimes go back to material from earlier courses I've taken and found the "aha" moment that eluded me the first time. Matt really does focus on matching the chord tones to the tune, so instead of simply learning to play a tune, there are exercises and pedagogical tools to help you learn how to improvise over the tunes. It's very Socratic, in a way - Matt doesn't ever seem to say "play it like this" but rather gives practical advise to help you find your own style of approaching the tunes. In the beginning/intermediate courses there are a lot of picking exercises that are played at the start of each session at increasing tempos, and although at times I felt I wanted to skip over those and get to the tunes. But, the proof is in the pudding as they say, and those exercises helped my technique just as advertised.

    Anyway, I don't know if that comes across as a glowing review but I'll just simply say that his courses are the best thing I've done to improve as a player. I can be a bit lazy, and sometimes slow on the uptake, so the live sessions with Q&A really help me focus. In fact, the live webinars are often a real highlight of my week as it's great to be on a call with other players after the work day.

    Oh, and one last thing: Matty does some super transcriptions of solos. Monroe, Django, even Miles Davis! The solo transcriptions are a bit on the advanced side for me, but each session has a range of material that suits various levels, so the solo transcriptions can be used to pull a few ideas from our great musical heroes, or provide an additional challenge for those who want to delve into them and learn a note for note solo.

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    After taking Matt's Newgrass course at Swannanoa, which I found to be very challenging (just what I needed), I took 2 more online courses through the winter and just completed his Gypsy Jazz unit. I fully agree with all the positive statements in previous posts. I really appreciate the structure of the classes with the progression from week to week. And the various chord, scale and arpeggio exercises are invaluable for long term improvement.

    I come away from theses courses with more that just new tunes under my fingers. I have building blocks that help me enhance the tunes I'm playing now and the ones I want to learn to play.

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    I'm thinking of doing the Matt's Gypsy Jazz course next time it is offered. Does it assume any of his other classes as a prereq?
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi guidoStow,

    No courses are required or necessarily recommended as prerequisites. If the course looks like it'll fit your ability level, I'd say go for it. And if you find that it's too difficult or too easy, I give the option after the first week's lesson to either opt out for a full refund or switch to another course that might be a better fit (I usually offer three at a time, and they're usually geared toward various ability levels).

    It's hard to say when I'll be offering the Gypsy Jazz course next; fall of this year is likely the soonest (I've got too many courses that I want to get to!). And when it does come up again, I'll likely have a basic swing course and a bebop course offered as well; so Gypsy Jazz might be somewhere in the middle as far as difficulty level.

    Anyway, I hope that helps. Please don't hesitate to post or message me with any other questions.

    Thanks!
    Matt Flinner

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for this! Would it be possible for you post a tentative schedule of what classes you are planning so we can be sure to be ready? The swing and bebop courses would be of great interest too.

    Thanks!

    guido
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi Guido,

    Sure thing! Here's the tentative schedule for now:

    March 27, 28 & 29-May 27: Bluegrass Mandolin 101, 102 and 103 courses (8-week courses).
    July 3, 5 and 6-July 29: Bluegrass Jamming, Swing Jamming and Scale and Arpeggio Intensive I courses (4-week courses).
    August 14, 15 and 16-Sept 9: Bluegrass Jamming II, Swing Jamming II and Scale and Arpeggio Intensive II courses (4-week courses).
    Oct 2, 3 and 4-Dec 9: Likely Swing 101, Gypsy Swing and either Bebop Mando or Chord Melody Mando (8-week courses).

    All is subject to change, but that's where things stand at this point. I hope that helps! Let me know if you'd like further info on any of the courses.

    Thanks,
    Matt

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi Matt,

    Wow, lots of cool stuff indeed. What level is the Swing Jamming I targeted at?

    Thanks!

    guido
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi guido,

    I think the Swing Jamming I (and basically II) will be targeted toward intermediate players. We'll do four swing tunes per week (usually in the same key), with the intent of getting familiar with the chord professions first, melodies second and ideas for improvisation third. The level of the student will determine how much of this they want to take on each week, and I think advanced beginners who are interested in swing tunes could be fine with it. So maybe advanced beginner to solid intermediate? Or really any players who are interested in swing tunes and want to beef up their repertoire.

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi Matt,

    Sounds great! Nice to set a goal for practice. I'll sign up for it when it opens.

    Thanks!

    guido
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Quote Originally Posted by flynyrdskynyrd View Post
    Hi Guido,

    Sure thing! Here's the tentative schedule for now:

    March 27, 28 & 29-May 27: Bluegrass Mandolin 101, 102 and 103 courses (8-week courses).
    July 3, 5 and 6-July 29: Bluegrass Jamming, Swing Jamming and Scale and Arpeggio Intensive I courses (4-week courses).
    August 14, 15 and 16-Sept 9: Bluegrass Jamming II, Swing Jamming II and Scale and Arpeggio Intensive II courses (4-week courses).
    Oct 2, 3 and 4-Dec 9: Likely Swing 101, Gypsy Swing and either Bebop Mando or Chord Melody Mando (8-week courses).

    All is subject to change, but that's where things stand at this point. I hope that helps! Let me know if you'd like further info on any of the courses.

    Thanks,
    Matt

    Hi Matt,

    Your courses look interesting...I don't want to hijack the thread so I'll send you a PM...
    Mike

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi Mike,

    Got it! I just sent a reply. Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Thanks,
    Matt

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    By the way, thank you thank you thank you everyone for the feedback. I appreciate it very much! I'm trying to make this program the best it can be, and as it evolves I think it's serving students better and better---that's my hope, anyway.

    Gary, to address your comments: I think your suggestions are great, especially to have students work out chord tones on their own. I'm thinking of incorporating a but more "homework" as we go along, and your suggestion is on the spot.

    It's a bit tricky at times for me to decide what approach to something like, say, chord tones is the best approach, as students all have their individual ways of seeing it. Some prefer to know note names, some prefer fret numbers, some prefer shapes, etc. For me, from a practical standpoint I think learning the shapes may be the best way of getting to know the fretboard well (including chord tones). If, for example, you know the relationship between the root and third in a major triad is either four frets (like E to G# on the 2nd and 6th frets of the D string) or three frets down on the next string up (like G on the 5th fret of the D string and B on the 2nd fret of the A string), you've got it pretty well covered, and learning that around the neck will give you a good handle on that part of the triad in any key (as well as the beginning of "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," which is pretty cool). I've generally discouraged students from being too concerned about learning note names of triads; knowing that A# is the third of an F# chord can be useful, but I'd rather find the root (F#) and use familiar shapes to find the rest of what I need from there. Finding sounds is more important, to me, than finding note names---does that make sense? And I only say this because I've had many students that seemed to put what I saw as too much emphasis on learning the note names around the fretboard and too little emphasis on playing music! But that's just me.

    That being said, your comments are very very valuable to me---so thanks, Gary! The more I know about students' perspectives and approaches to playing, the more effective I can be as a teacher. I'll keep all of this in mind as we go forward, and watch for more homework (this comment should be followed by a semicolon, dash and end parenthesis to convey the image of a human smiling winking face).

    Thanks,
    Matt

  20. #15

    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Hi Matt,

    I was also in your Fiddle Tune Harmony class. As a result, I have gotten so much more comfortable with arpeggios and scales, and things generally feel more natural and instinctive. While I wasn't always able to ingest everything in every lesson due to some time constraints, the fact that I now have the class material means that I can and will revisit each lesson in the future. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into teaching! That was money well spent, and I highly recommend your classes to others.

    Elizabeth
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    I also highly recommend Matt's courses. His preparation, organization, and large volume of material are excellent attributes. I have taken two four week classes and have only positive experiences.
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    Quote Originally Posted by ddminpgfl View Post
    I also highly recommend Matt's courses. His preparation, organization, and large volume of material are excellent attributes. I have taken two four week classes and have only positive experiences.
    Agreed!!! I also was impressed with how well he responded to questions and comments made through the online chat feature during the lesson.
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's On-Line Courses

    I’ve taken 5 of Matt’s classes and agree they are excellent. Mandolin is my 1st and only instrument and I started playing about 5 years ago. I was drawn to Matt’s classes by the fun song list, but more important to me now is content that focuses on fundamentals and important steps for solo improvising. The classes have a lot of content and include challenges for players of all abilities. My music practice notebook is filled with a lot of Matt’s handouts.

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