As I gear up for the next session of  my online course “Hip Harp Toolkit” which starts Oct. 21st, I’ve been getting a lot of questions — and decided to post some of them here. Here’s one I got this morning:


I play for hospital and hospice and don’t like Jazz. I do want to learn to arrange and simplify pieces and do intros and interludes, improvise in a meditative fashion. Could I benefit from your course? I’ve been playing about 5 years.


Yes – absolutely!  A lot of people use the course that way because it’s basically an arrangement course that you can use for any style of music.

In the course we focus on how to build arrangements using my basic 5-part arrangement formula. That formula allows you to take any simple melody and create an impromptu arrangement.  You learn the building blocks of that formula, how to put those building blocks together, simplify them if necessary and embellish them if you want — but I don’t impose any particular style or rhythm on them – in fact, I really like to separate structure from style!


Often people in the course will ask me how to add stylistic elements – from Latin or Jazz to meditative-styles – and part of what I do in the live video chats is to answer people’s questions about how to do the specific things they want (and those chats get recorded so you can watch them later)

One of the reasons the course is especially useful for hospice or meditative work is that it teaches you ways in which you can be responsive in the moment, ways you can expand an arrangement if you want to stay with one mood for longer, gracefully end it if it’s not the right piece for the moment — or segue from one tune to another if you want to slightly change the mood or melody, but don’t want to stop the flow.

The music we use for the course:

I provide a set of six simple tunes you can use for the course. Most of the students use those tunes but others bring in tunes they want to work on, especially if they have a specific focus or event they’re working towards.

For the Fall session of “Hip Harp Toolkit” I also provide a PDF of about 30 Holiday Tunes, all in C tuning and I encourage people to work towards building a holiday repertoire they can improvise on so that they’re putting what they’re learning directly into practice.
So, for example, if you want to add holiday music to your hospital and hospice work this holiday season, you could focus your homework for the course on developing that repertoire – and you’d add any questions that come up as you’re doing that to the chat.

Let me know if that’s helpful or if you have other questions.

And that goes for you, too, if you’re reading this post.   If you have questions about the upcoming “Hip Harp Toolkit” course (or anything else), use my “Ask a Question” form to ask it and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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