Harry Chalmiers

Transforming the Music Learning Experience

Music Lessons & Coaching with Harry

At my studio, at your home (Twin Cities area), or via Skype

As a result of my many years as a leader in contemporary music education, I've developed a unique system combining artistry, technology, and theory to help my students realize their full artistic potential.

Before beginning the formal learning process, I conduct an in-depth interview with you to learn where you are on your musical path and where you want to go. After a careful assessment of your musical background, education, and accomplishment, I design a Personal Music Learning Plan that builds upon your current musical foundation.

Whether you are looking for classical or rock/jazz guitar instruction or help with songwriting or composition, your lesson will be blended with:

Harmonizing & Stylizing a Song Melody

quote Dessa stopped by and we worked out some harmonies for my tune, Will You Stay with Me.

Sample Lesson for a Classical Guitar Student

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Guitar Pedagogy Materials
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens is used by permission from Random House/Knopf

13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Tone Poems for Solo Guitar

Thirteen Ways is a collection of lessons for classical guitar that emphasizes not only technical development but understanding and interpreting musical content that challenges one's performance abilities. The music was inspired by Wallace Stevens' poem Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

Lesson 8, Noble Accents, is a study in arpeggios. Arpeggios are very effective on the guitar, resonating richly for a full, pleasing sound, and technically being relatively easy to produce. As arpegiated chords change from one to the next, it's important to understand the voice leading. In addition to producing a rich arpeggio sound, this piece challenges the student to hear the chord changes and bring out the voice leading.

classical guitar pedagogy - arpeggios
13 ways of looking at a blackbird
Noble Accents

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

Case Study - Basic Learner

Kesha is in a band that performs at her church every Sunday. She writes songs, sings lead and harmony, and plays guitar. She plays by ear, does not read music, and frequently feels stuck in a rut using the same chords and harmonic progressions. She doesn't play lead guitar, but would like to. She has very little knowledge of music theory and has had no ear training beyond learning to play by ear. She's not really motivated to learn to read music notation. She primarily wants to improve her guitar playing, songwriting skills, and develop a broader palate of musical resources and possibilities.

Excerpt from Kesha's Personal Music Learning Plan

Kesha needs to understand what she knows by ear: how chords emerge from a scale or mode and are grouped as tonic, sub-dominant and dominant. These relationships are familiar to Kesha by ear, but understanding them based on scales, intervals, and keys will help her form new chord progressions out of the common ones she already knows.

from Joe Elliott's guitar workbook
This is an excerpt from An Introduction to Jazz Guitar Soloing by master jazz guitarist, Joe Elliot. Joe has written workbooks and has a video course that I highly recommend to any guitarist.

At each stage we will connect ear training with theory to bring the concepts into aural experience while developing her ability to analyze and understand harmonic progressions. As listening skills develop, we will extend chords to include upper structure tones (9th, 11th, 13th, and altered versions), chord inversions, alternative voicings, more non-diatonic chords, key changes, extended registers, and more.

Whether Kesha sticks with the blues or moves on to master the modes of the jazz minor scale, she will have the tools she needs to do so.

Case Study - Composition Student

Whether you are composing for a band or an orchestra, you want your original music to grab the listener's attention and keep it. There are structural reasons why some music is captivating and some is, well, a snore. Marianne has mastered the fundamentals of music theory but feels she doesn't know what makes great music. By building stronger analytic skills, she can bring a deeper awareness of the art of composition to fruition in her own work.

While it's important to know traditional theory, including voice leading, counterpoint, harmonic analysis, and so on, I have my students study the framework presented in Sonic Design: the Nature of Sound and Music (Pozzi Escot Bobert Cogan). Sonic Design uses the elements of musical language, space, time (rhythmic structure), and tone color to illuminate the way a composition works as an integrated whole.

Example from Sonic Design
Graphic representation of movement in musical space, from Sonic Design by Pozzi Escot and Robert Cogan

Excerpt from Marianne's Personal Lesson Plan

Whether analyzing a Beatles tune or a Prelude by Chopin, Marianne and I begin by looking at how the composition is shaped by its motion through space:

We consider such questions as:

When we have a good sense of the spatial structure of a work we can ask similar questions about how the musical language, tone color, and the development of the composition through time all work together to reinforce the musical form, ideas and structure. When you have insight into what constitutes an outstanding piece of music, you can apply the same concepts to your own compositions.