Improvisation for Strings, Shane Guse


Combining the creative and the technical in a way to make the art of improvisation more accessible to string players.

 As a music performance graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University, I found Shane Guse's improv course for strings extremely rewarding. While I had some experience already improvising with lead sheets, Shane's course provided me with invaluable new strategies with which to approach them both as accompanist and soloist, as well as the opportunity to study several genres of music in a structured context with a master improviser. In particular, learning how to chop, and how to combine it with chordal playing over a harmonic progression, has revolutionized my approach to improvising. The experience of playing in ensemble with Shane and the other workshop participants was also extremely helpful in developing my conception of rhythm and my comfort with soloing in a group, and the challenge to learn songs and extract parts by ear has improved my aural and transcription skills too. I would recommend Shane's workshop to any bowed-string player interested in developing the skills necessary to be a well-rounded musician.” - Erik Johnson

 There is an old joke that goes something like this...

 “How do you get a guitar player to be quiet?  Put sheet music in front of him.”

 It’s just a joke guitar players!! However, the complete opposite can often be said for string players.  If you take the sheet music away, many of us have no idea what to do next! If we are put in a situation where we need to improvise or “jam” with other players we can’t do it.  Why is this?

 The violin/fiddle is such a melody driven instrument.  Many of us have never been put in the position where we’ve needed to know anything beyond the melody or harmony written for us. We aren’t required to be aware of the chord progressions, voicings and grooves we need to be able to become a more cohesive member of the band.  These things are often left up to those accompanying us.

 Can improvisation be taught? Improvisation can be learned, through experience and practice. If they have a solid technical base, are willing to put in the time and aren’t afraid to take a chance, this workshop series would be a great way to enrich a students playing.  It will teach them how to use their instrument in a way they may never have before and give them confidence that they can take with them beyond the classroom. 

 String players at a University level already have the tools they need to be able to improvise. They know the theory, but can’t always relate it to their instrument. Through a series of workshops I can show them how to train their ear and apply their theory.  This practical application, combined with their creative mind, will give them the freedom to improvise while also giving them a better understanding of the applied musical theory.  After all, it’s the music that came before the theory.  Theory is just a way of understanding what sounds good to our ear so we can replicate it. The art of improvising often helps other areas of playing as well, including timing and intonation by increasing the need to listen and adapt to the other musicians playing with you. 

 Using different musical styles from Folk and Bluegrass to Swing And Jazz and using percussive techniques like the “Chop” I can help students to gain an understanding of a variety of styles of playing. We can start will simple melodies and chord structures and move towards the more complex. 

 Specific areas of interest to the beginner improve student will include the following topics:

 l  Following chord progressions. 

l  Thinking like a rhythm player (chop)

l  Time (groove)

l  Phrasing

l  Thinking in numbers (Nashville number system)

l  Building a solo, or expanding on an existing one

l  How to apply different scales.  What are the most important notes in a scale or chord.

l  5 Common Chord Qualities M7, 7, m7, m7b5, o7


To summarize, I can help students to learn and develop a skill that is still not common among string players.  This versatility can only be a benefit to them as they pursue their musical journey.

 Shane Guse - As well as teaching at The Beckett School at Laurier, Shane Guse is a top call musician on stage, radio, television, in studio and beyond. His album credits include many award winning projects and some of the most played songs on Canadian Country radio. His touring credits include the top artists in the country including country stars like Dean Brody and George Canyon and Pop stars like Richard Marx and Colin James.  He is also the founding member and leader of the multi award winning roots group The Western Swing Authority. 

Shane is the Canadian Country Music Association Fiddle Player of the Year for 2010, 2011, 2014, 2016 and 20117 and has 20 other CCMA nominations to his credit.  He has also received, 3 Country Music Association of Ontario Awards, an Academy of Western Artists Award (Best Western Swing Band 2014) and is a two time Independent Music Award winner.

 Shane has worked with numerous schools in the Waterloo District School Board, and beyond, as a para-professional doing work shops with aspiring string students. Shane has also done clinics and demonstrations for Wood Violins of NYC with their revolutionary 7-string Viper violins, taught an improvisation course he designed and taught at Conestoga College, and he has also been a guest instructor at the Orangeville Fiddle camp.

 Shane's wide breadth of experience has made him a unique and popular teacher in his own right and he is looking forward to meeting you at the Beckett School at Laurier newly located at 190 Lester Street, Waterloo.

 Shane plays a Barry Dudley 5-string fiddle, uses D'Addario strings, uses LR Baggs pick ups and pre amps and plays a Stonebridge Mandolins and Guitars.

Term Description: 


8 week course, November 8, 15, 22, 29, January 10, 17, 24, 31.

1 November 2017 - 7:00pm
$240 for 8 weeks
Recital Room, Main Campus
190 Lester Street
Phone: (519) 578-3640