Jazz Violin Lessons Exclusive Review: Christian Howes Creative Strings Academy
The Christian Howes Creative String Academy has easily become my number one resource for learning and developing my musicianship. After spending years trying to discover the secrets of the jazz language by struggling to pick apart recordings and study theory textbooks, I finally went straight to the source. Christian is the real deal. He not only possesses extreme virtuosity and beautiful creativity, but he’s also been able to carefully guide me through the murky territories of improvisation. (It’s a rare gift to experience the highest quality of instruction from a world-class player.) The key to this has been the depth of resources he’s provided. When I first logged in to the home page, the sheer amount of content seemed overwhelming. Fortunately, once I realized that everything was laid out intuitively, the exploration was a blast.
The videos and articles first listed are related to warm-ups. Next follows the content on Technique, Free-Improvisation, Harmony, and Tonal- Improvisation. If that wasn’t enough, there are also other topics that fall under the Tonal Improvisation umbrella such as idiom-specific videos on Blues and Jazz. When I’m exhausted from theory-overload, I always wind down with helpful tips on violin-specific gear or business strategies. The most exciting thing about this Academy is that the library of content is constantly expanding to keep up with my growth as a player.
I’ve noticed several notable improvements during my study of Chris’s videos and articles. For instance, before watching the video on posture, I experienced tension in my back and neck muscles. After a week or so of changing my technique so that the majority of the violin’s support was shifted from my neck to my left-hand, my intonation improved and my tone was much broader as a result of my relaxation. Another notable change involves arguably the most important improvisation aspect used for communication with an audience: Phrasing. Before, I was constantly struggling to play phrases that made sense or ended naturally. After practicing the phrasing techniques Chris shows, I seem to have a new command of making my solos feel better to everyone listening. These are only two of many improvements to my playing by just committing Chris’s material to my own mental guidebook.
The heaviest and easily most valuable asset has been the Violin Harmony Handbook. This book is the Holy Bible for any improvising string player. It’s contents range from the most basic tools for practicing improvisation all the way to dissecting abstract sounds by learning “heavy lifting” exercises. For instance, I’ve learned exercises to voice-lead ANY chord, which allows me to accompany a soloist over any tunes’ changes. I’ve also learned how to harmonize ANY melody no matter how odd the chord changes are. No other violin-specific resource I’ve ever read shows these concepts more clearly than the Handbook.
Through the coverage of such a breadth of strategies and tips, Christian Howes Creative String Academy has given me many angles in which to assess weaknesses in my playing. If I were to take bi-weekly lessons with a saxophonist in search of mastery of the jazz language, I would end up paying easily triple what it costs to experience the Christian Howes String Academy (AND the saxophonist would be clueless when confronted with any of the many string-specific challenges we often run into). AND I can learn in the most peaceful place in the world: in my living-room, on my couch, in my pajamas!