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Thread: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

  1. #1
    Registered User Matt Livingston's Avatar
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    Default Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    If anyone is considering online mandolin courses, here's my comments on Matt Flinner's online course on Jazz and Swing. I've been playing mandolin for more than 15 years mostly in a contradance band, mainly fiddle tunes (a variety of traditional styles and original tunes). If you don't feel like reading, just sign up! The course I took was great. If you want to learn more about it, keep reading.

    I had been considering an online course. I liked the fact that it was a discrete 8-lessons over 10 weeks. Enough time to set aside to practice, knowing that with a 50 hour work week and family, it couldn't do it for more than a few months. I was also interested in the format - live video conferencing, some practice videos, some MP3 tracks to play along with, some written material, and student submission of MP3, which Matt would critiqe. I liked the mixed format.

    In short, it was excellent. I put aside 10 weeks to work on some new things and it really paid off. I haven't played this much in several years and I learned a lot. The class material was challenging, but accessible. Between the videos and written materials, each week there was enough material and at varying levels, so that it would work for a wide range of student levels. Matt is a talented teacher and made it work.

    The format: Each week, there is a live lesson which lasted about 90 minutes - mostly Matt in his trademark brown buttondown shirt talking and playing to a webcam from various houses and hotels across the country. It was interactive through a chat window. Matt has a very good and has a genuine sense of how to make it work over a camera. There was a live hour-long weekend practice session to review the material and tunes. The video quality was good. Sometimes the live sound of the mando was not great, but when the videos of the sessions were posted, sound was perfect. If you were unable to make the live classes, video links were posted within a few days.

    Each week had a focused topic (blues, ii-V-i, circle of 5ths, chord melodies...) and broke down into raw materials (scales and arpegios), licks, chords and chord inversions, and two tunes. Written materials in standard notation and tab were excellent - I have a binder with what must be 60-80 pages. Videos with the exercises were there, but I didn't use them too much. I focused more on the written material. MP3 tracks at different speeds for the tunes were very helpful - either melody (so you could practice chords) or chords (so you could play melody or solo). I played these a lot. All material is downloadable and I have it all on a memory stick that I go back to often.

    Finally, I'll comment on the Matt's critique of MP3s that I posted. I posted about 5 or 6 recordings of me playing for critique. I hooked up a small Jawvone speaker to my laptop and played Matt's MP3 track, and myself playing along on an iPhone. I emailed the file to myself and then posted it. Easy enough. The feedback was great. For each 2-3 minute solo or MP3 I posted, I got a very detailed 10 minute MP3 reply. It included Matt playing back the licks I included, talking about what he liked and offered suggestions on where to take it next. In one case, I revamped the entire solo based on his recommendations and resubmitted. The feedback wasn't immediate. Sometime it took a few weeks to get back, but the feedback was encouraging and very useful. I was actually a little surprised that only a few students posted MP3s. It was actually cool to hear what other students were doing and hear other students playing. I would have liked to see more of this.

    The icing on the cake was that Matt put an extra week on the curriculum at no cost. One last session to run through all 16 tunes we learned. He didn't have to. He just did it and it was a lot of fun.

    Overall, my expectations were exceeded. Matt was a very good teacher and got me really excited about playing new things on the mandolin. I totaled it up and I probably spent about 20 - 25 hours in front of a computer in a live format. Frankly, I think I'm going to miss the guy. My plans now, are to go back over the course again and watch the lessons again, but take two weeks to absorb it. I think I could probably go through the class 2 or 3 more times and still get use from it. He also had some great recording references and books to consider.

    If you're thinking about trying it, just go for it. I was on the fence and it was a great investment and use of my time. Let me know if you have any questions from a student's perspective. I'll be happy to answer.

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  3. #2
    Registered User Steve Roberts's Avatar
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    I agree with Matt, the class was excellent. I can honestly say that I would not have known a ii-V-I turnaround if it hit me in the face before the class. Now I'm finding them everywhere! For me the class was challenging but manageable, thanks to M Flinner's patience and friendly teaching style.

    Highly recommended!

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  5. #3

    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    Do you get to access the materials online after the 10 week period? I don't know that I have time to do all the work in 10 weeks and was curious how long you were given access. Thanks

  6. #4
    Registered User Matt Livingston's Avatar
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    We had access to the website about two weeks past the class but all of the materials were available to download including the final jam so it's your forever. Videos are still accessible online. You could download it free or purchase a memory stick with the materials on it directly from Matt.

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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    Just wanted to say that Matt L. described the course experience really well. Taking this course definitely has made me a better musician and added color to my playing. Matt Flinner worked very had to make sure that everyone, regardless of level of playing, could get something out of each lesson. It often felt like a personal lesson that you didn't have to leave home for. Looking forward to the next session which starts tonight.

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    I elected to take the Appalachian Mandolin class which Matt taught at the same time as the jazz/swing class. I am a big jazz fan, but thought the jazz/swing class might prove difficult for me considering my playing level.
    All I can say is the Appalachian class was a great joy. I've been quite taken by Old Time mandolin music and Matt is an excellent, thorough and patient teacher.
    Plus, I have a truckload of new tunes to work on!

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  11. #7
    Registered User DSDarr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    I also took Matt's swing/jazz mando class and I absolutely agree with what Matt (Livingston) said. Great class and a lot of material to work on. I'm about to start the class over again from scratch (using the downloaded material to work over slowly). I've done several of Matt's online mando classes in the past and I highly recommend them. Very organized and very well thought out. Just about the best thing I know of next to in person lessons (and in some ways better since the materials are thoughtfully organized so that you can easily revisit and continue to work on them). Looking forward to Matt teaching another jazz/swing class in the (hopefully) not so distant future...

    David

  12. #8
    Registered User Matt Livingston's Avatar
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    I'm taking my binder to a guitar player's house tonight and we're going to run through the Jazz/Swing class tunes.

  13. #9

    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    Matt's Swing Mandolin class was just what I was hoping for plus a whole lot more. I wanted to learn some basic jazz rhythm comping chords, and the approach in the lessons was great. The info to expand from a basic chord comp using substitutions was also well presented. The basic concepts of scale, arpeggio, and chord tone soling over chords was included in each weeks lesson. Some of the soloing material was a bit beyond what I could internalize in one week. That's the stuff I'll be working on now that the class is done. The ability to view the lesson live online, or later if you missed it or wanted to review it again was a big help. I enjoyed that class so much that I signed up for one his Bluegrass courses.

    Scott

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  15. #10
    Okay, I'm with you fellas tburcham's Avatar
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    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    I've taken 101 & 102...see my previous posts. Loved them...Matt is a great teacher.
    Tim Burcham
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  17. #11

    Default Re: Matt Flinner's Online Mandolin Course Review: Jazz/Swing

    I'll echo everyone else-- the swing class was fantastic-- just wish there were more great resources to work on that stuff.

    Just started his Bluegrass 101 playing in position/double stops. I think it's going to be a great course, too.

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