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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Jazz Improvisation by Berklee

774 ratings

About the Course

Learn the basic concepts of improvisation from Gary Burton, one of the most renowned improvisers in the jazz world, including the mental, melodic, and harmonic processes that contribute to the instinctive skills that an improviser puts to use when taking a solo. While many people are fans of jazz and understand that musicians are often “making up” the notes they are playing during a performance, most people—often including musicians, themselves, who are beginning to learn improvising—aren’t clear about what exact processes take place to enable this to happen. The purpose of this course is to introduce the basic concepts of modern improvisation and how to go about mastering the different musical and mental skills involved. Course author Gary Burton codifies a sought-after approach to improvisation that has been at the core of Berklee College of Music's curriculum for decades. Students who complete this course will know what to practice and how to practice the various aspects of improvising, in addition to understanding how the improviser spontaneously communicates to the listeners through their musical creations....

Top reviews


Apr 18, 2017

It was productive and interesting time. I learnt a lot of new things and got much fun improving my improvisation skills.

Cite from course: You will have plenty to keep you busy in the months ahead.


Nov 19, 2016

This was a truly great course, I learnt so much. And I have been playing piano for almost 60 years! Thanks to a wonderful teacher and musician (brilliant rendition of Chick Corea's Crystal Silence)

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1 - 25 of 266 Reviews for Jazz Improvisation

By Ulla L P

Jan 25, 2016

A tough but rewarding course!

Especially if you are a beginner with respect to playing jazz, as I am, and if you are also a beginner with respect to music theory (which I am not, I have a master's degree in musicology), I guess it is more than tough. It's been more hard work than I expected, and I have spent more than 6 hours per week, but I also learned much more than I expected: a complete method for understanding jazz harmonization and developing solos.

I know for sure that I shall benefit from this course for years to come.

By Daniel T

Sep 28, 2015

This is a really hard course for an intermediate player. But it is an outstanding course, and it is amazing, if you think about it, to have hours of free access to Gary Burton. Students of Jazz will enjoy it, but it requires advanced chord theory, the ability to sight read, and a damned good ear to follow along. Some of the materials are strictly by sound, so if you can't follow chord changes you might be lost.

That said, this course helped me improve my playing in several ways. I was kind of blown away by what I was able to achieve in the later lessons.

By Joseph C

Aug 10, 2016

I thought this was a great course. It provided a new approach to improvisation that I hadn't previously considered.

The criticism I would make is that the final marks seem to depend entirely on the skill level of those marking. I assume that the proportion of beginners to advanced players is quite large based on the fact that I generally received very high marks for work that I personally probably would have given a poorer mark to. I guess that is just a result of the peer marking system and I don't think that there is much that can be done about it.

By Yonatan B

Sep 23, 2015

It is a great course and Gary Buton is amazing. It also has some insights about improvization and music that are very deep.

However, It suits mostly to piano players and not guitar players (I play both) and it will be naive to believe that after that course one should know how to improvise. even with years of practice, it will not happen. this course is a marketing material of Berklee and I must say I does make you want to go there for the whole package, anyway, do not develop expectation regarding your future as an improvisor.

By Torsten P

Nov 21, 2015

While the content is very helpful and Gary does his best to make people confident to improvise in Jazz music, this course has imho two major flaws:

The biggest one: assignments given and results accepted do not fit together. E.g. in week 1 learners are supposed to describe in their own words how a piece of music does sound like. But the accepted answers are totally different from such a description. Instead only a very detailed and specialized answer is accepted. This leads to studends copying these answers into their assignments without them learning anything.

The other flaw is that Gary is very brief in his explanations. Even intermediate musicians seem to struggle with content just because some explanations are not exact or vague.

By Nikolaj L

Apr 18, 2017

The lectures are very short but convey all the necessary information to solve the peer-graded assignments. And the assignments are really what this course, and musicianship in general is about: practice. Doings the assignments involves recording yourself playing, and analysing a few songs on paper. Depending on your skill level the assignments may take you between 1-4 hours per week.

This is not a course for beginners. You should be able to play the melody of a jazz standard from a sheet, make sense of chords beyond simple major/minor, and ideally have some basic knowledge of music theory.

By Michael G

Nov 20, 2016

This was a truly great course, I learnt so much. And I have been playing piano for almost 60 years! Thanks to a wonderful teacher and musician (brilliant rendition of Chick Corea's Crystal Silence)

By Elif S I

Aug 13, 2016

Besides being a great musician, Gary Burton is a great educator and he teaches in a very simple way the basic knowledge that an improviser needs.

Thank you so much for having this course.

By KaLani S

Aug 25, 2015

This is fun interactive class i am excited and what is to come and what I will learn from it.

What a great instructor, he's very clear in teaching. I very much appreciate this.

By Stephen W

Jul 10, 2018

There are several basic concepts that this course presents for Jazz Improvisation that I found very helpful, such as chord scales and modes, guide tones, and theme & variation. Although there was some technical difficulty perhaps for Mac users (no download button appears after the 1st downloadable track) and requirements to submit multiple attachments when only one can be submitted at a time, I found workarounds. Overall, an excellent course on jazz improv to dive into if you're fairly proficient in your instrument/voice and work hard on the chord scales/modes!

By Scott W B

Apr 17, 2016

Kinda have to learn to Improvise yourself, he teaches you tricks to make it better, but not *how* to improvise. However, it's impossible to generally state how to improvise, you just eventually learn.

By Michael S

Jan 24, 2016

The class covered a good variety of subjects to learn. There are some key areas of improvement:

1) You should build more examples in the lectures. The lectures were short to start with, but adding more examples and passages would have helped.

2) Xylophone is perhaps the worst instrument to use to teach this course, especially with the camera facing the front of the xylophone. It was very hard to see what notes were being hit by the mallets (especially when using chords) and therefore it was very difficult to understand (visually) what Gary was doing. I suggest using a keyboard and having the camera shooting from the above of the keyboard (look at how several people have done this on YouTube). This way you can see what notes are being hit, held, and you can see them from a pianist's view.

The material was good, but because of the two areas above the teaching was not as effective.

By Alexander P

Feb 23, 2017

I did not like this course. It is a course for those who are already involved into the topic not newbies. Very general short and sloppy explanations and a lot of practical assignments for peer evaluation. I had a lot of experience in classical music but I was puzzled with what goes on in this course. After having completed some other jazz courses I realized that i had no chances to learn anything here since the theory is not explained sufficiently. The title of the course is misleading. It rather should be called a master class on jazz improvisation.

By Ance L

Feb 16, 2016

The course itself and the content of it is great, the only suggestions would be:

1) It could be reviewed, how the evaluations of each submission are made. For example, 1st assignment - descriptive analysis was asked to evaluate based on if the 3 "most important" things - if they have been mentioned in the description. The thing is that in real you can not tell, which are the most important because people think differently and could focus more on other details. It was easy to add also those "important" points by resubmitting work, but the problem is that only with that the analysis of a student is not getting better, thus the evaluation is not precise. For tasks like that I would suggest at lease to make a list of 20 things to mention and then count how many are there - thus making the quality assessment more precise.

2) Some topics could have been explained more detailed in the videos, e.g., about guide tones and lines

3) The requirements for the submissions could have been more clear. I also got the impression that in if switching the sessions the requirements could be slightly different (As I got the case when somebody pointed out a particular thing that he thought was required and I have not done. I checked the page but nothing about that. Also other classmates mentioned nothing about that and thought all was perfectly fine).

I hope this helps.

Thank you so much,



By Justin G

Feb 22, 2016

Challenging yet accessible for people who have a smattering of theory and experience with notation and jazz idioms. A lot of people gave it a go as near beginners and got loads out of it. Gary Burton is a clear and personable teacher as well as a jazz legend, so you can't go wrong. Hearing and giving feedback on other students' assignments was a lot of fun. Thoroughly recommended to give you a boost on your way to improvising with confidence and understanding

By Phillip L V

Aug 27, 2015

A lot of great insight and knowledge here; well worth the time. I almost didn't give it five stars, because I feel that they could have made room for just a bit more explanation and just a few more examples of the topics covered. Some of this is heady stuff, and doesn't benefit from being glossed over. Regardless, what you DO get out of this course is well worth the effort. Put in the time, and you'll be rewarded.

By Cherwyn A

Jan 4, 2019

Fabulous, fabulous information. Learned so much! Only drawback was homework was all corrected by other class members, most of whom knew what they were doing but some, not. And some people's homework was never corrected. But what do we expect for free, I guess? I would have deducted a star for this problem, but the teaching of the instructor was so incredible that it overcame the temptation to deduct the star.

By Carlos F

Feb 11, 2016

Really great course. I am currently working on the Jazz Guitar Professional Certificate program at Berklee online, and I will definitely take this class for a more detailed dive-in. Gary opened my mind on the keys skills to improvise, his chord-scale method explanation, and demonstration is simple to understand and provides a great way to continue practicing and developing the skills thought.


Feb 5, 2021

I think that Gary Burton is an excellent teacher, he is very clear, very direct and very cordial. In this course I learned a lot. It became clear to me what the jazz language is and its relationship with spoken language. Understanding it in this way helps us improvise freely and at the same time consciously. Very grateful to Master Gary Burton, Berklee and Coursera.

By Pawel S

Apr 18, 2016

Excellent course. Perhaps too advance for a novice but for an average intermediate musician, it is a great intro to Jazz Improvisation. I would encourage the organizers to expand the course by adding exploring the concepts of guide tone lines and theme development, emphasizing the practicum - I know that I would take such courses in a jiffy.

By Muhammad Q M

Jun 2, 2020

This course was immensely helpful! I am so thankful to god for having found this course. So thankful to Berklee for providing this course. So thankful for Gary Burton for teaching cleanly and effectively. Teaching everything in such a clear concept and providing materials that it does not feel too much and just right. Thank you very much!

By Ruben d G

Dec 4, 2015

Amazing introduction to improvisation! After lots of personal research on improvisation I could never find such a concise yet thorough explanation. After completing this course, and some personal work, one can hope to at least understand the language of jazz improvisation and become a far better listener, if not an improviser.

By 葉卡洛 ( J K T

Jun 16, 2020

The best day of my life as a self taught guitarist.

I took a shot, as I knew that I had the basics down. This course helped fill in the gaps and has given me the map that I can use to press on with my musical quest.

Gary Burton is a gifted and passionate instructor.

Thank you, Berklee!

Thank you, Coursera!

By Yana

Jul 17, 2016

The class was very helpful to me. The information learned definitely improved my improvisation style. It was presented very clearly by the instructor. The assignments were interesting and helpful. I have recommended the class to a friend who is taking it at the moment:) Will recommend it to others!!!

By elvis y

Jul 10, 2020

Thank you for the course I really learned a lot and it cost me a lot to finish this course I feel that it helped me a lot in my career to thank Berklee and the coursera team for allowing me to take this course always thanks to the instructors and all who make it possible for this coursera here