My name is Bill Stokes, and I am a violinist, guitarist, composer and lyricist. I'm obsessed with music, sound and meaning.  You are invited to come with me on a musical journey.

I'm sharing a method for improvising, for intermediate to advanced string players.  The method involves learning to play in 12 keys, and then improvising with backing tracks.  Violinists, please don't be alarmed!  The backing tracks are for practice.  Think of them as a metronome with expanded capabilities.  If you have a smart phone or other mobile device, or a Mac, you can get iReal Pro for about $14.  Then you have a virtual backup band.  Use my FREE Keys to Improvising course to get started improvising in Latin and Swing styles.  There are video lessons and free PDFs for violin, viola, mandolin, mandola and cello.  Discuss the lessons with other students, if you like.  A fun way to learn string music improvisation.

Also, I have a step-by-step method for learning the guitar.  Based on a simple map of the fretboard, this method will enable guitar players to play anywhere on the instrument, in any key.  The map is laid out in easy steps, one scale at a time.  There are only five scales!  That covers the entire fretboard, for all 12 keys.  Once you know the scales, you simply move them to different locations, depending on which key you're in.  The method is called Remi Solati.  It is named after the solfege words for the degrees of a major scale.  This is a proven method, sometimes associated with the CAGED system for learning guitar.  Unlike other methods, Remi Solati leaves out confusing, multi-colored fret diagrams.  We simply play one scale at a time, in one key.  Like anything that looks complex at first, the guitar fretboard is easily understandable in small, simple chunks.  Most intermediate-level players can master the scales in a week.  After that, the progress is phenomenal.  In a couple of weeks, people make more progress on the guitar than they have made in previous years.  Additionally, the method provides an opportunity to learn music notation.  This is strictly optional.  Scales can be learned with or without notation.  The option is simply there, available for anyone who wants to learn to read music.  You rest your eyes on a page of music as you practice the scales.

Either with or without printed music, I urge students to not look at the guitar fretboard as they play.  This helps with biomechanics and posture.

Coming soon is another course called Keys to Songwriting.  This will be a fresh look at the art and the heart of writing songs.  I approach the music first.  This stands in contrast to many songwriters, who focus first and last on lyrics.  To me, a song is a piece of music, not necessarily with words.  I've studied music composition and songwriting in depth, and share a method whereby a song can be started from any direction.  Great songs can begin with a drum groove, or a bass line, or a chord progression.  They can begin with a scrap of melody, a found sound, or a visual contour.  Of course, a song can begin with some words too.  For me, the truly great songs contain a magical combination of music that moves people and words that are deeply meaningful.  This isn't easy to create.  It takes time, practice, and some knowledge of music.  Hence, KEYS to songwriting.  Some nuts-and-bolts music theory first.  Nothing complicated!  We learn one key only!  Learn the harmonized scale of that key.  The structure of its chords.  When one key is understood, its secrets are the same as every other key.  For this course we approach the craft of songwriting as composers first, and then as lyricists.