Guitar Ensemble Techniques


Authored by Tim Miller


Course Code: OGUIT-460

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 4

Level 4

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


Your favorite guitarist didn’t become your favorite guitarist without the support of other musicians. The most important skill for a guitarist to learn is the exact same skill that was so important in kindergarten: playing well with others. Guitar Ensemble Techniques gives guitarists the essential and practical skills to play well with others in any ensemble situation. This course begins with daily warm-up techniques that help you prepare for rehearsals, jam sessions, and stage performances. From there, you’ll explore chords, scales, improvisation techniques, time accuracy, tone production, ear training, and the many aspects of jamming with other musicians. Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to confidently interact with other musicians in a group setting and bring your A-game to any jam session you join.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • warm up effectively for a performance
  • accompany other musicians with essential chord forms
  • improvise over a variety of different chord progressions
  • perform with a solid rhythmic foundation
  • play with a personal touch that allows your unique sound to shine
  • play with better technique and ear training
  • go to a rehearsal or performance prepared with the essential skills that you need to play your best
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Lesson 1: Warming Up

  • Picking Hand
  • Fretting Hand
  • Synchronization
  • Tempo

Lesson 2: Essential Chord Knowledge for Ensemble Playing Using Six Guide Tone Shapes

  • Sixth String Root Shapes
  • Adding Tension Notes to 6th String Shapes
  • Fifth String Root Shapes
  • Adding Tensions to Fifth String Root Shapes

Lesson 3: Improvising with Minor Pentatonic Scales 

  • Essential Scale Shapes and Fingerings
  • Learning Patterns for Improvisation
  • Minor Pentatonic Applications over Different Chord Types
  • Applying Knowledge to Chord Progressions for Improvisation

Lesson 4: Know How to Play a 12-Bar Blues and its Variations

  • Blues Form
  • Blues with Turnarounds
  • Adding Substitutions
  • Blues in 12 Keys

Lesson 5: Time Accuracy

  • Developing Your Rhythmic Foundation
  • Owning Each Subdivision
  • Combining Subdivisions
  • Elements of Time Feel

Lesson 6: Tone Production Essentials: Developing Your Touch on the Guitar

  • Focus on Timbre
  • Focus on Dynamics
  • Focus on Note Duration
  • Vibrato and Intonation

Lesson 7: Develop Your Ears

  • Transcribing Lines
  • Transcribing Chords
  • Recognizing Chord Types
  • Recognizing Modal Sounds

Lesson 8: Picking Techniques

  • Picking
  • Hybrid Picking
  • Fingerstyle
  • Developing Speed

Lesson 9: Improve Your Reading

  • Know the Notes on the Fretboard
  • Playing Rhythms
  • Guide Tone Chord Reading
  • Reading Strategies During a Performance

Lesson 10: Develop Your Phrasing

  • Using Motives
  • Developing Melodic Ideas
  • Using Space
  • Follow the Phrasing of the Song

Lesson 11: Mastering Triads

  • Closed Voice Triads
  • Spread Triads
  • Voice Leading Triads
  • Triads over Bass Notes

Lesson 12: Performance Preparation

  • Performance Checklist
  • Know Your Gear
  • Pre-Performance Practice Techniques
  • Listening and Blending Onstage


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Guitar Chords 101 and Guitar Scales 101 or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.
In order to succeed in this course, you should have a basic understanding of standard notation and TAB. You should have a basic understanding of major and minor triads, major and minor barre chords, major and minor pentatonic scales, and the major scale and its modes. Students should have the ability to tune the guitar into tunings other than standard EADGBE (a chromatic tuner may be helpful for this) and record and upload your assignments using a computer.


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while performing with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • Webcam (using either video recording software, or the video recording tool that is built into the learning environment)


  • Electric or acoustic guitar
  • Capo
  • Recommended: Chromatic tuner (software/app acceptable)


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required):
      • Instrument connected directly to audio interface (recommended electric option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and a microphone stand.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Tim Miller

Author & Instructor

Tim Miller offers a distinctive voice to the world of jazz and rock guitar. He is currently a professor in the Guitar department at Berklee College of Music. Guitar Player magazine characterized his playing as "pure melody consciousness with remarkable control, and a breathy, violin-y tone"

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His most notable recordings are Trio and Trio Vol.2. Tim has performed/recorded with Dweezil Zappa, Paul Motian, Randy Brecker, Mick Goodrick, Mike Stern, Ben Monder, Gary Burton, Eddie Gomez, David Liebman, Greg Osby, George Garzone, Mark Turner, Jerry Bergonzi, Gary Thomas, George Duke, Gary Husband, Terri Lyne Carrington, and Antonio Sanchez, among others.

Tim has also co-authored a book with guitarist Mick Goodrick titled Creative Chordal Harmony for Guitar (Berklee Press/Hal Leonard). Additionally, he is the author of the Berklee Online course Guitar Ensemble Techniques. Read Less

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Guitar Ensemble Techniques can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Majors


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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