Guitar Ensemble Techniques

Author: Tim Miller   •   Course Code: OGUIT-460

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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.

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

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

Tim Miller

Author & Instructor

Tim Miller offers a distinctive voice to the world of jazz guitar. His career has taken him to Paris, New York, and presently, Boston, where he is currently an associate professor of guitar at Berklee College of Music. Guitar Player magazine characterized his playing as "pure melody consciousness with remarkable control, a breathy, violiny tone [and] bell-like consistency." Miller's music combines explosive raw energy that is artistically balanced with soulful melodic compositions.

While living in Paris, he played extensively with drummer Aldo Romano. This led to recordings and European concerts and jazz festivals. Miller later joined the faculty of Berklee College of Music in Boston and recorded Sides with saxophonist George Garzone. He also played in a quartet with fellow guitarist Mick Goodrick. In 2005, Miller released his first solo recording Trio, which has received critical acclaim. Recently, Miller has released his most personal recording to date, Trio Vol. 2, and he is performing his latest music throughout the US and abroad. His recent performances include concerts and festivals with Paul Motian, Randy Brecker, Mark Turner, Terri Lyne Carrington, Gary Thomas, Gary Husband, George Duke, Chris Cheek, Keith Carlock, among others. He is currently cowriting a music harmony book with Mick Goodrick to be released in 2008, while also composing new pieces for his next recording.


Completion of Guitar Chords 101 and 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. You should also be able to properly tune your instrument, and record and upload your assignments using a computer.

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements 

A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission. Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements 

  • Electric or acoustic guitar
  • Microphone with an XLR or 1/4" to 1/8" adapter for recording directly into the computer, USB microphone, or guitar pickup with 1/4" out cable
  • Capo
  • Ability to tune the guitar into tunings other than standard EADGBE—a chromatic tuner may be helpful for this
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
  • or
  • Non-Credit Tuition

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