Guitar Lecture/Demonstrations
Workshops & Master Classes

James Emery brings the knowledge and experience of many years of exploring and international guitar performance to his educational events. With more than 40 years of involvement in every aspect of both performance and professional activities, James’ hands-on, in-the-trenches experience in every aspect of creativity in the performing arts is thoroughly enriching and informative to anyone who is interested in any aspect of the artistic career. 

James Emery’s educational activities include master classes, guitar instruction, improvisation, ensemble coaching, composition/harmony/theory, and business/professional applications. Emery has taught jazz ensemble at SUNY Orange for over 6 years, arranging, coaching and conducting student concerts. He was also on the adjunct faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College.

Guitar-specific Activities

Guitarists have the opportunity to learn the jazz language; and studying how to make stylistically appropriate picking, phrasing and articulation choices. Information to broaden harmonic understanding - with fingerboard and chord diagrams - will be taught with an emphasis on fingerboard understanding. The balanced use of intervals, chord tones and scales in improvisation will be demonstrated and discussed. Diminished and whole tone scales explained and demonstrated with clear and easy to understand fingerboard diagrams. Quartal harmony - chords built on 4ths - will be introduced and clarified.

Various Topics Covered in Guitar Workshops

  • Learning to play in different sections of the fingerboard 
  • Octaves
  • Rakes (sweeps)
  • Bending
  • Ornamentations (turns, mordants, slides)
  • Hammer-ons & Pull-offs
  • Getting more out of scales
  • Extracting melodic material from chord forms
  • The use of color tones, chromatic passing tones
  • How modes interlock in guitar scale forms
  • Playing the guitar orchestrally


Improvisation and the Guitar 

An extensive course for students who would like to explore the possibilities of improvising on the guitar. Topics include: chromatic approaches to harmonic improvisation, legato playing in time, "open" playing, use of articulations (trills, muting, glisses, bending, etc.), extended techniques (collegno battuta, natural and artificial harmonics, ponticello, percussion, Bartok snaps, prepared guitar, playing off the fingerboard, etc.) and historic approaches.


Monk Guitar 

Thelonious Monk’s music as applied to the guitar. Several compositions, including Four in One, Evidence, Monk’s Mood, Well You Needn’t, Crepuscule With Nellie and Eronel will be explored in detail.


In the Mode 

A discussion and demonstration of the use of modes in improvisation. The D Dorian mode is examined in detail resulting in a greater understanding of the origin of “quatral harmony” (chords built on 4ths), and substitution of keys derived from modal sources. Miles Davis’ landmark compositions So What and Milestones will be explored from a variety of angles.

General Music Education

Composition for Improvisers 

Examines the many connections between composed music and improvisation. Topics for discussion and demonstration include conceptual approaches, use of dynamics and sound colors. Extended techniques explained and demonstrated. Participants can create their own "comprovisation" – a roadmap of improvisational ideas - which will then be performed.


Bird and Trane

This session will explore personal approaches to the music of two innovative pioneers: Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.  The group will hear and discuss pieces such as Confirmation, Moose the Mooche, Quasimodo, Like Sonny, Giant Steps, 26 – 2 and Mr. Sims.


Multicolors of the Blues 

Exploration and demonstration of the boundless diversity of the blues throughout American music history, from Robert Johnson to Ornette Coleman. The language and universality of the blues has provided a fundamental vocabulary for musical expression ranging from jazz and rhythm & blues to funk and rock and roll. Discussion of works including If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day, Long Distance Call, Now’s The Time, Cheryl, Some Other Blues and Blues Connotation.


Master Class 

In this session, Emery will listen to student ensembles and/or soloists and offer observations, critique and advice. Emery performs and discusses their approaches to various styles of jazz and improvisation.

The class closes with an opportunity for selected participants to perform alongside James in a spontaneously developed ensemble piece.


One Path Taken

This workshop focuses on facets of the singular approach of guitarist/composer James Emery. Take part in a discussion involving development of a personal sound, allowing ideas to flow and the creation of an individual language. Emery demonstrates his concepts through his pieces Falling River Time, The Pursuit of Happiness, Poetry in Stillness and Cosmology.


Additional topics could include:

  • Aspects of composition (composing for own ensemble, commissions for other ensembles
  • Crossing the line between genres
  • Maintaining a cooperative ensemble
  • Grantsmanship
  • Serving as artistic director of a non-profit