Composers Workshop Roundup

Posted by: Dave Douglas on February 12, 2014 @ 12:10 pm
Filed under: Workshop

Last Saturday and Sunday 25 people attended my Composers Workshop in Brooklyn. First of all, it is inspiring that so many folks made the sincere effort to come out and share, as one participant put it, “the agony of composition.”

Said one participant, "It was great to get outta my own little composing space (head) and have to work so fearlessly on something to share."

Said one participant, “It was great to get outta my own little composing space (head) and have to work so fearlessly on something to share.”

It takes a lot of guts to write and share one’s work. Especially in such a diverse group, with so many high level participants of widely differing backgrounds.

My job, and one of the reasons I love these workshops, is to guide a discussion about what it is we want to write, and how to go about finding it. I can’t tell anyone to work the way I work, and I can’t tell anyone how their lives have led them to their current work. What we work on is guiding ourselves to a place where we can honestly generate some basic musical material, and take steps to hone it, sharpen it, and turn it into a piece of music we can really call our own and be excited about.

Sometimes that means temporarily stepping out of our composer head. By that I mean that once you have written something, there are times that the best thing you can do is simply forget you are the composer and look at it like a disinterested performer. Like if you were an architect suddenly faced with brick and mortar. Make it real.

Everyone wrote and shared so intimately, everyone played, and we got well along the way with many new works. It was a true pleasure and privilege to witness this process up close. I look forward to more opportunities for these workshops in the future.

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New DD Workshop in Composing and Generating Ideas: Feb 8 & 9 in Brooklyn.

Posted by: admin on January 27, 2014 @ 8:17 pm
Filed under: Workshop

A January visit to the Jazz Education Network convention in Dallas, Texas reaffirmed how many different ways there are of thinking about music, and how many different teachers, and students, are taking the bull by the horns to find their own way of doing this.

I was invited to give a class on generating ideas–composing new musical thoughts to provoke new creative output for yourself and for the musicians around you. It’s a way of working that I like because a.) it is so much a part of what I continue to do in my own practice, and b.) it gives me a chance to hear how a wide range of musicians reacts and what ideas they come up with. I am always pleasantly surprised at the music that comes out of these situations. Aside from simple happiness at working on music, these sessions are great because they are about encouraging everyone to get to those ideas that are inside all of us. A small group from Brigham Young University agreed to both write and play–a daunting challenge in front of a live audience, and one they rose to in exciting ways.


February 8 and 9, 2014, I am going to give a workshop on generating and composing ideas independently in Brooklyn, NY. Please come sign up at

We will be writing and playing our own new music. We’ll talk about coming up with musical ideas, setting them down for other musicians to play. We’ll talk about incorporating the strengths of the players through interpretation and improvisation. Then we will play them and work towards revising, extending and making finished, presentable pieces. We’ll talk about how to continue this process and how to form and maintain a composers workshop.


UPDATE: The Workshop has been filled up. Keep your eyes on our blog for information on the next. Thanks!


The sessions are three hours each day, from 1pm to 4pm. Bring music paper and pencils. Bring your computer if you prefer to write in Sibelius or Finale. Bring your instrument. Sessions are $60 each or $100 for both. Best if people come to both as we will be progressing through different phrases. But I realize it is a busy time and am happy to have people come either day.

The sessions will be at The Loove in Williamsburg: 58 North 6th Street. There is a piano, amps, drums, etc.

Thank you.

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Dave Douglas Workshop at Jazz Education Network (JEN) Saturday January 11

Posted by: Dave Douglas on January 10, 2014 @ 9:44 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Events, Workshop

556700_10151318143781206_1342787754_naJazz Education Network conference in Dallas, Texas on Saturday, January 11th. In addition to coaching, I will be performing at noon with the BYU Synthesis band on the Inspirations stage.

At 4pm in the Pegasus room I am sharing a hands-on composition workshop. Bring a pencil and manuscript paper as we go through some ideas about generating material and overcoming writer’s block. Members of the BYU band will be playing and writing, then demonstrating some of the ideas that emerge. Should be fun and enlightening. Come say hello if you are down there!

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More from the mailbox: Not knowing what to practice.

Posted by: Dave Douglas on May 2, 2013 @ 9:20 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Education, Workshop

Thanks to all for writing and for your questions and thoughts. Always appreciated. For this recent one, I am going to paraphrase the question:

“Dave, I’m having trouble knowing what to practice. I feel like I am working a lot but not moving forward, and I’m a little frustrated at not knowing where to look for inspiration in my practicing and playing. Help.”

I have a few thoughts about what you’ve said. I broke them up into a few avenues of inquiry that you might find helpful.

First: Presence. A part of any activity in the arts is like meditation or simple awareness, depending on how you look at it. The meditative mind is a huge part of the practice of practice. Notice what’s going on around you and inside you. I’m reading a book right now called Rebel Buddha, which I wholeheartedly recommend. I am not a Buddhist (last year I actually reaffirmed my identity as a Christian, just… not the kind that believes in killing people… oof!). I feel like some quiet sitting and focus might sharpen your musical instincts. Add that as part of your eight hour day. Lots of manuals are available if you look. You probably already have at least one in your house. This is a way of focussing your presence so you can be more aware of what you are working on.

Second: Absence. Music is a subtle devil. So much of the power is in things we never think about or talk about. The power of absence in music — a quick concrete example is when you release a note as opposed to when you attack it. Your release creates an absence and is almost half the power of the note itself. Think about where and how your notes end. Think about how the silences in your rhythm make the music stronger. Think about how the wake of your notes makes the metronome swing.

Third: Tone. Profound element and how often do we work on that? Sit around playing long tones and tinkering, in a microscopic way, with the sound of the one note. Vibrato, dynamics, timbre, harmonics, articulation, smears, multi-phonics, growling, etc. all found in holding that one note. Listen to Billie Holiday and think about how many different ways (and how expressively!) she sings the same note every time it comes around. In some ways I feel like this is the development of taste, in a good way. When you get on the stage you want every note to be beautiful and powerful. Loaded with meaning.

Glad we talked.

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Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop, Part Three

Posted by: admin on April 17, 2013 @ 10:23 am
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events, Workshop

This Sunday, April 21, from 3pm to 6pm we will gather again at Shapeshifter Lab in Brooklyn. The main focus of this workshop will be reading the music from my sextet album Soul On Soul, dedicated to Mary Lou Williams. The Workshop will also consider elements of composition and performance, with plenty of time for questions and discussion. Come join us, you can play or just listen. Contact for more information. We will also be looking to preparations for the final concert on May 30 in the same space.

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Dave Douglas Workshops

Posted by: Dave Douglas on March 6, 2013 @ 4:07 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Dave Douglas (Updates), Events, Workshop

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop

Thanks to the great crew that came out on February 24 for the first in this series of workshops. I’m looking forward to working with all of you again on March 17.

We spent most of the session playing through the music from my 1994 album In Our Lifetime, dedicated to Booker Little. Also had a chance for some nice discussion about composition, playing, and Booker Little’s music and impact.

On March 17 the workshop series will continue with a session playing music from the record Stargazer, dedicated to Wayne Shorter. And on April 21 we will continue with Soul on Soul, dedicated to Mary Lou Williams. On May 30 there will be a performance of some of this music. All of this is happening at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn.

Drop us a line if you are interested in attending. Look forward to hearing from you.

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Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop: Three Sundays at ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn

Posted by: admin on February 20, 2013 @ 8:13 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events, Workshop

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop

Sign up by sending contacting us at

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Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop

Posted by: admin on February 12, 2013 @ 3:20 pm
Filed under: Dave Douglas (Artist Thoughts), Dave Douglas (News), Education, Events, Workshop

Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop: Three sessions in small ensemble playing and writing.

Deepen your compositional understanding and make new musical connections at these semi-private sessions in small ensemble playing and writing.

Download the Workshop PDF

Three Sundays, Feb 24, Mar 17, Apr 21 from 3pm to 6pm the Dave Douglas Jazz Workshop will meet at ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn. Sign up will be through Dave’s label, Greenleaf Music, at The sessions will be limited to a small handful of players. We will be reading through and playing the sextet music from the albums In Our Lifetime, Stargazer, and Soul on Soul. Once you have signed up and been accepted you will receive PDF versions of your part so you can look at it in advance.

The cost will be $50 per session. All those who enroll for three sessions will get a free copy of the Dave Douglas Sextet book and possible invitation to perform in the Workshop concert on May 30 on a bill with the Dave Douglas Quintet.

All instruments are welcome. Trumpet, tenor saxophone/clarinet, trombone, piano, bass, and drums are encouraged. The workshops are also available for auditors and those who would like to listen in.

Spread the word and contact us to join in.
Thank you.

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