Syllabus – Electric Strings, Fall 2022

Syllabus - Electric Strings, Fall 2022

I. Course numbers

Electric violin and electric viola course numbers are MUSC 116, 117, 416, 417, 516, and 517. Electric Strings Ensemble is MUSC 458. CRN numbers and other details can be found at

II. Goals of the course

The focus of the University of Illinois Electric Strings program is on the instruments rather than on a specific style of music. Whereas a Jazz Strings, Classical Violin, or Traditional Fiddle program is geared to a certain culture of music-making, ours allows for any style of music to be performed on electric instruments for attaining a degree. Each student chooses a style on which to focus, and we work to achieve great artistic results in that style. This brings great diversity to the studio of course. Additionally, each student gains at least a working ability in the pantheon of styles that are likely to be required in their playing careers. At this point we have electric strings students working on heavy metal guitar solos, Indian Carnatic music, Japanese pop songs, Baroque viola da gamba works, 1930’s swing, Romantic 19th century European virtuoso showpieces, Nigerian hip-hop, contemporary avant-garde experimental music, and numerous other genres. A similar approach is taken to electric strings technology. Some students prefer to play with a large array of pedals, while others prefer performance software such as Ableton Live, or an effects unit such as a Line 6 Helix. Some are interested in playing with backing tracks while others prefer only live instruments. Some prefer to use the electric instrument to imitate existing instruments through impulse response technology, while others are more interested in creating timbres never heard before. Again, students focus on their preferred technological approach while also ensuring that they gain at least a working knowledge of common approaches to performance and recording. As with any skill, musical or otherwise, systematic exercises are a necessary part of daily practice, not only for effectively learning and performing music, but also for developing sustainable, injury-free ways of playing. Many of these exercises (such as scale systems in various styles, bowing exercises, etudes, improvisation challenges, etc), will be developed and customized to fit individual goals.Every student in this curriculum, from a Freshman on their first day of classes to a DMA candidate defending their dissertation, brings unique musical abilities, artistic perspectives and practical skills to the table. In the environment of one of the world’s great universities, as well as the continuous improvement in electronic musical equipment, resources for achieving success and real artistic greatness abound. The University of Illinois’ Engineering, Physics, Media, Education, and Business programs are all world-class and provide an abundance of opportunities for interdisciplinary research and study. These departments are eager to apply their vast technological research to the art of music. The purpose of this curriculum, and of this course, is to provide you with every opportunity to not only master the art of electric string playing, but to act as pioneers, innovators and advocates in this emerging field of music. Nationally and internationally, electric string players form a close-knit family, at conventions, in online forums, in concerts and ad-hoc performances. The same is true for electric string players in this program. The continuous sharing of ideas and expertise, and the enthusiastic support among members of the studio, allow each member of the studio to succeed and for the combined talents of our musicians to bring forth great internationally-recognized innovations. Even during the nascent stage of this program, before the curriculum was established, our electric strings players were invited to international festivals and tours. This attention and worldwide feedback is sure to expand in the coming years. At the beginning of each semester we will discuss your long-term and short-term musical goals and design a personalized curriculum that best serves your career goals and prepares you for professional success.

III. Studio class

While attendance at this studio class is highly encouraged and is very beneficial, it is not required, as student schedules are sometimes not compatible with the weekly time.

IV. Lesson scheduling

Students registered for four credits will receive a total of 15 hours of lessons per semester. Students registered for two credits will receive a total of 7½ hours of lessons per semester. At the start of each semester please email me at with your weekly schedule as well as any specific schedule conflicts you know of throughout the semester. I’ll reply to schedule lesson times. You may request an online lesson at any time during the semester.

V. Juries

Technique juries (comprising of etudes and scales) will take place in November and December, while repertoire juries take place each April and May. Requirements will be customized on an individual basis. Etudes for technique juries will be selected to develop technical skills specific to your needs, and to address areas of your playing in need of improvement. Scales are selected according to musical styles and modes, and are adapted to your particular instrument (most importantly, the number of strings and the tuning). For example, we might take modes used in jazz and rock and adapt them to the 6-string viola. Etudes will cover “basic chops”, i.e. technical ability, as well as fluency with effects. Repertoire will be chosen to represent a variety of styles, and will include improvisation.

VI. Video projects

Throughout each semester we’ll be working on creating high-quality music videos featuring our electric strings studio. Each student will perform video production tasks according to their expertise, and the final product will be the result of a studio-wide cooperative effort.

VII. Safety

Students are taught safety measures in three areas: protecting hearing, avoiding physical strain when lifting and moving equipment, and safely operating electronic equipment (following procedures to protect equipment as well as human beings).

VIII. Grading

Grades are based on lesson attendance and preparation, as well as participation in juries. At the start of the semester we’ll go over realistic goals and practice schedules with each student and tailor expectations for the semester accordingly.

To obtain disability-related academic adjustments and/or auxiliary aids, students with disabilities must contact the course instructor and the Disability Resources and Educational Services (DRES) as soon as possible. To contact DRES, you may visit 1207 S. Oak St., Champaign, call 217-333-4603, e-mail or go to the DRES website. ••• We recognize that each person expresses and experiences gender and sexuality in a variety of ways. For this reason, we aim to utilize language that is both non-sexist and gender inclusive. This attentiveness to identity creates a space where our transgender/non-binary students feel safe and honored and our cisgender students are provided with an awareness of the gender expansiveness that they may experience throughout their musical careers.

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