I’m Amanda Falke, a software engineer who previously taught music for 15 years in Portland Oregon.

These days I’m a software engineer operating in Portland and remotely and I play in a few bands.

to look at my code: Github | Portfolio Site | LinkedIn

to listen to my music: Music Site

follow me: Twitter | Instagram

This is my former teaching site I’ve left up to provide informational articles to students getting started in buying a new instrument or selecting a new teacher.

Student Reviews 

 Your First Lesson

What is Applied Music?


“Applied” means actually doing something, and actually using something that you know in order to create actual things. Applied Music Performance is what my degree is in. That is because I like to do things and to make things, rather than write about things. Abstract theory is overemphasized in education, and creates a problem when the student does not know how to actually create something. You can talk theory all day long, but if you can’t rock, it doesn’t matter. This applies to my philosophy of life as well as teaching.

In the context of music, “actually creating something” means:

• “Jamming” or “Improvising”

• “Song writing” or “Composition” or “Chord Progressions” or “intervals / scale degrees”

• “Soloing in key” or “lead guitar” or “lead piano”

• Hearing intervals by ear, and playing in key by ear using the fundamentals of music theory to instantaneously hear, respond, create and be in the moment on stage and in the studio

In the context of music, “actually creating something” does not mean:

• Memorizing the key signatures (flats / sharps / accidentals) by rote memorization

• Completing written assignments without playing a musical instrument

• Only playing cover songs and learning TABs / tablature by rote memorization

• Only reading music that others have written, while never learning how to play music using applied music theory in real-life situations with other musicians


Music theory is important. Without music theory, we have no idea what we are doing. Plenty of artists create without music theory. It is not an essential tool for creating as an artist. However, it is an essential tool for knowing what you are doing.

I encourage you to educate yourself, to question me, and to bring your own ideas and creativity to the table. I offer a classical music background with mathematical intervals, key signatures, classical fundamentals of rhythm and music theory in the framework of modern music. 

Technical Articles :: Inspirational Articles for students

The Whirling Squirrel Music Theory & Applied Music Program

The Whirling Squirrel Music Theory and Applied Music program is  a sequential program that I follow, tailored to your musical interests from Slayer to the Decemberists to David Grisman to Curtis Mayfield to the Harry Potter Puppet Pals. I  incorporate cover songs that you love to listen to in your lessons so that you get the technical skills down in order to support the music theory.

Many musicians  can only play what has been written and dictated to them. This includes many “educated” musicians with a degree. Once you take lessons from me, you will not be one of these musicians.

The Whirling Squirrel Applied Music Program (no theory)

For students who just want to play cover songs without learning music theory. Reading music and TAB or tablature is a skill I am happy to teach, and are valuable skills. If rote memorization is the only skill you desire to have, this is the program you would take.

This program is also appropriate for music therapy purposes or for individuals who have had particularly restrictive music teachers in their youth. This can sometimes cause a creative or technical block for the student. Note: I am not a licensed music therapist.

Click here to schedule an appointment.

Teaching Methods

I learn by ear, on the spot, any materials you bring into the lesson: CDs, iPod, YouTube links, or songs my students email me. You can bring in the sheet music if you like, but much of the time, sheet music is inaccurate and/or incorrect when it comes to transcription of pop and rock music.

What is Free Play?

Even beginners can make music, and improvise. I specialize in teaching people how to play their favorite music in a simple framework that is adapted to their skill level. Kids and adults pick what they want to learn: From Slayer to the Harry Potter Puppet Pals. Free play is the ultimate improvisational tool. Read more about Free Play here, and buy the book here.

My Teaching Influences

Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch,

An amazing book on free play, improvisation; this book was a catalyst for my teaching. Thanks to Eddy, my wonderful student, for giving me this book.

Click here for reviews on the Free Play book 

Click here to buy the book Free Play

Click here for Free Play articles 

Richard Feynmann,

Nobel Peace Prize Physicist & Venerated Teacher

Martin Seligman,

Author of Authentic Happiness & publications on “flow”

click here for Martin Seligman’s TED talk video on Positive Psychology

Contact Me

look at my code: Github | Portfolio Site

follow me: Twitter | Instagram

email me: squirrel@whirlingsquirrel dot com 


2 thoughts on “about”

  1. I used to play with friends in college, but i am very much a very beginner with barely an understanding of C,D,G for chords.
    I have a guitar and would like to start up again.
    I have an 8 year old girl and a 5 year old boy that would also like to learn- what is the best way you recommend for us all to learn, and enjoy playing together with lessons

  2. Hey Amy, I’m glad you asked about this here. I do need to put up more information on the website about family lessons.

    A lot of families come into lessons, and it becomes an event that’s fun for everyone – I love it. It’s fun to hang out with everyone in the family, and do uke, piano, guitar, voice, theory, whatever.

    I also have a lot of crayons and paper, and stuffed frogs “the Lesson Frogs” for kids to play with while they’re in the studio waiting for brother/sister/dad to take their lesson.

    Talk soon! – Amanda

Comments are closed.

A music teacher in Portland Oregon