Tag Archives: portland music

Portland Lessons: Ableton Live, beatmaking, programming electronic music

Let’s make some beats

I’ve been teaching the guitar in Portland for 11 years. Over time I became bored with the guitar, and focused on playing synthesizers, and using programs like Ableton Live and Reason for music performance and production.  After many requests from my students, I began to teach Ableton Live, beatmaking, and hip hop music production and performance. Being “classically trained” in rhythm gives you creative control over your own beats. Usually these classes begin with rhythm theory, then cover drum set theory, then we program beats on hardware drum machines before working with Ableton and Reason, and similar software.
Ableton Live instructor and Reason beatmaking and hip hop lessons in Portland Oregon
Ableton Live instructor and Reason beatmaking and hip hop lessons in Portland Oregon

For skype lessons on Ableton and electronic music (Pro Tools, Logic, and more) – click here


squirrel@whirlingsquirrel.com  503-577-2311

Lessons for “ADD” people


ADD people … are they just bored?

I taught a 7 year old the basics of “Fake Plastic Trees” by Radiohead yesterday. After that, another student, age 8, learned about key signatures and inheritance of accidentals in key signatures, and she said “YAYYY!! I get HOMEWORK and I get to fill out 3 key signatures!”  The day before, a teenage kid learned about sampling and beatmaking using Reason (a software program for beginning to intermediate electronic/rap & hip-hop music artists). All three music students chose their own lesson subjects; I had nothing to do with the choice of material covered in the lesson. It amazes me what people want to learn, and the mental connections they make when they are learning what they love.
People, given an opportunity to create, are rarely bored.

People learn best when they are empowered to interpret a lesson, in their own way.

Flow, a state we enter when doing something we love, is essential for mastery of any skill. That’s why my students pick their own material. ADD and ADHD people are often excel at flow; the physical, the unspoken.
Free play. About three years ago, I was given a book by a student, who later became a good friend. The book was called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art.The book completely changed my life, and it completely changed the way I taught music as well. That’s where the name WHIRLING SQUIRREL comes from – I love to jump and play, I think the unexpected is absolutely hilarious, and I can provide a non-rigid framework for people to learn.
I specialize in teaching adults and children complex music theory and difficult mathematical concepts; ADD and ADHD people really “get it.” ADD and ADHD people have exceptional abilities which shine when those abilities are respected, nurtured, and allowed to grow. More linear and logical folks are fun to teach as well – they just have a totally different approach. I have one young student who refuses to play until she learns all about key signatures and theory. She says she loves math, so … cool!


Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art:
Author Web Site

Buy the book on Amazon

Kinesthetic Music Lessons


Last week, one of my new students (a longtime sculptor) said,
“Amanda, when I look at this piece of paper, something weird happens in my brain.”

Interestingly, the student/sculptor was describing the logic behind one of my teaching methods. Sure, I teach a lot of theory; but if you can’t hear and play and use intervals, what’s the point? It’s better to be able to use what you learn in music lessons. It’s better to just do stuff. Free play – playing nonsensical, weird stuff over and over; kinesthetic learning – learning by doing, and being in the moment.


Kinesthesia: the sense of motion.
In using intervals and theory, in soloing, in playing rhythm, in creating or just playing a song, kinesthesia drives us – a sense of our body’s movement. Intervals and chord progressions, are also motion. Good music lessons aren’t just about pieces of paper and going through the motions of some boring scale. It’s much more than that. It’s about learning flow.


Flow: essential for mastery of any skill.

We enter the state of flow when doing something we love. Flow is a balance between challenge and enjoyment.

Flow is more important than details or theory, it is our core essence expressed through music. I do not stop my students while they are playing unnecessarily, and when I do, I congratulate students who keep playing for a few seconds. Flow is powerful, and difficult to interrupt.
Suki: (Aikido/Kendo)
An opening or gap where one is vulnerable to attack or application of a technique, or where one’s technique is otherwise flawed. Suki may be either physical or psychological.


Kinesthetic Learning takes place when the student is allowed to process the information using their own language.
‘That’s why I don’t use a rigid “method.” I like answering questions – especially weird ones. I enjoy that each of my students, is vastly different from the next. Beethoven, Dick Dale, Dr. Dre – All music is theory, and when a student loves a song, they’ll play every day.



Wiki it: