Building Your Theory Toolkit

4-5:30PM EST, Thursdays | 8 weeks | September 3 - October 22

Have you ever had this nagging feeling like there are big gaps in your music theory knowledge, but you’re not even sure exactly what they are? 

Do you have passion for making music, but still feel insecure around the music school graduates?

Do you sometimes feel stuck in your songwriting because your songs all sound similar and you’re not sure how to break out of your own patterns?

Getting unstuck and grabbing the best, most useful concepts distilled from years of theory study is what this course is all about.


theory should be fun!

Let’s face it: the ways in which music theory is often taught are dreadfully boring. Either you were made to practice scales and memorize keys because you were told it was “good for you,” or you were supposed to work out all kinds of dry textbook examples of different species of counterpoint that not only sound dumb, but also aren’t relevant to the kinds of music you want to make.

In this course, we’ll be exploring how our favorite composers and bands make the music that excites us. Then we will immediately implement what we’re learning, writing original pieces that not only break new ground for us as composers, but also help each person define their unique voice by expressing their own aesthetic more fully. What could be more fun than taking apart the songs and artists you already love to find out what makes them tick? I’ll tell you: taking apart those pieces while surrounded by 7 other passionate artists who are doing the very same thing. It’s a blast.

what if you could hear better?

Think of music theory as a kind of toolkit. If all you have in your toolkit is a hammer, you can only build certain kinds of objects. But if you have a hammer and a router, look out. Ooh, or a drill press? OK, maybe I’m enjoying the analogy too much.

Or you could think of theory as a painter’s palette. You won’t get too far in your painting if you only have yellow. But what if you add blue, red, and burnt umber? Soon you’ll be making happier trees than Bob Ross. Similarly, when you have a greater conceptual understanding of how music is put together, your own compositions can have a depth you previously only heard in other people’s music. Plus, as a bonus, you’ll understand and appreciate other people’s music better, too. It’s kinda like learning some of a magician’s tricks.

For example, by exploring the different ways that you can build a melodic sequence, you suddenly discover several exciting new possibilities for where your song can go. Or if you pick apart how the melody interacts with the chords in Nirvana’s song “Lithium,” you’ll have a new set of strategies for allowing your chords and melodies to become more adventurous. You’ll learn to find a palette of sounds that matches your harmonies and brings a more dynamic musical tension and release to your songs.

And all the while, your musician ears will be getting bigger and bigger, metaphorically speaking, so you can find inspiration in the most surprising places.

the logistics

We’ll meet online each Thursday 4PM EST for 8 weeks, starting on September 3rd, 2020, for about 90 minutes. Imagine a Zoom conference call with me and 7 other inquisitive, composer souls, getting together to dig into the nitty-gritty of writing music. The time we spend together will include hands-on exercises, short lectures or instructions and encouragement for the process, sharing of compositions in a masterclass format, Q and A, heartfelt conversations, and explanation of homework assignments. There will be a curriculum – with some flexibility, based on the individual needs and desires of the cohort. You can expect that our time together will feel nurturing, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. It’s going to be the thing you look forward to all week.

Outside of class time, you will have some homework assignments, as I mentioned. These will largely consist of spending some time being with your honest composer self and letting the music come. There will also be at least one more involved research project. The expectation is that you’ll spend between 45-120 minutes outside of class on these assignments, with flexibility from week to week. The cliché “you get out of it what you put into it” applies here.

But, in addition to the assignments, you’ll have support. There will be an online forum where you can connect with your classmates: You’ll be able to share your songs, your challenges, your concerns, your questions and your positive feedback with one another, and you’ll be able to draw on a built-in community of people who are on the same road you are, who love music and who encounter obstacles and fears the same way you do.

Because there are only 8 people max in this workshop, you’ll get to know your instructor (me) and your fellow participants well in this intimate and generous setting.

who is it for?

This course is for songwriters and composers who have some basic skills as a musician, but want to grow in applying those and other new skills to their composing. Practically speaking, this course is for people who:

1) can play all 12 major and minor chords on a musical instrument, and

2) have written a song before. That’s it!

 If you’re not sure if this class is right for you, email me and ask: There’s a good possibility that if you’re motivated, you could take a few private lessons with me (or another qualified music teacher) and get up to speed for this course pretty quickly.

Ok, so if you do this, you have to commit to the 8 weeks. You can miss a class here or there as the videos will be posted online, but you should basically plan to do this thing and budget about an hour or so outside of class to spend on it. Not only does your own fulfillment depend on your commitment, but your classmates are counting on you as well. We’re going to be learning a lot and writing music a lot. By the end, we’ll aim to have an album ready for release, comprised of working demos of our new songs. How fun is that?

but wait, there is more...

When you join Theory Toolkit, you’ll also get a free subscription to the Friday Afternoon Song Club! FASC (for short) meets every Friday at 4PM EST on a Zoom call where your instructor will guide you through unique prompts each week to help you write more original songs alongside dozens of others all tuning in at the same time (don’t worry – everyone is muted and silently working while watching the instructor!). This is a $37/month subscription that is included for free during the 10 weeks that you are enrolled in Theory Toolkit. Songs you create in FASC will also come in handy in Theory Toolkit assignments and exercises, so make sure you take advantage of it!

the price

What does all of this cost?

It's a bargain at $577 for 8 classes.

I take it very seriously that $577 is still a substantial sum, and I expect you to take it seriously to show up to class and do the assignments. But they’re fun and life-giving, so you’re going to want to show up to class and do the assignments. You’re probably not going to want to do anything else.

If you thought THAT was a good deal, peep THIS!

If you invite a friend once you’ve already signed up, and that friend joins and mentions your name, I’ll refund you $78! Now we’re down to $499! That’s about $63 per week of class, plus the Friday Afternoon Song Club classes as well! This is looking like a pretty sweet deal, I must say…

Compare this to a similar class you might take from Berklee College Online for $1200-1500. Don’t throw your money away and not get the kind of individual attention that Gary offers.

Hurry! Registration for this course closes on August 31st!



If you have any questions, just email me personally at Thanks for taking the time to consider this possibility, for signing up, and for inviting a friend! I look forward to seeing you in class very soon!

golden lotus studio reserves the right to cancel this class if enrollment does not meet the minimum requirement.

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