Carlos Santana & Tom Morello Launch Online Courses on How to Play the Guitar

Thanks to two new courses from Master Class, you can now learn to play guitar from Carlos Santana and Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. Launched yesterday, Santana’s Master Class on the Art and Soul of Guitar "breaks down his creative process and teaches you his spiritual take on making music," covering:

  • How to pull from multiple musical styles and influences.
  • How to break down music you hear and use it to improve how you play.
  • Ideas for exercises in the styles of great blues musicians.
  • How he marries harmonies with rhythmic accents.
  • His approach to writing a melody for guitar.
  • How he creates dialogue between guitar parts when he writes songs.
  • Guidance for leading a band and building trust with band members.

For his part, Tom Morello's course on the electric guitar will teach you, in 26 video lessons, the riffs, rhythms, and solos that launched his career. The course covers everything from beginner music theory, to learning how to improvise, solo and play with speed, to developing an appreciation for lyrics and melody. Each course costs $90. For $180, you can get an annual pass to the 45 courses in Masterclass' course catalogue.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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Mira Nair, Director of Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake, Teaches an Online Course on Indie Filmmaking

FYI: Mira Nair, the director of Monsoon Wedding and The Namesakehas just released an online masterclass on independent filmmaking. In 17 video lessons, the Oscar-nominated director teaches students how to "make a big impact on a small budget, evoke the best from actors and non-actors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you." Nair's course runs $90. But for $180, you can get an All-Access Pass to Masterclass' catalogue of 45 courses, which includes courses by a number of other prominent filmmakers--Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Ken Burns, Ron Howard, Werner Herzog and more. Not to mention actors and actresses like Samuel L. Jackson and Helen Mirren.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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How to Write a Bestselling Page Turner: Learn from The Da Vinci Code Author Dan Brown’s New Masterclass

"Dan Brown visited my English class," remembers the New Yorker's Joshua Rothman. "It happened in the spring of 1998," five years before Brown hit the bigtime with The Da Vinci Code, a thriller best known for its colossal sales numbers. "None of us had heard of Brown, or of his book" — his debut novel, Digital Fortress — "and we were annoying, arty little snooty-snoots. Why would we want to talk with the author of a 'techno-thriller' about computer hackers?" But the class' attitude didn't stop Brown from sharing the writing wisdom he had to offer, delivered in the form of such guidelines (in Rothman's memory) as "Set your story in an exotic location," "Make your characters interesting people with secrets," "Have lots of plot twists," and "End each chapter with a cliffhanger."

At the time, Rothman didn't understand why Brown would come to his class to "give a bunch of arty high-school kids advice about how to write cheesy thrillers." But now, as a professional writer himself, Rothman realizes "why Brown's advice was so practical," and what it had to teach them about the practical considerations, even rigors, of "how to write for a living."




Though he doesn't mention any of his classmates growing up to become the kind of novelists Brown is, a great many others dream of such a writing life, few of whom ever had the chance to benefit from a classroom visit by the man himself. But they can now enroll in "Dan Brown Teaches Writing Thrillers," a new course from online education company Masterclass whose trailer you can watch above.

Any fan of Brown's writing — or the blockbuster movies that have been made out of it — knows that, as far as exotic locations, characters with secrets, plot twists, and cliffhangers go, he has hardly abandoned his principles. His Masterclass covers all of those aspects in depth and more besides, from "The Anatomy of a Thriller" to "Creating Heroes and Villains" to "Creating Suspense" to "Protecting Your Process." Brown also devotes two sections to research, which he once called in a Goodreads question-and-answer session "the most overlooked facet of writing a successful page turner." If any living writer knows how to come up with a successful page turner, Brown does, and unlike in his novels themselves, he certainly doesn't seem inclined to bury the secret under layers of history, symbolism, conspiracy, and murder. You can enroll in Brown's new thriller-writing class (which runs $90) here. You can also pay $180 to get an annual pass to all of Masterclass' courses.

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

R.I.P. Stan Lee: Take His Free Online Course “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture”

"I grew up in an exurb where it took nearly an hour to walk to the nearest shop, to the nearest place to eat, to the library," remembers writer Adam Cadre. "And the steep hills made it an exhausting walk.  That meant that until I turned sixteen, when school was not in session I was stuck at home.  This was often not a good place to be stuck. Stan Lee gave me a place to hang out." Many other former children of exurban America — as well as everywhere else — did much of their growing up there as well, not just in the universe of Marvel Comics but in those of the comics and other forms of culture to which it gave rise or influenced, most of them either directly or indirectly shaped by Lee, who died yesterday at the age of 95.

"His critics would say that for me to thank Stan Lee for creating the Marvel Universe shows that I’ve fallen for his self‐promotion," Cadre continues, "​that it was Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and his other collaborators who supplied the dynamic, expressive artwork and the epic storylines that made the Marvel Universe so compelling."




Marvel fans will remember that Ditko, co-creator with Lee of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, died this past summer. Kirby, whose countless achievements in comics include co-creating the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk with Lee, passed away in 1994. (Kirby's death, as I recall, was the first I'd ever heard about on the internet.)

Those who take a dimmer view of Lee's career see him as having done little more artistic work than putting dialogue into the speech bubbles. But like no small number of other Marvel Universe habitués, Cadre "didn’t read superhero comics for the fights or the costumes or the trips to Asgard and Attilan. I read them for fantasy that read like reality, for the interplay of wildly different personalities — ​and for the wisecracks." And what made superhero stories the right delivery system for that interplay of personalities and those wisecracks? You'll find the answer in "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture," an online course from the Smithsonian, previously featured here on Open Culture and still available to take at your own pace in edX's archives, created and taught in part by Lee himself. You can watch the trailer for the course at the top of the post.

If you take the course, its promotional materials promise, you'll learn the answers to such questions as "Why did superheroes first arise in 1938 and experience what we refer to as their “Golden Age” during World War II?," "How have comic books, published weekly since the mid-1930’s, mirrored a changing American society, reflecting our mores, slang, fads, biases and prejudices?," and "When and how did comic book artwork become accepted as a true American art form as indigenous to this country as jazz?" Whether or not you consider yourself a "true believer," as Lee would have put it, there could be few better ways of honoring an American icon like him than discovering what makes his work in superhero comics — the field to which he dedicated his life, and the one which has taken more than its fair share of derision over the decades — not just a reflection of the culture but a major influence on it as well.

Enroll in "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture" here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Margaret Atwood Offers a New Online Class on Creative Writing

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

FYI: Back in July, Colin Marshall highlighted an online writing course being developed by Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid's Tale, Cat's Eye, Alias Grace, and The Blind Assassin. As a quick follow up, it's worth mentioning that Atwood's creative writing course has now gone live. It's offered through Masterclass, features 23 video lessons, and costs $90. You can read Colin's original preview of the course here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness

A Free Course from MIT Teaches You How to Speak Italian & Cook Italian Food All at Once

At MIT, Dr. Paola Rebusco usually teaches physics to freshmen. But, on behalf of the MIT Experimental Study Group, Rebusco has devised an appealing course -- Speak Italian with Your Mouth Full -- where she combines teaching two things many people love: learning to speak Italian and cooking Italian food. The course summary reads:

The participants in this seminar will dive into learning basic conversational Italian, Italian culture, and the Mediterranean diet. Each class is based on the preparation of a delicious dish and on the bite-sized acquisition of parts of the Italian language and culture. A good diet is not based on recipes only, it is also rooted in healthy habits and in culture. At the end of the seminar the participants will be able to cook some healthy and tasty recipes and to understand and speak basic Italian.

As Rebusco explains in a short video, this course has the advantage of making the language lessons a little less abstract. It gives students a chance to apply what they've learned (new vocabulary words, pronunciations, etc.) in a fun, practical context.




Above, we start you off with the first language lesson in the seminar. It begins where all basic courses start -- with how to say your name. Below, you can watch the class learn to cook fresh pasta. Along the way, the course also teaches students how to make espressorisottohomemade pizzabruschetta, and biscotti. Lectures for the course can be found on the MIT web site, YouTube and iTunesSpeak Italian with Your Mouth Full also appears in our collection of Free Foreign Language Lessons and 1200 Free Courses Online. Buon Appetito!

Ingredients & Cooking Instruction:

Food Preparation

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site way back in 2012.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Learn How to Play the Theremin: A Free Short Video Course

When Leon Theremin debuted his strange electronic device on the world stage, it seemed to many people more like a curious toy than a serious musical instrument. The theremin soon became associated with B-grade sci-fi movies and novelty soundtracks, an association that made Clara Rockmore furious. Determined to achieve respectability for the theremin, she championed it as “a legitimate classical instrument that deserves a place in the pit,” writes Atlas Obscura, “right next to the violins and piano.” Rockmore’s ambitions may have been outsized, but her talent was undeniable. “As serious as anyone has ever been about the theremin… she left behind a number of valuable lessons,” including a book, freely available, in which she dispenses some very practical advice.

But much has changed since her day, including popular methods of instruction and some of the technical design of theremins. Now, aspiring players will likely go looking for video lessons before consulting Rockmore’s guide, which requires that students read music in order to transition from exercises to “easy pieces” by Camille Saint-Saëns and J.S. Bach.




One series of video lessons offered by “thereminist” Thomas Grillo, an earnest instructor in a white shirt and tie, begins with the very basics and works up to more advanced techniques, including possible mods to the device (Grillo plays a Moog-made theremin himself).

Grillo opens with a disclaimer that his short course is “no substitute for professionally done how-to videos on how to play the theremin,” thereby humbly acknowledging the low production values of his series. Nonetheless, I imagine his classes are as good a place to start as any for newcomers to theremin-ing, not a skill one can pick up as readily online as playing the guitar or piano.  He clearly knows his stuff. With the look and demeaner of a high school algebra teacher, Grillo patiently explains and demonstrates many techniques and principles, beginning with lesson one above, then continuing in lessons twothree, four, five, six, and seven.

Once you’ve reached an intermediate stage, or if you already find yourself there, you may benefit from the instruction of Carolina Eyck, who has carried on the serious classical work of Clara Rockmore. See her just above perform a stirring rendition of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," accompanied on piano by Christopher Tarnow, and check out her YouTube channel for more performances and short lessons.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

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