Are you a violinist, violist, or cellist?

Would you like to:

Become fluent in improvisation and contemporary styles?

Feel more creatively self-expressed as a musician?

Attract a wider range of musical opportunities?

Teachers- would you like to:

Provide new curriculum relevant to your students’ needs?

Give them the skills and confidence to try something new on their own?


Whether you’re a beginning, intermediate, or advanced improviser, if you answered “yes” to anything above, 

Join Creative Strings Academy today, FREE!

Become a more creative, versatile string player (or teacher) with online training and personalized feedback. Expand your skills, opportunities, and impact.

Get access to over 250 lessons

-Become fluent in improvisation:

  • Gain skills to improvise in styles beyond classical.

-Improve your listening:

  • Recognize chord progressions,  accompaniment parts and harmonies.

-Attract more professional opportunities

-Teachers – Bring your studio into the 21st century


FREE! Downloads:


Ultimate Scale Resource- Think,Flesch, Galamian, and Kreutzer for contemporary players“. Scales are provided in extended range for violin, viola, and cello in all twelve keys. The forward explains how to optimize scale practice to develop harmonic fluency.

(Sells normally for $19.95)


arpeggios for jazz violin cello and viola Ultimate Arpeggio Resource: All commonly used seventh chords are provided in all inversions for violin, cello, and viola, in all keys. The extensive forward outlines how to use this book to expand your harmonic vocabulary and improvise with greater comfort and ease.

(Sells normally for $19.95)


violin harmony handbookThe 70-page Violin Harmony Handbook is packed with conceptual, intuitive, and analytical practice exercises, a chord glossary, and solo transcriptions. Think, “Paganini for improvisers”.

(Sells normally for $34.95)




-Receive personal feedback through video exchange


-Limited Time Offer– Schedule a free private Skype lesson when you join today.

Creative Strings Academy Membership
Creative Strings Academy Membership
Join Now! Try 30 days Free and Cancel anytime.
Price: $39.95

About me, Christian Howes:

Classically trained from age 5, I became curious to try new musical challenges in my teens.

That curiosity, along with some chance encounters, helped me develop new skills and make a career doing music in a wide array of settings.

I’ve enjoyed working with musicians I admire, the freedom to be creatively self-expressed, and sharing what I learned with other musicians, including my kids.

When I taught as an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music, my teaching was adopted, and is still used, as required study for all string majors.

Since then I’ve been invited to teach at Juilliard, Eastman, Oberlin, Miami, USC, University of Michigan, and hundreds of other colleges, k-12 schools, conferences, & Suzuki studios

The American String Teachers Association national conference has asked me to present sessions every year for the past ten.

Creative Strings Academy is widely regarded as the world’s most extensive curriculum for modern string players.

Players who credit my teaching as an influence include:

Michael Doucet (Grammy winning founder of Beau Soleil), Aubrey Haney (Acclaimed Nashville Session Fiddler )

Leah Zeger (Hans Zimmer), Alex Hargreaves (Chris Thile), Andrea Whitt (Shania Twain & Zucchero Farinacci)

Mike Barnett (Ricky Skaggs), Jeremy Kittle (Turtle Island Quartet), Jason Anick (Swing/ Hot Club rising star)

What to Expect During Your Free Trial:

You’ll get full access to over 250 training resources.

Christian Howes Creative Strings Academy for String PlayersYou’ll receive a link to schedule a private Skype lesson at your convenience on my calendar.

You’ll gain access to personal feedback from me. I’ll offer specific, actionable suggestions based on links or questions you submit.

All of this is designed to support you in becoming a more versatile and creative musician, whether you want to upgrade specific skills, experience more varied professional opportunities, be more creatively self-expressed, or expand your impact.

A World of Improvisation, Contemporary Styles, and Related Subjects

Applying Harmony is an ability that many musicians trained outside of classical music use to improvise, compose, arrange, and accompany.

You might be thinking, 

“I know what chords and scales are,” or 

“I studied harmony in college”,

But for most classically trained musicians, and fiddle-trained players, the theory we were given isn’t enough.

Because of the gaps in our training, we struggle to apply or recognize harmony. 

This holds us back musically from doing many of things we would like to be able to do.

Since many of us have had plenty of training, and we know how to play our instruments, we’re led to assume:

“If I just listen and try harder, I’ll get it.”

But listening harder usually just doesn’t work, because we weren’t taught what to listen and look for.

Another common mistake is to confuse applying harmony with learning a new style of music.

(A song can be arranged in many different styles and the harmony will actually stay the same.)

The best way to overcome this confusion is by separating these problems:

Problem 1: Applying Harmony

Problem 2: Internalizing Style and Rhythm

Realizing this helped me adapt more easily to play Bluegrass, Rock, Pop, Jazz (from early to modern), Brazilian, EDM, Tango, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Bossa, Samba, Afro-Cuban,  and more.

While I’m not 100% authentic in all of these styles, the way I practice has helped me to be musical in all of them. 

By focusing on learning a few key concepts in the right order, you can develop the ability to adapt your playing in unfamiliar styles confidently and musically, without memorizing a bunch of special licks or techniques.

Busting the Myth of “Having a Good Ear”

Like many kids, I learned pieces by listening to the recording played in our house every day.

I didn’t become aware of how limited my ears were until I started to try to recognize sounds beyond my “classical comfort zone”.

Most classical musicians are limited by their ear training to recognize classical sounding melodies in the register of the violin.

Similar types of limits exist for musicians trained in fiddle styles.

When I joined a rock band in high school,  I was frustrated because my bandmates seemed to understand the music more easily. 

  • I couldn’t recognize notes below the register of the violin
  • I couldn’t recognize chords
  • I couldn’t recognize melodies outside of classical music

I had no idea how to approach playing music other than classical.

Frustrated and embarrassed, I began transcribing, and my ability to recognize harmonies slowly improved. 

I started to pay attention to how parts of a song fit together, internalizing the groove, making up my own parts, writing songs…

I discovered that, instead of just transcribing everything slowly by ear, I could speed up the process by using my ability to read.

When I combined active listening with reading, my ears developed faster, once I realized what I needed to to listen and look for.

That was encouraging and empowering.  All I needed was for SOMETHING to finally click. Once it did, I felt so much better, as I realized there wasn’t anything “wrong” with me.  Once I focused on the right things, I could “get it” like my friends in the rock band.

How to Visualize Harmony on a String instrument:

Think of triads as falling onto a grid.

The piano is naturally built like a grid, while the fingerboard of a violin, viola, or cello is not.

I struggled for a long time to “see’ the harmonic grid on the fingerboard.

Then I discovered that visualizing it on paper could speed up the process, kind of like training wheels help people to learn to ride a bike.

I developed a tool to make this easy for anyone who can read music.

Here’s what it looks like applied to Pachelbel’s Canon:

pachebel chord stacks

Most people visualize an arpeggio or chord in root position, which is of little help in practice, because it fails to show the points of connection between chord tones across your instrument. 

The diagram above fixes this problem by presenting all the chord tones occurring in first position across your instrument.

It may seem obvious, but the trick is in how you apply it.

I came up with a dozen exercises for applying it, and after teaching these live to thousands of students, I sequenced them in a course called “Easy Tonal Improvisation”.  

While these exercises are something anyone with basic reading can do, they’re a game-changer for elite, classically trained musicians.

After an hour or two with these exercises, I can bet with confidence that you’ll never look at harmony the same way again. 

Next, I’ll show you the quickest ways to memorize harmony (without the diagram!).

The best part:  Instead of adding more time to your practice, you’ll accomplish more in the same amount of time by simply changing the way you practice.

I’ll give you the ultimate scales and arpeggios resources for violin, viola, and cello.

You’ll get more powerful ways to tweak your practice in the 70-page downloadable Violin Harmony Handbook, and accompanying video lessons.

Once you understand the framework in my “Easy Tonal Improvisation” course, the advanced exercises which follow will simply show you more ways to apply and integrate it into your practice routine.


You might be wondering, “Do I need to spend years mastering harmony before I can start improvising?”

This brings me to the third pillar of an effective practice routine:

Developing Your Creative Process

The creative facet of your practice is something you can develop now, no matter what level you’re at.

Balancing the analytical and creative sides of practicing has helped me to focus and retain more, while feeling more inspired to practice (instead of just going through the motions). 

It allows me to both internalize new information and express myself creatively, within the limits of my knowledge and technique. 

Without adding more practice time. 

How much better would it be to integrate harmony AND creativity into your existing practice, without adding more time?

For that matter, wouldn’t you like to practice in a way that inspires you and keeps you growing?

The creative process exercises will show you:

-How to create something new every time you pick up your instrument

-How to improvise without relying on harmony.

-How to constructively critique your own creative work

and much more…

Classical training provides important foundations.

But, let’s face it- It also leaves a lot out.

Many skills which are excluded from classical training are well known in other training systems, including jazz studies as well as the participatory music of many cultures.

How will you develop these skills without starting over in an entirely new system of training?

I address this via three pillars of my approach:

-Applying Harmony

-Internalizing Style and Rhythm

-Developing a Creative Process

This teaching takes into account the specific needs of elite classical and orchestral players, Suzuki teachers and students, K-12 orchestra teachers and students,  fiddlers, collegiate players, and amateur string players.

Whether you’re just beginning to go beyond classical, an intermediate improviser, or an advanced jazz player, you’ll become a more versatile and creative player (or teacher) with access to all of these course materials below, including a mixture of video trainings, downloadable PDF’s, and backing tracks.

Training for All Levels (Violin, Viola, & Cello)

Jazz Scales for Violin, Viola, and Cello eBook (Download)

Scales in extended range for violin, viola, and cello in all twelve keys.  Including how to optimize practice to develop harmonic fluency with this as a visual aid and time saver.

Sells normally for $19.95


Arpeggios for Jazz Violin, Cello, and Viola (Download) 

arpeggios for jazz violin cello and viola Seventh chords are provided in all inversions for the ranges of violin, cello, and viola, in all keys. The extensive forward outlines how to use this book to expand your harmonic vocabulary and  improvise with greater comfort and ease.

Sells normally for $19.95

Free Improvisation Master Series (Video Download)

Begin creating now regardless of your current technical, harmonic, or stylistic level . Gain a concrete process to help you develop a personal sound.  Develop a clear value system for improvisation in tonal or non-tonal settings.

Sells normally for $25.00

Teaching Improvisation Series (Video Download)

Improvisation for classical musiciansFor teachers! This series focuses on ways to teach improvisation to students of all ages.

Sells normally for $24.95

violin harmony handbookThe 70-page Violin Harmony Handbook is packed with conceptual, intuitive, and analytical practice exercises, a chord glossary, and solo transcriptions.

(Think ‘Paganini for improvisers.”)

Sells normally for $34.95


Jazz Violin Harmony Fundamentals Series Bundle (Videos and Handbook – Downloads)

Concepts discussed in the handbook are explained and demonstrated in a series of accompanying videos.

Sells normally for $45.00

Easy Tonal Improvisation (Video and Worksheet Download)

Great for all levels of classically trained players with basic reading skills. Using the “chord stacks” diagram, you’ll glide through chord progressions, literally connecting the dots to form coherent melodies, accompaniments, or arrangements in many styles. Think ,”How to make your own Youtube covers”.

Sells normally for $24.95

Bach Prelude For Electric Violin and Loop Pedal Series

Jazz Violin Tutorial w/ Loop Pedal on Bach PreludeA four-part tutorial series related to my arrangement of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in G Major for solo cello. Learn how to use a loop pedal to create layers of improvisations.  Gain insights into odd time signatures, practice structuring your improvisation to have more variety, learn how to break out of using the same patterns, and more.

Sells normally for $24.95

Blues Improvisation Series (Video and Backing Tracks Download)

 If you want to be able to sometimes sound “less classical-sounding”, this will help you play more authentically within Blues-related idioms including Pop, Rock, R and B, Jazz, Gospel, Hip Hop, and even Bluegrass.  Learn to develop harmonic tension and release by combining two blues scales (most people miss out on this!) Generate rhythmic tension by discovering how to strengthen the under-used rhythmic muscle you didn’t know you had.

Sells normally for $24.95

How to Play Bossa and Samba for Bowed Strings- While Bossa and Sambas are traditional forms from Brazil, they’re at the core of more music than you probably realize. You’ll learn how to feel the clave and adapt your melodies to fit the clave. You’ll also be able to create your own accompaniment parts and learn to arrange songs in these styles.

Sells normally for $24.95

These are appropriate if you’re an advanced improviser or you’re interested in playing Jazz:

Diminished Scale Master Series (Video and MP3 Download)

The Diminished scale represents an essential sonic color for improvisers in modern jazz. One of the most difficult scales to apply, you’ll get step by step exercises to help you integrate this Modern Jazz vernacular into your playing.

Sells normally for $19.95

Bebop Scales Master Series (Video and Worksheet Download)

These exercises will help you play fast streams of 8th notes over common jazz tunes, sound authentic within the Jazz lexicon, and/or play over 2-5-1 progressions with greater ease. The secrets of the bebop scale approach are a staple of seasoned jazz musicians that I lay out step by step, specifically for violinists, violists, and cellists. Your ear will become more familiar with Jazz melodies and you’ll discover the ingredient that makes lines sound recognizably bebop, aka “straight ahead”.

Sells normally for $19.95

Melodic Minor Series (Advanced)

If you’d like to evoke the sound of Modern Jazz in your playing,  the melodic minor scale is one of the essential tools used by expert jazz players to imply modern jazz vernacular, and in this series you’ll quickly understand how to add this sound to your vocabulary.

Sells normally for $19.95

You’ll also learn:

-Chopping and other Rhythmic Extended Techniques

-How to use modal improvisation in Rock, EDM, Bluegrass, world music, or jazz.

-How to break out of playing the same three licks.

-20th Century Classical-sounding free improvisation

-How to use Amplification, Effects, and Looping,

-How to interpret a chord chart on first sight

-Balancing sequencing and randomness

-The secret to performing acappella without it sounding boring or like something is missing

-Bonus transcriptions and scores.

-If there’s something you want that’s missing (within reason), I’ll create it.


You may be wondering, “Is Creative Strings Academy right for me?”

If you can say “yes” to any of these questions, I believe you’re PERFECT for Creative Strings Academy.

-Are you over the age of 12 with at least a few years experience playing violin, viola, or cello?

-Do you teach private lessons or k-12 strings?

-Do you have a classical or fiddle background?

-Are you a seasoned improviser or jazz player, looking for more advancement and depth?

My Guarantee:

If you spend as little as two hours per week with this course, you’ll gain specific takeaways regarding:

-How to make more of your practice time,

-How to dissect the harmonic and rhythmic components of any tune

-How to develop your own personal sound

-How to make sense of different styles of music beyond classical

TeachersHelp your students with new curriculum relevant to their needs

Remember, you won’t need to make extra time, because you can use this when you normally practice.


The Best Part:

If you think there’s a “slight chance” Creative Strings Academy will work for you, you should enroll today.

Because you can try it and see for yourself if it works for you.

If it works, your approach to music or teaching could be forever changed.

If not, at any time during 30 days, simply cancel, without paying a dime.


What’s training like this Worth to You?

-You could get somewhat comparable training at Berklee, Manhattan School, USC, or a handful of other places. Move to the big city, rent an apartment, and pay over $30,000 per year in tuition alone.

-You could do research, hire a private teacher in your city, hope that they are a good fit for your needs, and schedule a couple hours per week to travel to their studio for about $300 per month.

Or, you could consider everything I’ve shared here, and…

Get it All. Free.

Try Creative Strings Academy free for 30 days.

Enjoy streaming access to all course materials.

Download all literature (to keep forever)

Get access to personal feedback from me on a regular basis

Schedule a free private lesson

If you’re not thrilled with the value you get from this, simply send an email to cancel.

If you love it and stay past 30 days, you’ll be billed $39.95 per month.

That’s less than half the cost of one private lesson with many teachers

Get Personalized Feedback

When you submit videos or questions, I personally respond, so you can improve the things that are important to you.

Connect One to One

Schedule a free private lesson, and we’ll find the best path for you to reach your goals, so you’re getting exactly what you want.

No risk!

Subscribe free for 30 days, with no obligation.

If you decide to stay past 30 days, pay $39.95 per month (cancel anytime).

Take advantage of this special offer now while it lasts.

Creative Strings Academy Membership
Creative Strings Academy Membership
Join Now! Try 30 days Free and Cancel anytime.
Price: $39.95