Project Description

Alpha Shapes Method

Jazz Improvisation with Alpha Shapes

Learn music vocabulary by using Alphabet letters with musical shapes.

I have had the great fortune to work and study with some great jazz musicians here in Portland. I’ve developed my own method for teaching these skills, which I call the Alpha Shapes Method. Using this method, anyone who knows only the absolute basic knowledge about music theory can immediately begin improvising with clarity and understanding. I use both the letters of the notes (Alpha) and 3 shapes (Shapes) to create charts that are easy to read and memorize. Once a song is memorized, improvising becomes a natural way of thinking and expressing oneself.


DEREK SIMSCourse Instructor
Derek Sims is an in-demand trumpeter in both the jazz and classical Portland music scene. Derek graduated with honors from The University of Michigan with a Bachelors of Music degree. While at Michigan, he studied with the great Armando Ghitalla (Boston Symphony), and Charles Daval (Montreal, Seattle Symphonies). After college, Derek went to play with Princess Cruise Lines, and toured over 40 countries around the world for 2 years.
Derek has had the privilege of performing with such artists as Benny Golson, Freda Payne, Danilo Perez, Gerald Wilson, Arturo Sandoval, Bob Mintzer, Paquito D’Rivera, Jon Faddis, Ingrid Jensen, Bobby Shew, Randy Brecker, Bobby Watson, Pancho Sanchez, Wynton Marsalis, James Moody, Ron Miles, Martha Reeves, and many others. Currently he performs with the Mel Brown Septet, and co-leads the Brown/Sims Big Band. He has also performed with many different groups in the Portland area including: Carlton Jackson/Dave Mills Big Band, The Oregon Symphony, Columbia Symphony, Big Horn Brass, Alan Jones Sextet, Bobby Torres Ensemble, Soul Vaccination, Linda Hornbuckle, Pepe and the Bottle Blondes, Pink Martini, and Dahlia.

Portland Jazz School

Become Part of Derek’s Portland Jazz School to Further Your Jazz Improvisation Skills.