Hello, my name is Dave and for the past couple of years I've been building www.daveconservatoire.org a free music education site.

This year over 30,000 people spent over 300,000 minutes in class watching videos and answered over 500,000 exercises correctly. This was a total surprise to me when I was hoping if I could reach just a few people I'd be happy.

Please feel free to ask anything about music, music theory, online education or anything else!

These might be good:

  • How can I get started playing <insert instrument here>?
  • What is a modulation?
  • How do you plan on making the site sustainable?
  • Who is your favourite composer?
  • How come you know you're listening to a Miles Davis composition within the first two notes?

I'm looking to establish a circle of patrons willing to donate to the site and help me reach more people and take it to the next level. If you think you might be interested in this please visit my page on Patreon here - www.patreon.com/daveconservatoire . Thanks!

EDIT: Right, it is approaching midnight here now, so I'll be off to bed soon. Please feel free to keep asking anything you like - I'll get to them in the morning! It's been a really fun day, I've enjoyed chatting with you all. Thanks for the support and the couple of donations! Dave

Proof - https://twitter.com/iamdavidrees/status/414677364035952641

Comments: 77 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

Jackthejackasscock12 karma

ive been trying to teach myself to play piano for awhile now and ive been looking for a resource like this. ive picked up a little from random youtube videos but something comprehensive and structured like this is just what i needed. Dont have a question but thank you for putting this together, i will definitely check it out.

daverees47 karma

Hi Jack,

Good luck, and hope you find the site useful. Please feel free to email [email protected] if you have any questions.


Vulpestrument3 karma

Have you got a smartphone yet? The power of a free app and a long boring commute!

Also, did you go to the staff Xmas party?

daverees42 karma

I believe there may be one waiting for me under the christmas tree, not that it is up yet . . .that's something to get on with this afternoon!

I did, but ended up rushing off to film a "Merry Christmas" from Dave Conservatoire video - which ended up taking about 10 hours and I left feeling throughly unfestive about 11pm!

Happy Xmas to the three of you!

meatbeagle3 karma

What do you have that is closest to the standard "Sight Singing and Ear Training" series from a traditional university? Thanks for this!

daverees44 karma

I haven't actually covered much in this area yet.

Mostly because it is done so well by www.easyeartraining.com . There are plenty of free resources on there very much geared towards helping with traditional ear training/ sight singing practice.


I have two weeks off from work and I've been wanting to attend an online music school. This is perfect. Thanks for the Christmas present I've been wanting. Ive been producing for 3 years now and most of what I have done is a cross between ambient songs and hip hop beats. Ive always known that I needed to go back and learn the actual fundamentals. heres my set up


daverees42 karma

Great stuff - what a cool way to spend your holidays.

I'm pretty convinced that regardless of what music you ultimately want to make a thorough grounding in the basics of music - i.e. what is sound and how can we organise it into music - can only have a positive effect on what you ultimately produce!

Good luck and so let me know ([email protected]) if you have any questions or problems along the way. :)


Exactly. The other online production schools are way over priced. Heres a track from my last release.


daverees41 karma

Genuinely enjoying this!

bruddatim2 karma

As someone paying 1000's for a music education, you're the bomb. Anything that helps spread and revive classical music is welcomed with open arms.

daverees42 karma

Thanks :)

engels11 karma

Hello! A few questions

I have taken the flute back up after a few years break and really want to look into getting my grades finished, but to do this I need at least a grade 7 theory. Obviously I have a good base knowledge after played since a young age, but can you recommend a book, or perhaps specific parts of your website that could help me self teach adequately enough for me to pass the exam?

And I would really like to start learning the piano, I have one where I live but don't know where to start :/

I love what you're doing :D

daverees41 karma

Great to hear you're getting back into your music making!

There are somethings on my site that will provide you with a good grounding for tackling music theory exams - but, at the higher grades, these often involve some elements of composition, harmony and counterpoint - things I haven't got round to covering yet - (but will!)

ABRSM have some good online resources covering a) what is required and b) recommended study materials.

As for getting started on the piano, there are a couple of things that I'd recommend. The first is just getting acquainted with the instrument as much as possible:

  • How many different types of sounds can you make?
  • What different combinations of notes do you like?
  • Try working out what the pedals do and if you can make some interested effects using them.
  • See if you can pick out some simple melodies by ear.

Also a very important thing to get right when starting is that you are sat at the piano in a relaxed way that will make it easy for you to play without the danger of injury. If you feel any tension anywhere in your hands, wrists, arms or back then it is a good idea to take a break and do some jumping jacks (that's what I do when I'm feeling tense while playing the piano anyway!)

Where some lessons with a teacher either in person or remotely can be very valuable is that we can make sure that you're set up right to play piano in a relaxed way - I'm not sure I can recreate that experience through a website with currently available technology! :)

anarchvolk1 karma


daverees48 karma

Good question.

Unlike a university or conservatoire - my goal is to help people on their musical journey no matter what that may be.

If they want to learn three chords on the guitar and sing songs to their friends - great. If they want to learn to analyse the deepest levels of a Beethoven symphony- also great.

Most music schools (certainly in the US and UK) tend to focus on "classical art music" - that, said some now offer courses on jazz, world music and music theatre, for example. While these courses will suit some, there's not so much for people who don't want to study music in a rigorous academic way.

I'm trying to create a way of learning about music that will help you no matter what kind of music you'd like to play, compose or listen to.

By doing this I'm hoping I can show everyone that there aren't these big differences between different types of music, they're all interesting and important and there's lots to be gained from studying them all. (At the moment I feel in higher education that studying "classical" music is seen as more important or worthwhile than other styles - I disagree!)

anarchvolk1 karma


daverees46 karma

I'd hope so, eventually - although I think I have a long way to go until I could offer the same facilities, expertise and experience those institutions have in training musicians.

It is important to say that I'm not trying to replace music teachers, schools or anything really. Just provide some tools that anyone can use in the pursuit of music education.

Formal study in music can be very expensive and that makes it basically inaccessible to many people. So at the moment I'm hoping to get people who might not be fortunate enough to have a teacher or access to formal education started on the right track for free.

anarchvolk1 karma


daverees43 karma

Thanks - do let me know if you find it useful.

I guess the dream place to get to in, say, 20 years would be to get the site to stage where someone can come on, pick up an instrument, get feedback on their playing from the community and learn more about music's theory, history and nature.

It wouldn't be inconceivable to then have a real world programme, where a small percentage of students, maybe 0.01%, are selected (by looking at their data profile on the site for potential) to come and study with really excellent teachers somewhere for free, supported by charitable donations. That's the dream, let's see if I make it! :)

anarchvolk1 karma


daverees41 karma

No worries and thanks! I'm just experimenting with getting the word out any way I can. Also it isn't the best time atm - the US will be waking up soon . . . I hope they'll get involved! Season's Greetings! Dave

wzpgsr1 karma

I have been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I am mainly self taught, and have picked up snippets of theory here and there. Do you have any recommendations for freeing myself from the limitations of playing within shapes or boxes on the fretboard so that I can achieve freedom of movement?

daverees44 karma

I've found the most important thing in music is developing your ears. The more you are able to pick out melodies, chord progressions and other features of music you like, the more you will be able to incorporate these into your own playing.

With a good ear and a basic understanding of how what you're hearing maps on to simple concepts of scale, key, rhythm and meter - there's not much more to learn!

Do you ever learn songs on the guitar by ear? While it is great to learn from sheet music/tabs as well, working out songs/pieces by ear will force you to break out of the hand shapes/patterns that you are comfortable with and explore new areas of your instrument.

wzpgsr1 karma

I used to do that a lot. Since I never know what to practice anymore, I think I will I start doing that again. Thanks for the advice!

daverees42 karma

Yes - I'd definitely incorporate that into your practice.

There are of course drills to improve technique etc, for example, trills, hammer-ons etc, but most important is that you're learning how music works!

laur151 karma


daverees42 karma

At the moment, I'm making all the content. But bringing other people onto the site is something I definitely want to experiment with next year. I think the best way would to be develop the tools to allow teachers to create lessons (ideally including videos, scores, practice techniques) and see what turns up! They might use these tools to make lessons for their own students, but it'll probably be the case that they will be relevant to others too!

armanrei1 karma

Hi Dave.

I currently have an issue with ear training and I feel like I've plateaued. I can very easily identify intervals with exercises and whatnot but when I try to figure out chord progressions by ear, or figure out melodies I always need an instrument with me to help me figure it out. What suggestions do you have for me to break past this?


daverees41 karma

Don't be too hard on yourself - identifying intervals consistently is a really good place to have reached.

Working out melodies and chords of a piece really started to make sense to me once I started to think about melody notes and chords in the context of the music's key - rather than in isolation.

I managed to really think about what the sound of each scale degree was like until the subdominant note and chord, for example, had a certain identity that I could recognise, regardless of the key of the piece.

So I think the way forward is to stop testing yourself in isolation to recognise an interval of say a perfect fifth and start to see if you can recognise pitches and chords in context of a piece.

A really good place to start is pop songs, which often have a very simple melodies and chord schemes, after a while you'll get very adept at hearing the simple progressions they use. I-V-VI-IV, is super common, for example, as documented here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOlDewpCfZQ

More complex progressions and melodies will come with practice.

armanrei1 karma

Dave, thanks for replying to my question. So I guess the last thing I should ask is advice for recognising chord progressions by ear. There's something on theta music trainer with chord progressions ( http://trainer.thetamusic.com/en/content/speaker-chords) and hooktheory which I can never get. I feel like I'm just stabbing in the dark.

daverees41 karma

That's a really nice exercise. The first level has just tonic, subdominant and dominant chords. Really try and listen for the roots of the chords, this will always give the game away, but watch out for inversions (i.e. not the root of the chord in the bass)!

Funkpuppet1 karma

No questions, but I love the concept. Hope it takes off and you achieve your goals!

daverees41 karma

Thanks :)

possiblyagirl1 karma

What are your feeling towards traditional ear training/sight singing? I'm a music ed major, and every program I've used online never seems to be what I need or want or is just as frustrating as the MacGamut (MacDammit) system we use at school. Do you think a development of an ear training section could be in the future?

daverees41 karma

I think that's the challenge I'm up against. Rather than defining a set "program" of study what I'm hoping is that I can make a load of resources covering topics with several different approaches and people can come and take the stuff that is relevant to them. Not going to be easy though!

saksoskunk1 karma

Love your idea. iPad is struggling with the site though. Any suggestions?

daverees43 karma

Sorry you're having problems - still somethings to fix on the new design it seems. If you're having no joy with the site, you can still browse the video library on youtube - www.youtube.com/daveconservatoire

Nosiege1 karma

You should change your last name to Conservatoire. Will you?

daverees42 karma

How about Dave "Conservatoire" Rees?

and692 karma

How about Dave "Conservatoire" Rees?

Hou about Dave Conservatrees?

daverees48 karma

. . . let's put that on the maybe pile.

MrSm1lez1 karma

What was your inspiration behind making this site? Seems really cool, I'll have to check it out.

daverees410 karma

I saw www.khanacademy.org in 2010 and thought - "I could totally do this for music". So I spent the next few weeks scripting a load of videos and working out how to do the recording and graphics.

Once these were done I sent them to Sal Khan not really expecting a reply, but he got back to me and was really encouraging!

That was all the inspiration I needed really and so I'm still going two years later!

jrock7831 karma

this is awesome!

daverees41 karma

thanks :)

ThatWrinkledForeskin1 karma

Do you like bagged milk?

daverees44 karma

I live in the UK and bagged milk isn't so big here. I'm more a "two bottles of semi-skimmed from the milkman" kind of guy.

GentleRhino1 karma

Dave, I have no official training in music but I play amateurish classical guitar, read guitar sheet music and chord charts, compose little pieces and songs, attend at least 6 concerts a year and do know what modulation is... I'm RUNNING to your site NOW!!!

daverees41 karma

Cool! Good luck guitar playing GentleRhino!

cizessio1 karma

So far, all I know how to do is improvise in the major/minor scales (mostly self-taught, I understand only basic concepts of music theory and I learn best through ear & sheets). I can do very modern pieces like the catchy pop tunes you'd hear on the radio, but I want to learn more advanced things like jazz improv or blues. Given my semi-unique background, what would you suggest learning?

daverees42 karma

You're at the stage now, I think, where it is really time to explore the music you want to play (jazz/blues) on a microscopic level.

You need a program that allows you to slow down pieces (I use something called Amazing Slow Downer) to really slow down some of your favourite tunes and work out what the musicians are doing. The first step is the realisation that what, say, Chuck Berry is playing is not magic, but rather the same notes available to you or I. It is just his approach to combining them that makes what he does so effective.

In addition to that, I'd recommend checking out the Jazz Theory Book or Jazz Piano book (if you're a pianist) by Mark Lavine, which will save you a good deal of time understanding how melody/harmony works in jazz/blues styles.

Good Luck!

icy9541 karma

How does one go about choosing chord progressions? I've made attempts at writing music (non-professionally) and they all kind of suck or rip chord progressions off of other artists.

Thank you for this amazing utility!

daverees43 karma

Just experimentation and practice . . . oh, and definitely ripping other people off.

What did Picasso (allegedly) say? "Good artists borrow, great artists steal!"

When you're just getting started it is almost impossible not to produce work that is derivative and seems like a poor imitation of your favourite music. Most people get disillusioned by this and give up.

The way to get through is just write, write all the time, write something every day - eventually you'll write some stuff that you start to think doesn't suck as much.

This puts it better than I can - http://zenpencils.com/comic/90-ira-glass-advice-for-beginners/

Good luck!

froobin1 karma

You should hang out with Khan.

daverees41 karma

I have done!

froobin1 karma


daverees41 karma


and691 karma

I just want to express my gratitude for you and your hard work. I will study your material and email you any questions I might have.

daverees41 karma

Thanks :)

Huliaaaaa1 karma

No question here, just wanted to say that what you're doing is amazing. As a musician, so many of my non-musician friends have told me how they wished they could learn to play x instrument. My musician friends always tell me how they wish they were taught more theory. Bravo!

daverees41 karma


theACEinpeACE1 karma

Dave, can you explain why I should love music theory as if I am a 21 year old who has eaten ALOT of MDMA, is wearing a flatpeak cap, and coincidently has just gone to music college because I believe dub-reggae to be the future (mostly based on my ability to "feel it")?

Also, do you need / want Leeds University Music graduates (I might have a First in Composition if that helps) to help you / your project out? Would love to get involved.

peACE x

daverees42 karma

In answer to your first question . . . erm no, probably not.

I will definitely be working on how I can involve more people in the future, so yes, watch this space.

theACEinpeACE1 karma

To be honest Dave, I couldn't work out an answer, other than gesticulating, either. I'm searching for a Masters in Berlin that is mostly theory based currently.... let's see eh?

Can I PM you my email address so we might stay in contact? x

daverees41 karma

Do you have a student/friend who is as you describe who you're trying to get the message through to? I feel like in a lot of cases the need to look deeper into the craft of their music becomes suddenly very obviously clear when the time is right!

Good luck looking for a course in Berlin - that would be an amazing place to study - and you'll find the course fees will be like 500 euros or something!

By all means, do PM me your address, or if you're ever near the RCM in London, stop by for a coffee!


blooperboy1 karma

How come you know you're listening to a Miles Davis composition within the first two notes?

daverees41 karma

There are lots of clues, the main one is the timbre of Davis' trumpet playing - there's a quality to that sounds there that I've never heard from anyone else.

Other clues might include the interval between the two notes he plays, the style and nature of the accompanying band and even the sound of the recording, which will help date when it was produced.

moonwalkindinos1 karma

Consider your website bookmarked!

I used to sing competitively in high school and really want to get back into it and learn new things. Are there any lessons/resources for singing? Thanks for doing this.

daverees42 karma

Thanks! Not directly at the moment, mostly just explaining in simple terms how music works - which of course will apply to all musicians including singers.

nerd_drum0 karma

No question...just this.

In a time where music programs are continuously being cut from schools, what you and people like you are doing is incredibly vital. People completely under-value the importance of music education in the development of a students' overall educational experience. Music is one of the few things that is truly universal and needs to be taught...even if now we have to get that education from sources other than the school systems. Thank you for what you are doing.

daverees42 karma

Thanks very much - and I totally agree. Regardless of what you ultimately go on to do in life - accountant, astronaut, astronomer - it would be a tragedy if you didn't also have the joy of music in your life. I guess that's why I'm doing this! :)

vowellac0 karma

I am a music educator. How do you give the music education students performance opportunities needed to complete a successful music education degree?

daverees46 karma

At the moment. . . I can't. Essentially what I'm providing is short music tutorials and exercises that can be used by anyone wanting to brush up on particular topics in music theory.

So I'm definitely not claiming what I can offer is a replacement for teachers/schools or for anything really. But I'm hoping that over time I can build up a library of music lessons and exercises that will be helpful to music students and their teachers as well.

In the future I do have plans to try and explore some other areas in more detail - these may include:

  • Can I create the resources to help someone feel empowered to start a singing group in their local community?
  • Can I make it so that students can track their practice and goals on the site?
  • Can I give students the ability to upload their performances and compositions to the site for constructive feedback from the community?

I don't know if I'll be able to achieve any of these ideas, but I'm excited at the prospect of having a go!