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Westchester Music Institute: Alisdair MacRae Birch

White Plains, NY 10605 (map)

Lessons Offered

Bass, Composition, Double Bass, Guitar, Music Theory

Where are Lessons Offered

In Teacher Studio

About Me

Guitar, Upright Bass and Bass Guitar Lessons; with Professional, Full-Time Performing Musician, 40 years experience. MFA, BSc (Hons.), Royal & Guildhall School Of Music (UK)


Educator/Clinician - Universities, Colleges, Workshops and Privately. Adjunct University faculty. Registered instructor Gordon Institute of Music Learning, the Rock School and Registry of Guitar/Bass Tutors. Specialist in Jazz Studies, Improvisation, Sight Reading, Ear, Theory, Harmony & Technique. Style Studies: Jazz (All Styles), Rock, Pop, R&B, Funk, Motown, Folk, African, Latin & Caribbean Music. Preparation for music exams, graduate schools, music competitions:

  • New York State School Music Association (USA)
  • Associated Board Of The Royal Schools Of Music (UK/Worldwide)
  • Rock School (UK/Worldwide)
  • Guildhall School Of Music (UK/Worldwide)
  • Trinity College Of Music/ Rock School Exams (UK/Worldwide)
  • London College Of Music/Registry Of Guitar and Bass Tutors (USA/UK).

My Musical Education Background

Alisdair MacRae Birch was born in the UK and grew up in a musical family who travelled frequently from Southern Spain to the Highlands of Scotland. In these early years and travels he heard the musics of Scotland, Scottish songs and dance, the British music hall tradition (similar to American vaudeville), English Folk Music, Gypsy Jazz, Flamenco & Catalan Rhumba.

He has performed worldwide from Big-Band Jazz, through to quartets, trios, duos, and solo in music ranging from Jazz, to African Highlife, Jazz-Funk, Pop, Reggae, Calypso, Soca, Zouk and Samba. Known mainly for his guitar playing, Alisdair also continues to perform and teach his first instruments the Double Bass/Bass Guitar and Violoncello. He has worked as an artist in his own right and as much in demand sideman both live and in the studio. He has played, arranged and orchestrated many artists music, advertising jingles, movies and plays.

Among the musicians Alisdair has performed with, include: Adrian Revell (Saxophonist - Incognito, Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies), Anibal Miranda (Singer/Guitarist - Portuguese Singer), Calvin Brooks (Guitarist), Darrin Mooney (Drummer - Primal Scream, Gary Moore), Derrick McKenzie (Drummer - Jamiroquai) Derek Nash (Saxophonist - Sax Appeal), Dick Morrisey (Saxophonist - Morrisey/Mullen), Eli Fountaine (Saxophonist - Motown/Marvin Gaye), Gerry Rafferty (Guitarist), Graham Prescott (Violinist/Arranger), Greg Bonnie (Saxophonist - African Jazz Explosion), Jackie Rawe (Singer - Shakatak), Jerry Jemmott (Bass Player - King Curtis, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King), Larry Smith (Saxophonist), Louisiana Tilda (African Vocalist), Neil Percy (Percussionist - London Symphony Orchestra), Nick Webb (Guitarist - Acoustic Alchemy), Noel McCalla (Singer - Manfred Mann), Paul Vornhagen (Saxophonist),. Peter Ind (Bass Player - Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz, Warne Marsh), Phil Mulford (Bass Player - Bernard Purdie, Nelson Rangell, Paul Young), Prince Nico Mbarga (Guitarist - African Highlife), Richard Coles (Drummer), Rodney Holmes (Drummer - Zawinul Syndicate, Santana, Wayne Shorter), S.E. Rogie (Guitarist - African Palm Wine), Sandra Andrews (Jazz Singer), Teddy Harris (Pianist/Arranger), Tia Imani Hanna (Violinist)

Performance tours in North America, Europe and Africa tours with many different bands, including many “historic venues” ranging from: Baker’s Keyboard Lounge (Detroit), Birdland Jazz Club (NY), BlueBird Inn (Detroit), Brooklyn Academy Of Music (NY), Elephant Rooms (Austin), Hammersmith Palais (London), Jamboree (Barcelona), Jazz Café (London), Papa Joe‘s Jazzlokal “Em Streckstrump” (Koln), Ronnie Scotts (London), Radio City Music Hall (NY), The 100 Club (London), The Baked Potato (LA).

Studio Musician: Corner Studios (Koln), Island Studios (London), Lansdowne Studios (London), Olympic Studios (London), Trident Studios (London), Wessex Sound Studios (London).

Television and Radio: Performances on ITN, UK show with Jazz singer Sandra Andrew.

Theatre work: Sweet Charity, Trial by Jury, Pirates of Penzance, Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell.

Genres and Subjects Taught

Areas Of Musical Study

Central to all my teaching is audiation. All concepts are taught with regard to the ear and "feeling in the body". Execution skills/Technique on the instrument are developed to allow the musician to express what is audiated, they two go hand in hand, technique develops fastest and easiest when the student can audiate what they are wish to play.

I specialize in Jazz improvisation and harmony.

Here are some potential areas of technical study:

Style Studies: Jazz including swing and bebop, Blues, Rock, Pop, R&B, Funk, Folk, African Music, Caribbean Music including Soca, Calypso and Reggae.
Music Reading: Single Line, Chords, Melodic Rhythm Studies.
Improvisation: Tonal and Rhythm Pattern Studies, Breaking a tune down to it's essential elements, Goal/Target Notes, Chromatic Targeting, Scale & Arpeggio Studies, Phrasing, Melodic Structures in Improvisation, Transcribed Solos, Pentatonics, Jazz Improvisational Techniques, Chord Scale Theory, Rock Improvisation,
Theory: Reading and Writing Music, Scoring
Bass: Closed hand technique (Franz Simandl), Open hand technique (Franke system), Rest/Hammer Strokes, Pick Technique, Bowing. Transitioning/Doubling on Bass Guitar and Upright Bass.
Guitar: Guitar MACRO and MICRO Triad System, Picking Techniques: Alternate, Sweep, Finger-Picking, Chord Melody Studies, Accompaniment: Comping, Funk Rhythms, Bass-Lines, Fretting-Hand: Hammer-Ons, Pull-Offs, Slurs
Ear Training: Rhythm Patterns, Tonal Patterns, Call and Response, Intervals, Chords
Harmony: Chord Construction, Voice Leading, Harmonizing Melody
Arranging: Arranging, Lead sheets and MIDI File Production
Building Repertoire: Commercial/Wedding Band, Standard Jazz, Classical
Performance: As a multi-instrument player I am able to provide the student with practical experience of playing with other instruments in a performing situation. For example we will perform guitar and bass duets, using both commercial (Rock, Pop etc.), Jazz and Classical material. This interaction provides a more realistic performance learning experience than can be provided by a single instrument instructor.


Ages / Skill Levels Taught

Beginners to Advanced. Specialist in Adult learners and post music college.

My Certifications and Awards

Qualifications and Studies

  • MFA Jazz Performance, State University New York (Purchase)
  • BSc. (Hons.) Philosophy and Psychology, City University, London, UK
  • Guildhall School of Music and Royal School of Music Exams, UK (Distinction) Plectrum Guitar, Violoncello and Bass.
  • Royal School of Church Music Chorister Exams, UK (Distinction)
  • Guitar and Jazz Studies: Andy Watson, Barney Kessel, George Adie, Esmond Selwyn, Howard Roberts, Jack Wilkins, Joe Monk, John Mizzarolli, Steve Kahn, and Vic Juris.
  • Bass Studies: Derek Sewell and Tony Muschamp.
  • Arranging, Harmony and Theory Studies: Dick Grove and Tony Douglas

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