Alisdair MacRae Birch

Primary Instrument: Guitar

Alisdair MacRae Birch

Alisdair MacRae Birch: Jazz Guitarist, Bassist (Upright/Double Bass and Bass Guitar) and Arranger

Originally from the UK, Alisdair MacRae Birch grew up in a musical family. Alisdair was raised with the Scottish traditions, Scottish songs and dance, and in the British music hall tradition (similar to American vaudeville). 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.

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Primary Instrument:

White Plains, NY

Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.


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


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).

Teaching Philosophy

As teacher I see my role as a musical mentor or coach to my students.

The foundations of my teaching philosophy are:

  • to teach students how to become the total musician
  • matched to the student’s learning style, and therefore, my teaching style, curriculum, and approach are flexible, varied, and individual.
  • empowering a student is the key to motivation. My role as musical mentor is to introduce possibilities.

The underpinnings of my teaching approach are based on the work of Gordon (Music Learning Theory), Kodály, Dalcroze and Schenker. My teaching approach picks from these methodologies and combines them with my own material and traditional approaches.

Central to my teaching is "You are the Instrument". Learning music is a process of increasing auditory understanding. Audiation, is the foundation of all musicianship. It takes place when we hear and comprehend music for which the sound is no longer or may never have been present. Audiation occurs when listening to music, performing from notation, playing "by ear," improvising, composing, or notating music.

My students build their audiation skills through singing, rhythmic movement, and tonal and rhythm pattern instruction before notation and music theory. Students read music notation, after they have developed the ability to audiate the note patterns written on the page. Reading becomes a process of pre-hearing/audiating rather than decoding.

Other core principles:

  • Tonal and Rhythm patterns, not individual notes, are the basic units of meaning in music. I use tonal solfege "moveable do with a la based minor" and Gordon’s beat function rhythm solfege.
  • Singing is essential. The instrumentalist learns to physical manipulate the instrument as an extension of the inner audiation instrument.
  • Focus on the ears. Learn many tunes by ear.
  • Rhythm is felt in the body through movement; it is not simply processed intellectually.
  • Improvisation is developed by audiating a tunes tonal and rhythm patterns.

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Guitar, Upright Bass and Bass Guitar

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