Musicianship and Theory Lessons

Become a fluent musician with the highest quality training.

Nate May

(This page is designed for students and parents. If you’re a teacher, visit this page.)

How it works

You and I (Nate May) meet once a week over Zoom for 30-minutes. In between sessions you practice for a few minutes a day.

Why musicianship lessons?

If you’ve ever seen someone play a song after listening to a recording once, or jump seamlessly into a jam session, or read music on first sight, it can seem like wizardry. In reality, they’re relying on a set of musicianship skills that serve as a framework for hearing and understanding music. These are the skills that make them a well-rounded musician, able to adapt to different styles and situations with ease. When you’re learning an instrument or vocal technique for the first time, you have to learn musicianship skills while still trying to just get your muscles to move in the way you want them to. It can seem impossible to imagine ever being comfortable playing and creating music. Just like with learning an instrument, you can pick up bits and pieces of musicianship skills through YouTube videos, apps, and books, but the best way to learn is through one-on-one lessons with a specialized teacher who can go at your pace and give you exactly what you need in order to improve.

Musicianship skills include knowledge of music theory, but the knowledge isn’t “theoretical”—it’s directly applied to making music.

Synthase teaches musical fluency—the ability to live comfortably in a wide variety of musical contexts and continuously improve through listening. This approach integrates aural skills with an actionable understanding of musical concepts. 

Drawing on sound, the body, and visual aids, the Synthase method interweaves rhythm, melody, harmony, aural skills, creative practice, and literacy. Music notation is introduced only when you have formed a musical understanding of the concepts on which notation is based. Digital tools, including custom-built software, are integrated throughout, adding crucial feedback to the student as they practice.

This method was developed by Synthase founder Nate May from 15 years of teaching experience, research, and the guidance of the Synthase Educational Advisory Board.

Unlike many other methods, Synthase equally supports students learning both notation-based and aurally-based traditions, which includes classical, jazz, rock, EDM, and a wide range of other genres. And while the method draws heavily on a musical keyboard as a visual and tactile tool, it is introduced in a way that is accessible to vocalists and all other instrumentalists.

Yes. The Synthase method gives students incredibly effective tools to perform many of the exercises tested by these exams. However, these lessons are designed for exam preparation, and the extent to which the exact content of these exams matches the Synthase curriculum varies by exam.

In its current state, the method best supports students who can do some level of self-directed practice and grasp basic abstraction. A good rule of thumb is that age nine and up is best, and I will certainly modify my teaching based on the age of the student. I’m quite comfortable teaching nine-year-olds and have taught all the way up through senior citizens.

Workbooks Apps Group Classes Synthase Private Lessons
Individual Pacing Yes Yes No Yes
Personalized Practice No Maybe No Yes
Active Learning No Maybe Maybe Yes
Personal Connection No No Yes Yes
Comparison Table

Your Teacher

Nate May

Recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Nate May is a composer whose music has been heard across four continents, and an educator who has nurtured creative musicians of all ages and abilities. He taught at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Montclair State University, and The Walden School’s Young Musicians Program, and served as a teaching artist with the American Composers Orchestra, before founding Synthase in 2021. He is currently a doctoral candidate in music composition at the Yale School of Music.

Educational Advisory Board

Professor of Ear Training at Nyack College, Voice Actor, Musician, Faculty at the Walden School

Music Faculty, The New School, Montclair State, New York University

Ph.D. Candidate in Music Theory, Yale University

Composer and Associate Professor of Music, Depauw University

Lisa Duerr

Lisa Duerr, M.M.

Associate Master Teacher, Music Academy of North Carolina

Private Musicianship and Theory Lessons (Online)

$ 45
per week
  • 30 minutes of one-on-one time with Synthase founder Nate May
  • Weekly assignments tailored to your needs
  • Full access to Chord Candy (complete online course)
  • Synthase Guide to Chords eBook
  • (Optional) progress reports provided to instrumental/vocal instructor
  • Powerful results using the Synthase musicianship method

What's Next?

Get in touch.

Email me or schedule a 15-minute Zoom call to discuss how we can get started!