Musicianship and Theory Lessons

Empower your studio with the highest quality musicianship training.

Nate May

(This page is designed for music teachers. If you’re a student or a parent, visit this page.)

How it works

I supplement your music instruction with private musicianship and theory lessons for your students, replacing workbooks and freeing up your lesson time to focus on technique and repertoire. I update you as your students progress, and you watch them become more complete, confident musicians.

Why musicianship lessons?

You probably already know the benefits of one-on-one music lessons—individual attention and pacing, accountability, personal connection, etc. In short, the student gets the best results and enjoys the process.

You likely also know the benefits of musicianship and theory training—helping students play more accurately, improvise, compose, sight read, and generally feel the music at a more mature level.

The combination of these things is why you may already devote some lesson time to musicianship training. However, I recently surveyed music teachers in North America and found that only 36% were satisfied with their current solution for theory and musicianship. 

This is likely for two reasons:

  1. musicianship training and workbook grading takes up precious lesson time
  2. teaching musicianship effectively requires specialized pedagogy, experience with improvisation/composition, and access to the right resources.

In an ideal world, you’d be able to tap a specialized musicianship instructor to cover these aspects of your student’s musical development. This is already commonplace in elite pre-college and conservatory programs (I know because I’ve taught in them), but these often involve group classes in which no single student can proceed at their own pace, and they are often heavily reliant on workbooks and textbooks rather than an approach that puts direct musical engagement first and welcomes students from every style.

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. The key for accomplishing this is embodied cognition—the well-accepted notion that we “think” with our bodies, which research has shown to be central to how we hear and interact with music (see Arnie Cox’s Music and Embodied Cognition for a rigorous exploration of this concept). 

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 the student has formed a musical understanding of the concepts on which notation is based (to read more of my thoughts on that, see this feature in Music Teacher magazine). 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 Partner

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


Get in touch.

Email me or schedule a 15-minute Zoom call to discuss how this might fit into your toolkit, and which of your students might benefit most.


Refer your students.

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