What potential is there, what experience, and what step is needed to make it a reality? That is different for everyone, and I find listening to it and searching for the right eye-openers hugely exciting. A workshop is a kind of playground, a free space for discovery. You can try anything out. That’s the ideal.


“Onno invites everyone to reveal themselves through the music in a safe atmosphere. He creates a mix of improvisation, consciousness-raising and study, grabs the specific moment for everyone to overcome personal barriers in their musical expression. He coaches you in such a way that you tackle your obstacles while you’re making music, whether you’re soloing or playing as an ensemble.”
Henk Dits


I give a range of improvisation workshops at various locations throughout the year. Sometimes initiated by me, and sometimes for other organisations. If you’d like to stay informed then subscribe below to the newsletter that I send out several times a year.

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photo: Vera Duivenvoorde




Muziekpakhuis Amsterdam, February – March 2019

“It’s all very well to read a book, and I get the idea, but how can I put it into practice?” This is a course made up of a series of weekend mornings or afternoons in February and March to get you started. It provides you with concrete tools for how you can inspire your own learning, how you can gradually stay on the route that leads to inspiration and how you can let this culminate in fantastic music of your own. You get down to work on a learning question, and on the way you are coached in your development. Topics such as improvisation, practising at home and how you can tackle these in a very concrete and practical way are covered, and you also get the opportunity to work with a ‘buddy’ so you can share your discoveries and try them out on each other.

“A fantastic first session in which we could identify our aims for the workshop. From that moment it seemed that Onno was there especially for me. In discussions with the others I heard that they’d had the same experience. I’ve never known that with another teacher or workshop leader in my whole life.”
Annelies Hilgers

Read this blog with a  personal story from this workshop



(Almost) everyone can learn to improvise over chords
Do you see improvising over chords as something difficult? Something you’ll never learn, something that others do but isn’t meant for you? Do you quickly hand on solos over a chord sequence to another member of the band? Or do you make a desperate attempt to hit all the chords and end up stranded in an expressionless solo?

You’re not alone! But still: it isn’t difficult. Assuming that you have an ear for which notes fit or don’t fit in a context (you occasionally hear someone playing a fine or a less fine note) and have some feeling for pulse (you can play a melody together with other people) you can learn this.

You can make use of the Islands Method forever more, and it can be applied to basic sequences with just a few chords or complex sequences with sophisticated harmonies or changing time signatures. Once you’ve internalised the system it’s a question of making clear steps until you can master ever more complex chord sequences. That takes time of course, but it’s not difficult, more of an enjoyable voyage of discovery.

I had a feeling of freedom. Finally I could play!
Harry Meussen

I’ve grown from a timid trumpetist who was happy to just hit the right notes into a musician.
Wessel Ockers

If you’d like to stay informed about the new dates for the Islands Method you can subscribe to the newsletter below. Or would you like to get down to work yourself? I describe the Islands Method in my book Play Yourself.


A workshop to broaden your horizons
Improvisation isn’t magic, only meant for a few. It’s something you can work on. These workshops, which you can follow separately or as a series, form an introduction to the world of improvisation for musicians who aren’t accustomed to it. The start of a voyage of discovery. The workshops are led by Onno van Swigchem, with a different guest workshop leader each time.

Why improvise?
The tension of improvisation means playing on a knife-edge. The remarkable thing about music is that what happens can be heard immediately. You don’t make music in the long term, you make music now. What’s more, music is connection. You don’t do it alone, you play together. The glint of genuine contact produces a spark, and that’s contagious. It stimulates, and gives energy and inspiration. Open your ears and let go of the paper.

Improvisation is something of all times and all styles. We investigate as widely as possible to find out where the click is for you. Undogmatically, we explore a number of working methods. These can be based on jazz and improvised music, classical music, world music, a rhythm, a melody or graphical sheet music. But most of all we work on the basis of the sound that is music. What you hear in it and can contribute with your improvisation. No prior knowledge is needed, but you do need a good command of your instrument and experience of ensemble playing.

No ‘improvisation for non-improvisers’ workshops are currently planned. Let me know if you’re interested in this workshop and then I’ll keep you informed, or you can subscribe to the newsletter below.

Want to organise this workshop yourself for your band or teachers’ collective?
I’ll be happy to discuss the possibilities with you. Send me an email!