Michael Harrist

Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Composition, Frame Drum, Hindustani Voice, Piano, Tanbur, Upright Bass

Lesson Fees
from $45.00 / 30 Minutes


Welcome fellow music lover!  I look forward to diving into the music with you.

Michael K. Harrist is a New York City based multi-instrumentalist and educator specializing in upright bass and yaylı tanbur.

Michael performs in a wide array of world traditions including Turkish classical and folk music, Jazz, Western classical music, Hindustani music and American roots music. Michael also plays piano, electirc bass, kabak kemane, sarangi, bendir, guitar and requinto, among others.  Michael has concertized in more than twenty countries across the Americas, Europe and Asia with various ensembles including Labyrinth Ontario Ensemble, Ameranouche, Çeşni Trio, Ross Daly and Kelly Thoma, Orchestrotica, Capillary Action, Sol & Kiel and Michael Kiel Cash. 

Michael K. Harrist has been a professional music teacher for 15 years and has taught university classes, workshops, community music school lessons, coached ensembles, and run a private lesson music studio. 

Michael has composed for film, dancers, commercial enterprises and various ensembles.  Michael writes in traditional and contemporary cross-cultural forms.

Michael's teachers include W. A. Mathieu, Ross Daly, Melisa Yildirim, Ramesh Mishra, George Ruckert, Suhail Yusuf Khan, Fred Stubbs, and Evgenios Voulgaris.

Michael s committed to music of the heart and creating in community.

I tailor to the specific needs and interests of the student while drawing upon a rich background of repertoire and practices.  My main mission is to aid the student on the journey to their own innate musical knowing.   

I have been a professional music teacher for 15 years.  I have taught university classes, workshops, community music school lessons, coached ensembles, and run a private music studio out of my home.   I have been teaching exclusively online for more than two years and have been amazed at what can be accomplished through this medium.  I currently work with a wide range of students between the ages of 8 and 70.  You can find some of their testimonials at the bottom of this section.

Here's some quick blurbs about the main instruments and styles I teach:

Turkish Makam/Yaylı Tanbur

Makam is a musical system (analagous to Indian Raga) that provides a melodic framework for composition and improvisation.  Makam is a a term used in the modal musics from the Arab world, Turkey, Balkans, Azerbaijan, Sephardic Jewish communities, Uzbekistan, Persia, Tajikistan, Uyghur communities, and more.  I specialize in the "Turkish Makam" tradition from the urban areas of the late Ottoman Empire.  I first traveled to Turkey in 2010 and specialize in the yaylı tanbur.  I take students on any instrument, but prefer instruments capable of producing microtonal pitches.  I work with beginners as well as seasoned practioners who are wanting to get deeper into the repertoire and taksim (improvisation).  My repertoire consists mainly of Saz Semaisi, Peşrev, Ilahi, and Ayin.

Piano/Composition/Improvisation (adults)

My adult students tend to be interested in composition and improvisation, and have a desire to understand more deeply their own music or the music they love to play.  I see my role as guiding them to be closer to the sound they have in their hearts.  For piano players, I have a bunch of harmonic sequences, counterpoint studies, jazz voicings, melodic ideas, theory, diagrams, etc. to lay on the student.  That being said, my preferred method is for the students to present what they're interested in and to take these specific studies out when they're relevant.  I gig regularly on piano and organ, but still consider myself as having composer's chops, i.e. I know the keyboard and various styles (from Jazz to Classical, Pop to Blues, etc.), but I am not purely a pianist.  If you're primarily looking for technique on the instrument and want to play classical repertoire or play like Bud Powell, I'm not your guy and would be happy to recommend some colleagues .  But if you want to get into the substance of music, study composition, navigate changes with clarity, and really hear everything you play, we can definitely find some wonderful things to bite into. 

Piano (children)

The piano is a wonderful instrument for beginners in music because tone production is so easy.  For my young students I use the piano as an aid in building music fundamentals and acquiring certainty  in pitch and rhythm.  I teach using solfege and encourage my students to sing the melodies they're learning.  I have a subscription to Music Play Online and these teaching games provide nice breaks from hands on piano and singing work.  I love working with young students, I'm genuinely energized by them.

Raga/Sarangi (Hindustani)

I teach beginning students in Hindustani Raga and pass on the teaching and repertoire of my teachers Ramesh Mishra, George Ruckert (Baba Allaudin Gharana) and Suhail Yusuf Khan.  I specialize in introducing western musicians and young students to the music and pass along students to my teachers when appropriate.

Double Bass/Electric Bass

I have been playing double bass and electric bass longer than any other instrument.  I can take students through jazz approaches and walking bass lines, classical repertoire, and country/honky-tonk styles.

Sight Singing/Modal Improvisation

If you can sing it, you can play it.  In many traditions singing is the foundation of all music making.  This is my favorite subject to teach.  We use Makam, Raga, and  early western material like Hildegard Von Bingen, Gregorian chant and the Italian Solfeggio tradition to build certainty of pitch and phrasing.  From there we compose and improvise our own monophonic pieces and then go on to make melody against a contrapuntal line and chord changes.

Acoustic Guitar (fingerstyle, Country/Blues/Appalachian)

I specialize in alternating-thumb ("Travis picking") style and can take students through exercises to build up to arrangements of material by Merle Travis, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississipi John Hurt, Jerry Reade, Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Paul Simon, and more.


“Michael K. Harrist is a most sensitive man, a most moving musician.  He makes music that loves you.” - W. A. Mathieu

“Michael creates a loving, supportive environment in which to learn and is helping me to grow as a musician as I discover this beautiful, mystical genre of music.  Sometimes we get lucky and meet a Teacher with a capital T: Michael is one of those teachers, and it is a true joy to learn from him!” - Theresa T.

“Michael has been teaching my sons (ages 7 and 13) piano for several years now.  He is always patient and positive, with an excellent teaching style adapting to different age groups and personalities.  Michael also makes learning the piano so much fun that my sons look forward to their next class and compete with each other to go first!" - Volkan E.

"At 11, our son had already had three piano teachers before Michael but the difference this time was remarkable.  Michael is a natural with kids; he has an exceptional ability to cover all the important material (theory and technique) while keeping my son interested and enthusiastic about the lessons.  Our son is continuing to make progress through virtual lessons and we could not have asked for a better teacher!” - Nurhan T.

- BA in Music and Religion from Marlboro College - School of Harmonic Experience, disciple of master musician/composer W. A. Mathieu - Private studies with world class musicians: Ross Daly, Melisa Yildirim, Ramesh Mishra, George Ruckert, Suhail Yusuf Khan, Fred Stubbs, and Evgenios Voulgaris

Recommended Texts

Piano, Western Composition and Jazz

- Harmonic Experience  by W. A. Mathieu

- Polyphonic Composition by Owen Swindale

- The Well Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach

- The Best of Thelonious Monk: Piano Transcriptions (Artist Transcriptions) by T. Monk

- French Secular Music of the Late 14th Century  by Willi Apel

- Ray Charles: The Piano Transcriptions by Ray Charles

- The Pianist's Guide to Historic Improvisation by John K. Mortenson

- The Solfeggio Tradition by Nicholas Baragwanath

- Simple Solfege Melodies by Michael K. Harrist

- 42 Famous Classic for the Early Grade Pianist by Allan Small

- Resources for scores: www.imslp.org


Turkish Makam

- Turkish Music Makam Guide by Murat Aydemir

- Kantemiroglu Edvari by Dimitrie Cantemir

- Turk Musikisi Nazariyati ve Usulleri -  Ismail Hakki Ozkan

- Introduction to Turkish Makam by Michael K. Harrist

- Resources for scores: www.neyzen.com, www.divanmakam.com , www.notaarsivleri.com, www.adamgood.com/turkish_nota


Hindustani Raga

- The Classical Music of North India - Ali Akbar Khan & George Ruckert

- Sarangi Style in Hindustani Music - Nicolas Magriel

- The Raga Guide - Joep Bor

- Annapurna Devi: The Untold Story of a Reclusive Genius by Atul Merchant

- Resources for compositions: Ali Akbar Khan School / George Ruckert Transcriptions (private), collection of Michael K. Harrist (from Ramesh Mishra, Suhail Yusuf Khan, George Ruckert and more)


Double Bass/Electric Bass

- Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson by Dr. Licks

- Ray Brown's Bass Method by Ray Brown

- Complete Method for the Double Bass by Edouard Nanny


Fingerstyle Acoustic Guitar

- Blues and Ragtime Fingerstyle Guitar by Dave Van Ronk

- Texas Fingerstyle Blues Guitar by John Miller

- Delta Blues: Oak Anthology of Blues Guitar by Stefan Grossman

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