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Biography/ CV/ Résumé

Name: Tomas Karlsson
Year of Birth: 1963
Main Instrument: guitars - electric, acoustic ( nylon-string & steel-string), baritone, effects pedals
Additional Instruments: electric bass, keyboards, melodica, ukulele, kazoo, drums and percussion
Education: Berklee College of Music- Specialist Certificate in Jazz Composition and Arranging, Central Ostrobothnia Music Institute in Kokkola, cultural producer, MSc degree in mathematics/ physics/ pedagogy
Profession: musician, composer/ songwriter, educator/ teacher
Bands: Tomas Karlsson Band, Krs Jazz House Band, Närpes Big Band, Petra Sundvik Band, Monkey Business...
Other: composer/ songwriter and musician for Kristiinankaupungin Teatteriyhdistys
Knowledge/ Skills: education, music theory, notation, arranging, composition/ songwriting, production, recording, sound reinforcement
Technology ( Hardware): recording hardware, sound reinforcement
Technology ( Software): notation ( Sibelius, Noteflight, MuseScore), misc. ( Band-in-a-Box, EarMaster Pro, Guitar Pro...), transcription ( Transcribe!), production/ MIDI sequencing/ recording ( Pro Tools)
Teaching History: Björneborgs svenska samskola: music at high school level 10 years, Korsholms Musikinstitut/ Mustasaari Music School: guitar and ensemble Mar 2007 - Jul 2008, Kauhajoen evankelinen opisto: guitar Sep 2007 - May 2010 and guitar and composition/ songwriting/ arranging Oct 2013 - present, Kuula-institutet/ Kuula Music School: guitar Sep 2007 - May 2009, Musikinstitutet Legato/ Legato Music School: guitar, electric bass and ensemble Mar 2008 - present, Kristinestads medborgarinstitut: guitar, electric bass and ensemble Aug 2008 - present, Närpes vuxeninstitut: guitar, electric bass and ensemble Aug 2009 - present, Lappfjärds folkhögskola: guitar, ensemble, notation and music theory Aug 2010 - present

My main focus these days lies on teaching and composition/ songwriting. I write a lot of music, I have released a CD with original music and I am currently working on releasing more original music on streaming services and in the near future I plan to release two more CDs.

As a performer I am nowadays mainly playing my own music. Currently that means performing the music from my CD Zen Guitar Songs and giving Zen Guitar workshops. I can also be seen and heard at occasional gigs playing jazz standards with a small group or in the local big band.

When recording or performing my own music I rely heavily on guitarist Tom Forsman, pianist Mats Granfors, bassist Kenneth Nordman, bassist/ guitarist Stefan "Kilju" Lindblom and drummers Stefan Brokvist and Oskar Nilsson. They are top notch pro players and at the same time very good old friends of mine. I can always rely on them to deliver what I need and to meet ( and usually even exceed) my expectations...

I started out writing pop/ rock songs, then I soon got into writing mainly jazz. I have studied Jazz Composition and Arranging and Music Composition for Film, TV and Games at Berklee College of Music. My own tunes are very eclectic and polystylistic and nowadays I like to just let the composition/ song itself fall into whatever genre/ style it likes to - usually it happens quite naturally.

I like making instrumental music the most because the absence of lyrics leaves more to the listener's imagination – everyone can see his/ her own pictures. I also myself think that my music is rather minimalistic and naïve - I want the ideas to be distinct and I don't want a lot of things to be going on at the same time. I totally subscribe to the less is more philosophy and that is what I am also trying my best to teach my students.

What I want to do is to connect with people with my music. My belief is that making music is all about

  • expressing yourself
  • having fun and entertaining other people
  • telling stories
and not about showing off in any way. I want to reach out and touch people with my music - to make them feel something, make them laugh, cry, dance, enjoy themselves, meditate, relax, inspire them to make works of art themselves...

Music is not sports. It's not really about competition at all. It's not about who is the fastest or the baddest. It's about finding your own voice and expressing yourself. It's the originals that are remembered, not the imitators. When the dust clears, those left standing will be those who stand for something.

My music expresses a lot of feelings and strong feelings. I think that you have to dare and not hold back when you create art – if you don’t bleed and spill your guts, you might just as well not make anything at all is my philosophy...

My music has been described as vivid, cinematic, "painting" music and it is easy to daydream, feel and see pictures to my music. Listen to my music and let it take you places - daydream, fall asleep, feel, dance, sing, meditate, make love, paint pictures, make a movie, think, write - whatever... There is always an idea and a story behind each tune, but I do not want to give that away, I want to let everyone see and think what he/ she wants. I think that the most important thing is what you make out of the songs and what they mean to you...

I don't try to sound like anyone else. I don't imitate when I write music. Why should I - the world does not need imitators, it needs originals. When I write music I am much more inspired by other things than other people's music - I am inspired by visual arts, books, feelings, films, humor, my cats, nature, people, thinking, traveling, philosophy and silence...

I do not even listen to much music nowadays. It inevitably makes me write original music. I do not say that my music is better than the music other people write, but at least it is my own music. And it gives me an enormous feeling of satisfaction when I finish a tune and when I am happy with the result.

I have written 150- 200 tunes that are still around and a lot of ones that I have thrown away. Check out the sheet music page for a small sample of my tunes. Check out my lessons On Writing Music and My Own Music for more of my personal philosophy on writing music.

So, why on earth do I do this? Why do I work 10+ hours a day, often 7 days a week, usually for very little money? Because for me there is simply no way I can not do it, because:

  • I love every single second of it
  • I have a need to create and to express myself through music

Lately I have written some progressive and naïve music. As I already mentioned, I am currently working on releasing more original music on streaming services - probably I will soon release a few singles and in the near future a second CD.

I am available for gigs, lectures, lessons, master classes and workshops.

My foremost areas of expertise:

  • composition/ songwriting lectures and workshops
  • Zen Guitar workshops
  • music notation with Sibelius
  • teaching guitar, ukulele, electric bass, piano, drums, ensemble playing, improvisation, arranging/ notation...
  • writing music:
    • jazz tunes
    • pop songs
    • theatre/ film/ TV music
    • game music
    • jingles
    • music for art exhibitions
    • arrangements/ orchestrations for all kinds of ensembles

I currently teach guitar, ukulele, electric bass, piano, drums, ensemble playing, improvisation, composition/ songwriting/ arranging, notation and music theory at Musikinstitutet Legato/ Legato Music School, at Kauhajoen evankelinen opisto, at Kristinestads medborgarinstitut, at Närpes vuxeninstitut and at Lappfjärds folkhögskola.

I am a musician by nature and I can not even recall ever having wanted to be anything else. You don't actually want to be a musician, it's something you have to be ( and if you have to, you know it) and for me it's not a hobby, nor a career/ profession, it's more like a way of life. Music has always been an important part of my life and I have played many different instruments, including violin, clarinet, tenor saxophone, guitars, drums, electric bass and keyboards. The guitar turned out to be my destiny, though - I was about fifteen when I could lay my hands on my first guitar and it was love at first sight. I learned to read music right from the start and at least for a guitarist I am a good reader. I have also studied music theory a lot on my own, I have read and own lots of books on jazz guitar, music theory, arranging, composition/ songwriting, improvisation, recording and sound reinforcement.

I have played in many pop/ rock/ r&b/ soul/ jazz ( and even dance) bands during the last 40 years. I have performed on radio and TV and I have also worked with theatre - as a musician and as a technician. Some of the more well-known musicians I have played and worked with are Felix Back, Patrik Björni, Stefan Brokvist, Kim Enholm, Marika Esch, Tom Forsman, Magnus Glader, Kjell Granfors, Mats Granfors, Staffan Granfors, Patrik Grannas, Mathias Grön, Philip Hedlund, Timo Helminen, Daniel Hjerppe, Jouni Hokkanen, Kim Holmbäck, Carl-Johan Hultgren, Seija Hurskainen, Janne Hyöty, Pontus Häggblom, Christoffer Kaustell, Jenny Lahtinen, Jorma Lehtelä, Ari Lehtinen, Petri Lehtonen, Timo Lilja, Stefan "Kilju" Lindblom, Jenny Lundström, Oskar Nilsson, Camilla Nordlund, Kenneth Nordman, Fredrik Nordström, Peter Nordwall, Antti Pellinen, Ilpo Peltonen, Miika Perkiö, Jussi Reunamäki, Casper Sahlström, Tomi Saikkonen, Mathias Sandberg, Zbyszek Sikorski, Anne-Marie Sillanpää, Mikael Skogberg, Rickard Slotte, Stäni Steinbock, Martin Store, Robert Sundén, Petra Sundvik, Marcus Söderström, Kalle Teir, Tobias Udd, Juha Unkila, Egon Veevo, Hans Vistbacka, Jami Westergård, Jimmy Westerlund and Anders Östling. Some of the more well-known bands I have played in are BC&W ( nowadays Jukepoika) ( guitars), T-Bag ( keyboards and later bass), Petra Sundvik Band ( guitars), Jakob Big Band ( guitars), Krs Jazz House Band ( guitars), Monkey Business ( guitars), Närpes Big Band ( guitars) and Guitars, Ltd. ( guitars). I wouldn't mind taking up playing with a band again, it's just that I don't seem to be able find the right musicians to play with. I think that the main thing is that you write your own music. I also think that if you've got something to say and really believe in yourself, nothing can stop you from succeeding.

I don't have much of a formal education in music and I am also mainly self-taught when it comes to playing the guitar. In addition to obsessive self-study and a lot of practicing I have had some personal teachers pushing me in the right direction here and there, though. Recently I have started to practice seriously again after a ten year break. I have studied jazz guitar and improvisation with Anders Östling and most recently with Mathias Sandberg. In addition to 40 years of experience from "the hard school of the road" playing lots of gigs with a lot of different musicians I also have aquired many, many hours of studio experience - as a player, as a producer or engineer or just as a "hang-around"...

Composition/ songwriting, arranging and producing are what I find the most rewarding aspects of music. I love to write music and lyrics, sometimes I'm so full of ideas that I don't know what to do with them all. I use digital audio workstations/ MIDI sequencers and I think that they are great tools for everything from composing and arranging to recording and producing your own music. I also use score writing software when I arrange and write music, I would never write anything by hand anymore. I write anything and everything from pop songs to instrumental jazz. I like to let out whatever is in my head and not worry about what it is, I leave that for others to figure out... I am currently working on a studio CD with my own music. The music is some kind of "pop music for adults" or something like that and it's going to be finished one day in the near future.

I listen to a lot of music, mainly jazz, and I guess I am a notorious record collector. I probably spent more time in record and music stores than in lecturing rooms during my university years and it's a real wonder I finally got my degree in mathematics... Listening to music is really one of the things I enjoy most in life. There's such an enormous amount of fine records out there worth having - my record collection currently consists of over 500 vinyls and about the same amount of CDs and they just keep piling up...

My main influences: Badly Drawn Boy, The Beatles, Ludwig van Beethoven, Carla Bley, David Bowie, Lenny Breau, Michael Brecker, Brecker Brothers, Bob Brozman, Chic, Eric Clapton, The Clash, Leonard Cohen, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Elvis Costello, The Count Basie Orchestra, Miles Davis, Claude Debussy, Joe Diorio, Dixie Dregs, Dr. Feelgood, Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Eliane Elias, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Bill Evans, Gil Evans, Donald Fagen, Bill Frisell, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Stan Getz, David Gilmour, Mick Goodrick, Freddie Green, Jim Hall, Jesse Harris, Joe Henderson, Jimi Hendrix, James Jamerson, Japan, Jewel, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Per "Texas" Johansson, Wilko Johnson, Norah Jones & The Handsome Band, King Crimson, David Kitt, Mark Knopfler, Kra, Diana Krall, Led Zeppelin, Stefan "Kilju" Lindblom, Living Colour, Bob Marley and the Wailers, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, R. Stevie Moore, Ennio Morricone, Steve Morse, Motown, The Northern Governors, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Jaco Pastorius, Pink Floyd, Pekka Pohjola, The Police, Cole Porter, Prefab Sprout, Queen, Radiohead, Jimmy Raney, Marc Ribot, Stan Ridgway, Nile Rodgers, Rolling Stones, Sonny Rollins, Run C&W, Maria Schneider, John Scofield, Scritti Politti, Brian Setzer, Ravi Shankar, Wayne Shorter, Paul Simon, Snarky Puppy, Steely Dan, Stäni Steinbock, Mike Stern, Sting, Igor Stravinsky, Philip Toshio Sudo, David Sylvian, Talking Heads, Richard Thompson, Ali Farka Touré, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, Townes Van Zandt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Velvet Underground, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits, Roger Waters, Weather Report, Kenny Werner, The Who, Anthony Wilson, Frank Zappa, ZZ Top...

Other things that are important to me/ some of my hobbies:

  • health
  • walking
  • cats
  • reading
  • cooking
  • friendship
  • love
  • nature and the sea
  • my summer cottage
  • film
  • theatre
  • literature
  • poetry
  • all kinds of writing
  • visual arts
  • coloring mandala
  • flea market treasure hunting
  • socializing on hitRECord
  • playing video games - some of my favorites are Angry Birds, Angry Birds Space, Badland, Bubble Bobble, Enigma, FEZ, Llamatron, Oxyd, Ozone, Per.Oxyd, Sokoban, Tempest 2000 and Tetris
  • sportfishing