Fiddle Week Classes – June 30-July 6, 2024


Do you want to be able approach a bluegrass jam session with confidence and enthusiasm? And be prepared when the lead is handed off to you? In this intermediate class we will be covering several songs that are bluegrass jam staples, from traditional standards by Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe to more modern standards, such as tunes by The Bluegrass Album Band. We will listen to the tunes as played by the original artists, review the chord progressions, and discuss many different approaches to taking leads/breaks/solos. We will also be talking about how to ‘back-up’ and complement other musicians and vocalists when not taking a solo. Suggested materials: audio recording device (phone app or USB hand-held), folder for organizing printed hand-outs. This class will be taught primarily by ear, but you’ll have the option to take home printed materials that will reinforce the basics of what we’ll be learning together.

As a student of the Appalachian Mountains and of many of the artists who reside in Western North Carolina, I am thrilled to share my experiences growing up with these incredibly unique and amazing musicians. In our time together, we will learn several tunes that my teacher and mentors passed down to me, as well as the various techniques that they used that made their voices unique. I will demonstrate how these techniques affect the interpretation and overall feel of the music, using the tunes that we will be learning together. We will explore many of the local musical dialects, intersections between traditional old-time, Celtic, and bluegrass tunes, as well as how these influenced each other and produced the music that is heard today in and around Madison County, NC. Suggested materials: audio recording device (phone app or USB hand-held), small folder for hand-outs. Material will be taught by ear, but you’ll have the option to take home printed materials to reinforce the basics of what we’ll be learning.

How do you make better music in the moment, jam confidently with folks you’ve never met, and/or say something different every time you take a solo? Make it up…change it up! We’ll deepen your connection to spontaneity, movement and seeing the value of not being attached to the outcome when letting your creative juices flow. Joe teaches musical improvisation more from a theater model rather than the requisite model of jazz. Therefore, this is not an ability-based class. Joe connects improvisation to what you already do and moves you forward from there. We’ll focus on ways to think differently about sound, embrace fearlessness, and address the connection between spoken-word language and the language of music. Some of what we’ll explore includes the mimicry of call and response, awareness/focus, creative mistakes, and the value of losing control. The exercises we do will help you play with others in new ways. In fact, this class may well change some of your perceptions of what music is. Exploring improvisation is a fun and often hilarious adventure into the unknown. It will set you free! It’s a fun and enlightening romp, so come liberate yourself from the tyranny of common sense. All instruments are welcome.

The idea of hitting, tapping, shaking or singing something to create a beat has existed since the dawn of time… along with plucking the stretched string of a hunter’s bow or blowing through the hollow bone of a bird’s wing. Rhythm is where things go on the timeline of music. It’s the backbone, and/or the heartbeat of a composition. In fact, for much of the music we play, notes can be negotiable… but pulse is not. Agreement to where things go in our music creates the groove we all seek with one another. Percussion’s role is attention to the fundamentals and timbres of those rhythms, allowing melodies and harmonies and chords to connect to us deeply and emotionally. As a well-known percussionist himself, Joe will show you how to think like a percussionist on your bowed, strummed or plucked instrument, with polyrhythmic styles of roots music looped and different rhythmic parts explored. It’s a fun week of toe tappin’, head boppin’ grooves!

During our week together, in this class for intermediate players we’ll explore some of the fundamental chords, scales, and progressions used in jazz/fiddle tunes and ear-opening ways we might practice them, both melodically and harmonically. We’ll also spend a portion of each class strengthening our skills reading rhythms. A partial list of topics to be covered include pentatonic and blues scales, the major scale and its modes, triads and 7th chords, chord outlining/voice leading through tunes, V7 I progressions, ii7 V7 I progressions, and rhythmic subdivisions. Printed materials will be provided.

During our week together, more advanced players will learn about a style of jazz called Bebop, crafted by master musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk. Through our study of scales, phrases, ornamentation, and melodies, we’ll gain a greater understanding of why this virtuosic music is a cornerstone in the development of one’s jazz language. A partial list of topics to be covered include bebop dominant/minor/major scales, inversion exercises, core riffs and elongations, enclosures, approach tones, and learning melodies. Printed materials will be provided.

Through the lens of both new and familiar tunes, we will explore Irish fiddle music– the various tune types, the wide world of bowings and ornamentation, an introduction to different fiddle styles, ways to explore and expand your tone as well as an understanding of the tone of well-known players, practice methods for increasing speed and an overall sense of pulse and rhythm. We will be doing a lot of playing and listening and the class will be taught entirely by ear. Some printed materials will be used as take-home references. Please bring a recorder and your questions!

The advanced fiddle course is for students who already have a general knowledge of Irish fiddle techniques, bowings and ornamentation and can comfortably play at speed in any session. This class will be less about technique and more about style and developing your own voice in the tunes while staying ‘close to the well’ of the tradition and its players, past and present. We will explore deeper aspects of style like gesture and tone, look at various approaches to improvisation, and hopefully inspire a more expansive practice of this music. Please bring a recorder and your questions!

In this intermediate class, we will explore the wide range of alternate tunings (cross-tuning, high bass tuning, calico tuning, GDAD, DDAD, etc.) used in the old-time fiddling tradition through repertoire learning. Open tunings such as these unlock a completely new world of sound and timbre on the fiddle and will demystify why a lot of old-time music and bowing sounds the way it does. While it might sound intimidating, people at any level quickly adjust to playing in a new tuning. It’s a great tool to have for anyone hoping to participate in an old-time jam or square dance band, and it makes playing alone more fun, too!

SQUARE DANCE TUNES (Libby Weitnauer)
Old-time fiddling and square dances go hand in hand. We will be using this advanced class to work through repertoire that is always a hit in a square dance band! These tunes also happen to be some of the most iconic fiddle tunes in the old-time repertoire and are a great vehicle for digging into the intricacies of old-time bowing and groove. In addition to repertoire, we will talk about how to play in such a way that makes people want to dance, which is one of the fundamental qualities of old-time fiddling. We will sample tunes from North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and beyond, and hopefully, you’ll leave feeling like you could sit in at your local square dance!

FIDDLE FROM SCRATCH (Natalya Weinstein)
Start strong! The fiddle is one of the most exciting and versatile instruments in traditional music, and having a solid foundation is essential for any style you choose to pursue. In this beginner level class we will focus on setting up an effective bow-hold and left-hand position, as well as developing a good tone. We will learn basic scales and four or five simple fiddle tunes by ear. Handouts of the songs will also be provided. Please come with a fiddle, a shoulder rest, a tuner, a recording device and a desire to learn!

Laughing, Singing, Crying . Klezmer music originated in Eastern Europe with Ashkenazi Jews, then spread across the globe with the Jewish Diaspora, picking up various influences along the way. In this intermediate level class we will explore a variety of klezmer dances, tunes and styles, from horas and frailachs to doinas and khosidls. We will also discuss the techniques and ornamentation of klezmer fiddle, such as ‘krekhtsn,’ and ‘dreydlakh’. Tunes will be taught by ear although sheet music will be provided. Please bring your ‘fidl’ and a recording device!

Western Swing music found its roots in classic country, breakdown fiddling, and early jazz. The combination of these regional styles formed a unique string-based, big-band sound in the 40s and 50s, centered around the seminal Western Swing band, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. Let’s learn the classics AND how to improvise in a Western Swing style! Learn my “5 Elements of Improvisation,” designed specifically to emulate those great Western Swing fiddlers within the context of your own voice on the fiddle. Next, we’ll delve into my signature Western Swing Fiddle “block system” for improvisation. These blocks, which focus on patterns across two adjacent strings, are specifically designed to give people improvisation tools they can use right away. With these tools, it’s easy to find the notes that give a Western Swing solo its special sound. Using guided repetition to solidify your skills, learn three songs top to bottom so you’ll be ready to join the band with everything from melodies, twin fiddles, and vocals to playing with the chord changes and improvising in the style!

Texas-style fiddle greats like Bob Wills grew up playing foot-stomping breakdowns for square dances, then they’d go to fiddle contests and pull out their waltzes, polkas, and rags. Let’s take a dive into my collection of intermediate Texas-style fiddle tunes. We’ll learn a breakdown (a reel or hornpipe suitable for square dancing), a waltz, and a rag. You know what that means? You’ll be ready for a jam session or even a fiddle contest. There’s a reason that Texas fiddling sounds so ‘hot.’ It’s all in the bowing. And while learning each tune, I’ll highlight the 10 bowing patterns used in Texas-style fiddling. With these patterns, you’ll be able to learn any Texas-style tune, and who knows, perhaps they’ll even improve your playing along the way. Come dip your toes in Texas-Style; I promise it’ll be fun!

Praised by the L.A. Times for his “intricate, horn-like lines”, Evan will share his knowledge and love of early jazz through the playing of seminal artists like Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, and Lester Young. The class will learn some licks and riffs from the masters, focusing on phrasing, using the bow like a pair of lungs, and on what makes music swing.

This class is appropriate for fiddlers who already have some swing experience but would like to expand their improvising vocabulary or perhaps learn some more advanced tunes. A greater focus will be placed on the music of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli and the finer points of recreating their sound. Depending on the general class level, we could learn to integrate various chord substitution techniques involving diminished and augmented chords, or practice building melodies using higher-tension notes like 9ths and 13ths. But don’t be intimidated! If you can confidently jam on a swing tune and are comfortable in first and perhaps third position, you’ll be right at home.

Ever find yourself at a jam in need of an upright bass player? Ever wish you could step in and fill the role? If so, this class is for you. It will cover fundamentals of bass performance, timing, and feel with special consideration for folks approaching it as a second instrument. We’ll discuss the basics of technique, getting a good sound, bass line construction, and simple accompaniment patterns, including bluegrass, honky-tonk, and swing. A limited number of shared basses are available during class for students without an instrument.

Open to all instruments, this class will focus on performance practice through learning arranged swing repertoire. With parts divided between instruments and difficulty level, we will assemble a swing ensemble during class as we address the fundamental aspects of swing eighth notes, dynamics, part-playing, improvisation and good rhythm section practices. Materials will be provided in standard notation, tablature and chord diagrams. Open to intermediate and advanced players but no prior experience with swing music is required.

Welcome mandolin, fiddle and banjo players! This hands-on beginners’ class will introduce you to the skills needed to unlock the joy of playing guitar. Using common repertoire, this class will provide a solid foundation for good chord voicings, rhythm guitar strumming patterns, pick technique, melody playing and accompaniment practices in a variety of styles. Participants should plan to have fun and play during class. Handouts will be in standard notation, tablature and chord diagrams.

This is a class to develop skills in rhythm, chording, and theory to put into practice when accompanying jigs, reels and other dance music in the Irish tradition, as well as song accompaniment. We’ll cover alternate tunings, right-hand techniques, chord structures and substitutions, and more. Students should have an intermediate experience level on their instrument for this class. (Find this class in the Mando & Banjo Week Schedule)

This class focuses on how to play powerful bluegrass rhythm guitar. We will work on alternating-bass styles of playing as well as using bass runs and other motion within the chords to accent your vocals or the instrumentalists you’re playing with. In addition to these basic building-block techniques, we will learn the rhythm accompaniment part to one bluegrass song or tune each day. The class will present songs/tunes that allow you to see the rhythm patterns that work effectively in most of the first-position chord families. We will also discuss how to use a capo to get the song in a key to fit your voice. All levels of participants are welcome. Familiarity with guitar chords and knowledge of guitar tablature is helpful, but not required. Participants are encouraged to bring recording devices to class and also encouraged to participate in the Bluegrass Jam that Ed will lead every afternoon, as a way to reinforce the techniques learned in class as well as learn additional songs/tunes. (You will find this class on the Mando & Banjo Week Schedule)

This course will delve into more advanced forms of bluegrass guitar rhythm playing. In addition to learning our way around the standard “boom-chuck” bass note and strum patterns that form the foundation of bluegrass rhythm guitar, we will explore more advanced moving bass lines, substitute chords and inversions, and even some basic three-note swing rhythm patterns to put some extra “sock” into your playing. Along the way, we’ll highlight the concepts of harmonic theory and how to select chords and chord patterns to strengthen the guitar’s support of the vocalist and instrumentalist. Familiarity with flatpicking and guitar chords, along with knowledge of guitar tablature is highly recommended. While tablature will be provided for most techniques and songs covered in class, participants are strongly encouraged to bring recording devices to class as a memory aid, as we will be covering some fairly challenging material. (You will find this class on the Mando & Banjo Week Schedule)


Other Events

In the last hour before supper, Ed will lead a non-threatening bluegrass jam for all levels and instruments. Come have fun channeling your inner Bill Monroe! (No class limit)

During the last hour before supper, there will be a special class time for students of any skill level to form bands, along with students from Mando & Banjo Week. With the guidance of instructors, band members arrange and rehearse with the option of performing at the Student Showcase on Friday evening. (Sign up for band sessions is at first band meeting time; no advanced registration required.)

Throughout the week we will feature several fine luthiers displaying instruments, including mandolin builders Wes & Will Wienman, bowmaker Sarah Bystrom Andal, and violin maker Gordon Gross.

Master luthier Lynn Dudenbostel will be offering his repair services throughout the week. Contact him through his website to get on his schedule: