Fiddle Week Classes – June 27-July 2, 2021

(NOTE: This is a description of last year’s program. The info will be updated for 2022 when our catalog is published in March)

This class for intermediate players will cover a variety of songs and instrumentals, as we explore the fiddle’s role in bluegrass. In addition to the history of bluegrass, topics covered will include: playing the melody of a song and how to embellish it, melodic variations on a fiddle tune, and how to play backup to a singer. We will also cover techniques that are integral to bluegrass fiddle, such as: how to shift between positions, producing good tone, playing in tune, vibrato and bowing concepts. We will learn several scale patterns, arpeggios and double stops, and discuss different ways of producing chord sounds on the fiddle. Material will be taught mostly by ear.

This advanced class will delve into some of the nuances of bluegrass fiddling. We will explore improvisation in the context of bluegrass and several approaches to taking solos on vocal and instrumental songs, as well as some of the differences that come up between the two. We’ll get into fiddle backup, learn some classic backup licks from the greats and discuss how to make the most of your backup repertoire. Other topics will include moving double stop shapes around the fingerboard, bowing techniques and stylistic differences in bluegrass fiddle. Material will be taught mostly by ear.

Want to “talk” using music, like you do with words, even though you think you don’t know what to say? Would you like to improvise melodies and create your own tunes and compositions in a fun, organic way? Here’s a playful process of referencing and finding ideas for composing instrumental tunes based on indexing sound and fragments of melodies already floating around in that amazing repository of yours called the brain – what Joe calls The Intuitive Composer. We’ll look at three areas of expression; intention, movement, and content. Using technology (any hand held device that records) with tapping rhythms and humming, whistling or singing (like one would do in improvising a solo over a chord progression), we can become sound-catchers of ideas in this fun, fast paced class. You’ll be surprised at what you and your friends can create under timed spontaneity! Sounds can be linked together like pieces of a puzzle, from creating a composition in the moment (improvisation), to more enduring melodies to re-visit and/or develop. Nothing is created in a bubble and you’ve already got so much to work with inside of you! All instruments and intermediate to advanced students are welcome. Come open minded and ready to stretch yourself.

The blues are truly a foundation and inspiration for most traditional and contemporary vernacular American music. This adventure is open to all bowed instruments. We’ll listen to historical references from early recordings to the present‑. We’ll play basic forms (the 8-, 12- and 16-bar and grill). We’ll feel the grooves from ballads to stomps, rumbas to shuffles, hand jive to swing. We’ll reference the melodic guidepost of the human voice, bending long and short tones and learn some tunes/songs that reflect them. We’ll also tackle how to translate the ‘feel’ of the grease, the groan and the growl of the blues to your instrument, and importantly, we’ll address taking your time sayin’ a bunch without playin’ a bunch of notes. Playin’ the blues suggests the ‘technique’ of clarity over correctness – of intuition, release and expression of your personal emotion. Surrender to the feeling and you’ll do it! We’ll have a great time!

Tricia will utilize the “Grandma’s Cheats” that her grandma Iona taught her as a young girl to learn some groovy old-time fiddle tunes. These “cheats” are two-note combinations that unlock the mysteries of the fiddle through chord shapes, which allows a fiddler to focus on bowing, intonation, and learning tunes more quickly. A knowledge of old-time music is not required and techniques learned in this class can be utilized in any style of music. All tunes and techniques will be learned by ear, so be sure to bring paper and pen if you want to take notes, and expect to have a lot of fun!

Tricia will teach fiddle tunes her family has played for generations as well as other tunes she has learned from masters of old-time music throughout her lifetime. She will also unlock the mysteries of ‘seconding,’ which allows a fiddler to focus on bowing, intonation, and learning tunes more quickly through the use of chord shapes. All tunes and techniques will be learned by ear, so be sure to bring paper and pen if you want to take notes, and expect to have a lot of fun.

Improvisation does not have to be a scary world of musical mistakes. In fact, it is one of the greatest musical joys you can experience and one of the best ways to sharpen your musicianship. In this class, intermediate musicians will acquire building blocks to begin understanding the language of improvisation. The goal is to use improvisation to develop your unique musical voice. Basic tunes in different keys will be used as the basis to explore the concepts of simplified melodic “skeletons” and their ‘note-ier’ versions, repetition, rhythmic variation, motivic development, and basic chord/scale harmony. Students should be able to learn by ear, know a handful of tunes by heart, and understand major scales and chords. The class will consist of a great deal of ear-training exercises with pre-made practice loops created just for this class.

In this advanced class, we will deepen and expand our vocabulary of chops by looking at a myriad of techniques and grooves. Students are expected to have experience and some fluency with the percussive ‘chop’ technique, through either self-study or prior instruction. We will investigate how to chop in odd time signatures as well as looking at how to transpose complex rhythms to chopping patterns and how to incorporate the melody within our chopping strokes. All students will have access to a communal Dropbox folder with supplementary resources including videos and YouTube playlists.

In this class you will receive an overview (through discussion and demonstration) of the various regional styles of fiddling in Canada including Ottawa Valley, Western Canadian, Métis, Maritime, Cape Breton and French Canadian. We will learn to play tunes from various regions and we will focus on learning the basic bowing patterns and ornamentation techniques that correspond to fiddle styles in Canada. We will also learn how to take a tune and build it from the basic melody into your own version of the tune by implementing the various techniques we learn. We’ll spend lots of time learning how to make the various types of tunes “groove” by working on bowing and rhythms and being mindful of the dance traditions they come from. Tunes will be taught “by ear.” Please feel free to bring your questions, as the class will be tailored to suit your needs and requests. We will be mindful of keeping with the roots of this tradition – getting together to make music and have a great time in a relaxed, social environment!

There are several different regional styles of fiddling in Canada from coast to coast, including Ottawa Valley, Western Canadian, Métis, Maritime, Cape Breton and French Canadian. This class will be an overview of these different styles and explore what makes each of them unique. We’ll learn tunes distinctive to each style and apply the bowing patterns, phrasings, and ornamentation techniques that correspond to each region. All of these regional styles are based on some type of dance tradition, and we will learn a variety of different types of tunes that are common in most Canadian fiddle traditions, including jigs, reels, two-steps, polkas, waltzes, airs, etc. We will discuss the development of your own fiddle style and how the various Canadian fiddle style techniques might be used more broadly. Tunes will be taught “by ear.” Please feel free to bring your questions, as the class will be tailored to suit your needs and requests. We will be mindful of keeping with the roots of this tradition – getting together to make music and have a great time in a relaxed, social environment!

We’ll learn some of Kenny’s favorite old-time tunes – beautiful and accessible pieces drawn from various traditional old-time sources. Tunes will be taught entirely by ear, breaking them down into easily-learned melodic/rhythmic phrases, and with a special emphasis on the rhythm in the bowing patterns. The tunes will be set in both standard and alternate fiddle tunings.

We’ll focus on tunes from a variety of traditional old-time sources and possibly an original tune or two, taught entirely by ear. We’ll study how noting and bowing together shape the phrasing, and how left-hand and bowing ornaments/embellishments may be used to vary and personalize the playing of a tune. At this class level, we will stray somewhat away from a strictly patterned/imitative approach, exploring personal tune interpretation while still being guided by source styles. Be ready to learn tunes that are in both standard and alternate fiddle tunings.

In this class we will cover the basics of Irish fiddle technique: bowing, ornamentation and tempo, rhythm and tone. We will be learning new tunes, taught simply, phrase by phrase, before demonstrating how to incorporate various techniques into the tune. We will also take some standard session tunes and look at adding variations and different ornamentations. Tunes will be taught by ear, but sheet music will be provided for those who need it.

The advanced fiddle course is for Irish fiddle students who have a good general knowledge of Irish fiddle techniques and ornamentation. We’ll learn some new tunes and go over some old ones. Emphasis will be placed on learning by ear We will use some tunes- some you may know already and some you may not- to help establish and strengthen some of the foundations of good fiddle techniques: bowings, ornamentation and style. The focus of this class will be about giving you tools to take home in order to access, learn and have fun with Irish music.

Let’s get swingin’! Whether you have already started to improvise in your primary genre or not, this class will get you oriented to the fundamentals of generating the sound, the feel, and the lines of the great swing-era fiddlers like Stephane Grappelli, Svend Asmussen, and Stuff Smith. Learn to jam on a few standard swing tunes and to start thinking chordally on your fiddle. Some tried-and-true practice techniques will be covered, including how to build an improvisational vocabulary through arpeggios and related patterns, and how to create flowing, horizontally lines that glide through the changes. We will also talk about ‘riffing,’ an age-old jamming technique which not only gives horn players (that’s us!) something to do during other people’s solos but provides a great opportunity to practice and internalize the swing groove.

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.

In this class, we’ll learn tunes by ear from the Scottish repertoire including marches, strathspeys, reels, jigs, slow airs – old and new favorites. We’ll spend plenty of time learning melodies, as well as exploring embellishments, groove, plus some tips for practicing. For some tunes, we’ll learn to play some basic chords. We’ll also listen to some great recordings.

We’ll learn lots of tunes in the Scottish repertoire by ear, but we’ll also spend a good bit of time in the ‘beyond’ part of this course title. How can we approach these melodies thoughtfully? We’ll be exploring lots of ways to express a melody, digging into all things bowing: phrasing, dynamics, groove.

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 genre you choose to pursue. In this class we will focus on setting up an effective bow-hold and left-hand position and developing a good tone. We will learn basic scales and three to four simple fiddle tunes by ear. Please log on with your tuned fiddle, a shoulder rest, and a desire to learn!

CELLO (Julia Weatherford)
The class will be taught by ear and will focus on cello as an accompanying instrument for tunes and songs. We will explore interesting techniques for different styles of music including old-time, Swedish, Scottish and more. The class will cover chord formation, common chord progressions, rhythmic bow techniques (including chopping), pizzicato techniques, bass lines, melody and harmony lines. We will listen to tunes and songs and explore how to adapt guitar or piano parts to cello. We’ll also explore various cello-specific accompanying grooves, harmonies and arrangements. There will be technique tips and thoughts on how to find your role in a jam or band. For this intermediate/advanced combined class students should have a solid background in basic cello technique and be willing to listen, laugh and support each other.

This class will cover intermediate principles of bass performance and accompaniment applicable to various musical settings including jazz, swing, and traditional music styles. Topics include bass line construction, following chord progressions, timing and feel, and ear training. Concepts of bass soloing and improvisation will also be introduced. The class will mainly use pizzicato technique, although other techniques may be discussed if applicable (e.g., slap technique, bowing). Students should possess fundamental technical skills and know basic scales.

Chord Melody playing is the art of playing chords and melody si multaneously and is a wonderful solo acoustic jazz guitar practice. This class will expand your understanding of chords and their inversions while immediately applying the concepts to melody and playing “up the fretboard”. Using a concise method, we will combine inversions and melody while applying techniques directly to repertoire. All handouts will be in standard notation, tablature and chord diagrams so note reading is not required. Open to all levels.

Whether you are new to swing music or the guitar, this hands-on beginners’ class will introduce you to the skills that you need to play swing music. 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. Participants should plan to have fun and play during class. Handouts will be in standard notation, tablature and chord diagrams.

This class will cover a wide range of guitar-oriented subjects for players interested in guitar accompaniment in Irish and Scottish music. The class will be taught out of Drop-D tuning, but is also open to players in DADGAD, and standard tuning. Together, we will think about right-hand techniques and grooves for different types of common melodies, hearing harmonic movement within traditional tunes, counterpoint, different approaches to understanding and visualizing the fretboard, approaches for session playing, and cool guitar player jargon. The class will be taught by ear, though chord charts can be provided. (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. (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 b luegrass 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, as we will be covering some fairly challenging material. (You will find this class on the Mando & Banjo Week Schedule)

This will be a traditional Master Class, normally offered on the university level and to colleagues in the arts, focusing on the role of and history of the artist through the ages and up to the modern world. We will be covering history – from the Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal to the ancient Greeks and those ugly Romans, the Dark Ages, the medieval troubadours and their role in spreading the news, the Renaissance, and why syphilis gave rise to the “artist as lunatic” perception. We’ll pay attention to fear and its effect on us as creative persons, the poetry and consciousness of wood, what to do when the well runs dry, the importance of both craft and talent, and the impossibility of living up to your ideals. There will be quotes and song illustrations as well. Students will be asked to read 3-4 short stories about artists before class begins. If you haven’t received the short stories three weeks before classes begin, please email me at for copies of these. (No class limit)


Other Events

Each evening, various staff members will lead a virtual ‘session’, where students can gather in an online community to socialize and swap tunes and songs.