Fiddle Week Classes – June 25-July 1, 2023


THE WORLD OF CHOP (Casey Driessen)
Percussive string playing knows no bounds, nor should it! In this intermediate/advanced class I intend to enrich your rhythmic center and repertoire through the exploration of grooves based in different global traditions. I will share from my recent travels through Spain, Ireland, Scotland, India, Japan, Finland, Czech Republic and Italy as time allows. And, so we’re all on the same technical page, the first day of this class begins with a review of chopping technique fundamentals. Previous chopping experience required. Audio recorders and/or manuscript paper and rosin are highly encouraged.

For each day of this intermediate/advanced class, we’ll learn a traditional melody from another country, including chord structure if there’s time. The music presented is based on travels around the world collaborating with and learning from local masters for my Otherlands: A Global Music Exploration project. Possible countries include Spain, Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Finland, Czech Republic, Italy, and Ukraine. Proceed With Caution (and excitement); time signatures, forms, and scales may differ from what you’re used to. Audio recorders and/or manuscript paper and rosin are highly encouraged.

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 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 do a little listening to historical references from early recordings to the present. We’ll play basic forms of the 8, 12 & 16-bar (& grill). We’ll feel grooves from ballads to stomps, rumbas to shuffles, hand jive to swing. Like horn and wind players, 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. 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!

MUSIC THEORY (Sara Caswell)
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: 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: 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, 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 your questions!

If you’re a fiddler who would like to learn the skills you need to play well in jams and casual gigs, Darol can help! Darol will draw from his vast bag of tricks developed over his years at Berklee College and his online school at to find areas where we can grow as fiddlers and musicians. We’ll play and analyze classic fiddle solos from first-generation greats, as well as more recent ideas from straight-ahead bluegrass fiddlers. We’ll take the licks from those solos and apply them to other keys, so you can widen your comfort zone without having learning a zillion other licks. We’ll also delve into every aspect of being a good fiddler, including bowholds, kickoffs, endings, ideas for playing more in tune, how to play backup & fills (very important), working on our tone, and key basic improvisation skills. If you can tune your instrument, keep time, and play a few tunes all the way through at medium tempo, you’re the perfect student for this class. Don’t worry if you’re not comfortable with playing double stops or playing up the neck – tunes and licks will be mostly in first position, and double stops are always optional. All material will be taught by ear in classic Fiddle Camp style (we go slow and don’t move on until everyone’s on board). You’ll get handouts to take home so you can remember what you learned. Everything we’ll do hinges on the idea that fiddling is Fun, and we get better so we can have more Fun!

If you’re a fiddler who is reasonably comfortable in jams, want to step up your band skills and expand your technique and repertoire, this class is for you! Darol will draw from his vast bag of tricks developed over his years at Berklee College and his online school at to find areas where we can grow as fiddlers and musicians. We’ll work over classic fiddle solos from first-generation greats, and examine more recent ideas from the great history of bluegrass fiddlers, many of which Darol has met and played with. We’ll go into just about every aspect of being a great fiddler, including kickoffs, endings, getting more in tune, chopping & fills, ideas about tone, improvisation skills, and tricks for grooving better, using tunes and musical examples to make it all relevant. If you can play tunes up to speed, have spent some time playing up the neck, and aren’t afraid of double stops, you’re the perfect student for this class. Material will be taught by ear, but you’ll get a lot of printed material to reinforce what you’re learning.  Sign up now and come learn how to be a more resourceful fiddler with Darol’s humor and knowledge leading the way.

This class will focus on creating the kind of rhythmic feels and drives that let fiddlers feel the lift and power that comes from sitting in the middle of the best old-time jam. The class will start in A cross-tuning and focus on several tunes that can be expressed rhythmically and emotionally in different ways. This will evolve towards exploring unique feels, types of expression, inflections and shapes, etc. The goal, as always, will be to give students something more than just the notes but, rather, the deeper/higher things that drew them to the music in the first place. It’s tempting, when learning, to pull the music out of its context. The goal here will be to let the music pull us further in.

Dirk emphasizes cultural inflection and personal expression when teaching advanced Appalachian fiddle. It’s fairly easy these days to get the bare notes for a seemingly endless stream of fiddle tunes. What’s not as easy is being ‘fluent’ in the music, which comes from an immersion similar to that required to learn a spoken language. Dirk focuses on many of the things that can help fiddlers get to this point – expressive shaping of pitch, rhythmic feels and drives, use of drones, bowing patterns, etc. The goal is to help fiddlers come to a place where they can say what they have to say, personally, within the core language of the music. The advanced class will explore several different tunings and dig deep into different interpretations of the same tune.

Western Swing music found its roots in country, breakdown fiddling, and 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. In this class for intermediate/advanced players, we’ll learn some twin fiddle tunes to capture the styling that gets us to the bowings and embellishments of the bands of that era, vital to capturing their authentic sound. After learning the melody and twin fiddle parts, we’ll delve into my 5 key ingredients to improvising a Western Swing solo. Practicing each ‘ingredient’ with creativity and using guided repetition to solidify your skills, you’ll become a Western Swing improviser in no time!

One of the unique aspects of Texas Fiddling is that every tune has so many built-in variations. This is how fiddlers come up with such ‘hot’ versions of tunes to play at fiddle contests. This advanced class will look at the origins of the melody of a common Texas fiddle tune. The evolution of a fiddle tune is like playing the old game of telephone. As the tune gets passed down by ear, from generation to generation, and from fiddle to fiddler, small changes in the melody naturally occur; variations are added, and the tune grows over time. The melody of any fiddle tune can vary, especially as certain variations become part of a fiddler’s standard interpretation. But because respect for the original melody of a fiddle tune is an unspoken code in Texas-style fiddling, even the oldest melodies remain recognizable over time. Yes, we’ll learn a breakdown, waltz and if we have time, a tune of choice in this class. You know what that means? You’ll be ready for a jam session or even a fiddle contest. Come dip your toes in Texas Style, I promise it’ll be fun!

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. Students should bring a recording device to each class.

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. Students should bring a recording device to each class.

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 (bowing, slap, etc.) may be discussed if applicable. Students should possess fundamental technical skills and know basic scales.

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.

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 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. 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 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: