Guitar Week Classes – July 25-30, 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 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 one bluegrass song each day. Lyrics will also be provided, so you can learn the words and add these songs to your jam sessions at home. The class will present songs that allow you to see the rhythm patterns conducive to most of the first-position chord shapes. 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.

As the name implies, this class is for the intermediate to advanced player who really wants to take it to the next level. During the week, we will cover a variety of techniques, including flatpicking leads and playing creative accompaniment behind singers and pickers, using the concept of playing licks around chord shapes, and building effective solos for bluegrass songs. We will start the week learning a few essential “grassy” licks from the Rice and Watson schools of flatpicking. We will then emphasize picking out the basic melody of a song or tune, analyzing where the melody fits within the shapes of the accompanying chord progressionand looking for spaces within the melody line where one could insert some hot licks to create an interesting solo. This class will build upon the techniques covered in Ed Dodson’s instructional book, Deep Bluegrass Guitar. Participants are encouraged to listen to the song, “Riding on That New River Train”, as we will be using this as our starting point for melody and lead guitar development. Please note that we will be covering some challenging technique during the week, but with a little bit of elbow grease, along with the tablature that I will provide to you, the motivated participant should emerge with plenty of material to learn and master during the coming year. Familiarity with guitar tablature is very helpful, but not absolutely required.

We’ll learn a system of demystifying the forest of lines and dots, and using it to expand our understanding of harmony, theory and melody. This in turn deepens our ability to learn and understand tunes, to break out of our ruts of boxed-in improvisation, and even train our ears.

This class will develop your understanding of rhythm and how it works in chords, melodies and picking technique. We’ll also look at ways to use the metronome to strengthen your sense of phrasing and internal pulse.

The personal experience of writing music and then performing it to an audience can be extremely fulfilling, challenging, petrifying and more! In this class, I will offer a detailed selection of techniques and exercises to help with musical structure, rhythmic ideas, harmonic choices, melodic phrasing, and textural colouring. We will study a small number of pieces in a variety of genres and coupled with demonstrations in class, I hope that this course will help you to discover some new ideas to add to your unique musical sound.

Three contrasting pieces will be sent to each player in advance. They will be in sheet music/TAB form and will include a jazz number, an American fingerstyle classic, and an Irish tune. You do not have to learn these pieces from memory(!) but it would be useful to have a few play-throughs and to familiarize yourself with the music by listening to versions on YouTube, for example. Each piece will include a selection of techniques, exercises, and ideas for improvisation.

Mississippi John Hurt first recorded in 1927 and 1928. The Great Depression deep-sixed his nascent career and he wasn’t heard from again until his re-discovery in 1963. By 1966, he was gone. But his spirited playing left an indelible mark on the folk music revival. In this class, we’ll begin to assemble the hand skills necessary to play his work, concentrating on his ragtime fingerpicking style while gradually building up a picking vocabulary that will eventually have you playing Hurt’s music with ease. In a very real way, this is a course about how to build up these techniques over time. The week will give you a significant head start on playing his tunes and in that style. As with all courses, it will simplify things if you listen to Hurt’s work before class begins and get immersed in the sounds he made.

Born in 1911, dead at just 27, Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson has had an outsized impact on the development of rock & roll. By bringing conventions from the piano blues of the early 1930s to the guitar, Johnson created a musical vocabulary of solo acoustic blues that became a model that has stood the test of time. In this class we will explore Johnson’s guitar vocabulary in various keys in standard tuning, dropped-D and open tunings with an eye to opening up his guitar parts and expanding our understanding of the acoustic guitar as a solo, accompaniment instrument. Understanding these techniques will serve you whether you play blues or not. It will be good to immerse yourself in Johnson’s recordings and be familiar with the sounds he made before walking in the door.

ORKNEY GUITAR (Steve Baughman)
Are you in a musical rut? Try a trip to Orkney Tuning (CGDGCD). We will start with basic chords, and within 15 minutes of our first class you will be producing sounds that have never before emerged from your guitar. We will work on vocal accompaniment and learn an instrumental or two. Our goal will be for you to have good enough command of the tuning to apply it to your own music by Friday. Intermediate and above only, please. Expect to do loads of playing in class.

Clawhammer is a powerful banjo-based right-hand technique that gives solo guitar playing rhythm, melody, bass and chords, all from one repetitive pattern. This class will be a total boot camp immersion in clawhammer technique. We will groove on the basic pattern to get it in our blood. Then we will begin applying it to simple tunes and basic vocal accompaniment. This class is for players who already have basic fingerpicking skills.

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to co-teach a week-long guitar workshop with one of my all-time guitar heroes, Tuck Andress. This class will revisit the topics we explored in that class, as well as some of my own ideas and interpretations pertaining to the art of fingerstyle jazz guitar. We’ll explore chord voicings & basslines, reharmonizing strategies, accompanying a singer, percussive techniques, harmonics, and extended fretting techniques.

This intermediate/advanced class will focus on developing solo vocabulary for jazz-blues progressions and tunes, in the style of three legendary jazz guitarists: Wes Montgomery, Kenny Burrell, and Grant Green. We’ll explore how to create lines in the style, call & response shouts, using octaves and block chords, blues and bebop licks, and also how to adapt jazz language in blues, and the blues in jazz standards.

This class will explore a technique called lap-tapping. Lap-tapping consists of performing hammer-ons, pull-offs, and other general playing techniques with the guitar horizontally in your lap, much like a lap steel guitar. This allows you to play intricate melodic lines with ease and allows for ample exploration of the guitar’s different timbres. Through simple lap tapping exercises, we will discover how to play melodies, bass lines, and harmonies at the same time. This class is open to intermediate and advanced students and will utilize Open-D tuning exclusively. Sheet music and tablature will be provided. Bring a capo.

This intermediate class will learn select pieces by folk guitarist Elizabeth Cotten using fingerstyle techniques. Cotten is known for her unorthodox playing technique, called Cotten-Picking, in which she, a left-handed player, plays her acoustic guitar upside down and uses her thumb to play the treble strings and her index finger to play the bass strings. We will be playing some of her pieces using standard fingerpicking techniques (no upside down guitars necessary!) and will use recordings to dissect her seemingly simple, yet intricate playing style. We will be playing in standard tuning as well as Open-D tuning. Sheet music and tablature will be provided.

This class will embrace the new-age style of guitar using tapping, percussive techniques and open tunings. Attendees will learn excerpts from some of the most classic tapping guitar pieces with access to the sheet music and the option of learning the full songs. Exercises will be included involving rhythmic drum patterns applied to the guitar, tapping guitar exercises to develop hand strength and muscle memory. Various open tunings will be introduced and students will be encouraged to use new techniques to apply to their own compositions.

(Christie Lenée)
Are you tired of looking for that flatpick you dropped on the floor? Despite what you may have heard, fingerpicking is nothing to be afraid of, and you can play many styles of music with just a few simple patterns and basic understanding of rhythm. If you know the majority of your first-position chords and often find yourself tiring of the same old strum pattern, this class is for you! We’ll discuss the what, why, and how of fingerpicking. You’ll learn basic arpeggio patterns that can be applied to several styles of music, ways to weave simple melodies into your picking, and the fundamentals of Travis picking. Tablature will be provided.

This intermediate-and-up class will explore the world of possibilities presented by traditional Irish, Scottish and Breton repertoire arranged for solo fingerstyle guitar. Some tablature will be offered, but students will also create their own individual settings of airs, jigs, reels and the 18th-century harp music of Turlough O’Carolan, sharing arrangement ideas in an informal, hands-on environment. Alternate tunings such as DADGAD, ‘Canine’ tuning (CGCGCD) and ‘Werewolf’ tuning (CGDGAD) will be used extensively to open up the instrument’s full sonic potential. A good time will be had by all.

By popular request: an exploration of how to create guitar accompaniment that’s stylistically appropriate for Celtic music. What does the guitar player do at an Irish session? How do we back up jigs, reels, hornpipes and so on in a way that makes the guitar sound like it belongs? How do we accompany singing in a convincingly Irish or Scottish idiom? What is a mode, anyway, and how do modes work? We’ll delve into these questions and more, using both flatpicking and fingerpicking techniques and taking advantage of altered tunings, particularly the much-beloved DADGAD. No previous knowledge of Celtic music is necessary; you will definitely need a capo, however!

Think of the ‘Magic Chord’ as the Swiss Army knife of Blues fingepicking guitar playing. Unlike the typical ‘block’ chords that only have one use, the Magic Chord is chock full of dozens of variations which you’ll be able to apply to tons of songs. Speaking of songs, you’ll also learn new ways of playing tunes like Key To The Highway by Big Bill Broonzy, Coffee Blues by Mississippi John Hurt, Spoonful by Reverend Gary Davis and many others.

(Toby Walker)
Ramp up your technique with this next step in fingerpicking blues guitar. If you’ve learned how to fingerpick alternating bass and independent melodies, and want to not only learn new songs but also learn fun variations to add to them, while increasing your technique at the same time, then this course is for you. My whole approach is to go beyond just teaching you the songs. With each song I’ll show you how to be creative by providing you with exciting new licks that will give you ideas for endless variations. As a result you’ll be a MUCH better player, and probably won’t play the song the same way twice!

I have found some really beautiful tunes over the years that make ideal entry-level guitar pieces. Come and explore airs, strathspeys, marches etc. We’ll cover some basic ideas in DADGAD and dropped-D tunings – basic enough that they can be used by those who first picked up a guitar two weeks ago, but useful enough to make some beautiful arrangements.

Few musicians have had a more defining impact on the singer-songwriter genre than Canadian icon Joni Mitchell. In this class we will analyze her unique guitar style, hopefully in a way that might unlock some ideas for your compositions or songs. We will look at her use of altered tunings, open tunings – from the familiar, like Open-G, to exotic tunings with, for example, adjacent strings an octave apart. We will look at her use of suspended chords to imply tension, and examine at least one song in detail per class, looking at her chord shapes and right-hand picking patterns and techniques.

For all levels, this is a class in how to add some spicy seasoning to the fingerpicker’s cookbook. Cory will take a few songs that he’s arranged and demonstrate how he developed them into more “original” arrangements from the ground up. Cory will discuss the how and the why of arranging music differently using riffs, licks, tunings and rhythms he has picked up over the years in his quest to create his own style. This class will be less about how to be “virtuosic” and more about how to have songs “speak” in different ways. Students will be encouraged to arrange or rearrange a song they already know and perform it for the class at the end of the week! Tabs will be provided as support for the lesson.

An introduction to groovy fingerstyle techniques from America to Africa. This intermediate/advanced class that will unveil a “bag of tricks” for fingerstyle guitarists seeking to explore new techniques. The goal of the lesson will be to help develop different right-hand techniques: rumba style, thumb dragging, bass movement, African two-finger picking patterns, polyrhythms, etc; and help the player develop left-hand techniques such as passing chords, inversions, New Orleanian ornamentation, and more. This will be a bit of a one-stop-shop lesson that delves deeply into Cory’s personal approach to the guitar. Tabs will be provided as support for the lesson.

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 virtual ‘sessions’, where students can gather in an online community to socialize and swap tunes and songs.