Guitar Week Classes – July 23-29, 2023

This class will cover the very basics of playing and enjoying guitar. Topics will include: tuning your guitar, basic chord shapes and patterns, basic rhythm patterns, simple right-hand technique (both flatpick and fingerpick), care and feeding of your guitar, and practice tips. By the end of the week, we will work in a tune or two for you to work on at home. Knowledge of guitar tablature is helpful, but not required. Students are encouraged to bring audio recorders to class and to attend the daily Jam Session that Ed will lead directly after lunch.

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. Students are encouraged to bring audio recorders to class and also encouraged to participate in the Jam Session that Ed leads every afternoon, following lunch, as a way to reinforce the techniques learned in class as well as learn additional songs/tunes.

This course (as the name implies) 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, then analyzing where the melody fits within the shapes of the accompanying chord progression. We will then look 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 my instructional book, Deep Bluegrass Guitar. 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. Students are encouraged to bring audio recorders to class.

This intermediate class is for those who can fingerpick an alternating bass while playing simple melodies on top. Why play a song the same way over and over again? Think of ‘Magic Chords’ as the Swiss Army knife of blues, folk, country and ragtime fingepicking guitar playing. These moveable, Magic Chords are 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 by Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis and many others.

If you know your basic open chords, this class is for you. Did you ever wonder how some guitar players can make their instrument sound like two guitars playing at once? In this class I’ll teach you how in a basic, step-by-step way how to play an alternating bass while adding some cool notes on top at the same time. This style has a few names you may have heard of like ‘Travis’ or ‘Piedmont’ fingerpicking. Once you have the foundational basics down you’ll come away playing your first instrumental and perhaps a song or two by Etta Baker and Mississippi John Hurt. This style can be applied to many blues, folk, country, pop and ragtime songs.

For those who know their basic open chords, and who have never played lead guitar but always wondered how folks made it look so easy, this class is for you! Literally starting from the ground up, I’ll break down the process using country and blues styles in a very simple, easy to follow way so you can play meaningful solos without breaking any speed limits or just noodling around. You’ll also learn how to utilize some wonderful backing tracks to practice your new skills.

This advanced/intermediate class will get familiar with many styles and tunings. Our roadmap will come from Mary’s collection of original exercises and tunes as well as some you may know. Along the way, we’ll play some Delta guitar, with its steady or monotonic muted bass, Piedmont, with alternating bass, and boogie woogie, with its moving bass. Once the bass is established, we’ll add melodies, some from moveable shapes, some from open strings. We’ll use drop-D, C-tunings and more, giving you new arrangement options and helping you become a solid player. Ability to read tab helpful and recording is encouraged.

Bring your Dobros, Weissenborns or lap steels with raised action and a tone bar of some kind. This is not a bottleneck class. In the world of country blues, Casey Bill Weldon and Black Ace preferred lap-style to bottleneck guitar. This class for all levels will explore basics like vibrato, tone, and how to hold the bar while learning scales, melodies and songs for solo and accompaniment/group playing. We’ll use G-tuning as well as D-tuning, The ability to read tablature will be helpful and students are encouraged to audio or video record any parts of the class. If you don’t have a lap steel or equivilent but still want to see what it’s all about, Mary will have a few extra slides and nut extenders on hand.

This will be a class for advanced beginners and up on the guitar & repertoire of early country and classic blues women, where we’ll pay tribute to the ones who started the craze – Mamie, Minnie, Bessie, Sippie and more. We’ll examine their lyrics and singing, talk a little history and work on guitar accompaniment. They don’t write ‘em like they used to and we’ll delve into this century-old songbag of humor, love gone wrong and double entendres. Ability to read tab is helpful and audio/video recording is encouraged.

Chord Melody playing is the art of playing chords and melody simultaneously 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.

As many fingerstyle pieces are learned by rote, a guitarist may have a lot of tunes under their fingertips but lack the tools to develop the pieces any further. The goal of this class, intended for advanced students only, is to foster techniques to help one navigate off the plateau. Dynamics, tone production, harmony, and song structure are a small sample of the topics we will cover. As a prerequisite, each student will need to have written one original fingerstyle tune and be prepared to share it with the class. The other prerequisites are questions, open minds, and curiosity.

One of the most common questions I get asked by students is “How do you practice?” Aspiring guitarists often have ideas of how and what they want to play, but can sometimes lack clarity around methods to achieve those goals. This class will be a collaborative journey through the vast and varied terrain of what it means to practice, and will provide you with methods to keep you motivated and inspired. We’ll discuss ideas for integrating improvisation into your practice routine, mindfulness techniques as it relates to music, and most importantly, ideas for fostering a meaningful relationship with your metronome. Fingerpickers, flatpickers, and all levels are welcome.

Despite what you may have heard, fingerpicking is nothing to be afraid of, and you can play many styles of music with a few simple patterns and a basic understanding of rhythm. If you consider yourself a beginning to intermediate level guitarist that knows the majority of your first-position chords, 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.

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.

The revolutionary music of David ‘Dawg’ Grisman helped open a floodgate of innovation in the world of stringband music, paving the way for the Béla Flecks, Punch Brothers and even Grant Gordys of the world. We’ll take a look at this groundbreaking body of work and the critical role of the guitar in its development, and also examine the myriad artists and styles that Dawg music draws from, refracted through the prism of David’s unique mind. We’ll also look at some of the players whose work in turn draws from and carries the Dawg influence forward.

Soloing is an aspect of improvising, but improvising is a lot more than just soloing! It’s a state of mind, a way of flexibly interacting with the world and fellow musicians. In this class we’ll talk about what it means to be an improvising guitarist, and look at the building blocks of its development and practice, from finding new ways to relate to rhythm, to deepening our understanding of harmony, and, yes, how to take hot solos!

In this intermediate level class, we’ll examine and work through the nuts and bolts of solo fingerstyle jazz guitar. Topics of discussion and practice will include practical chord voicings and substitutions, walking basslines, ‘piano-style’ concepts, playing multiple parts, rhythm and phrasing, and ideas for improvisation. We’ll also take a look at a few extended fretting techniques to add color to arrangements of jazz standards and other songs. This class will be of interest to fingerstyle players who want to add some jazz elements to their arrangements, and also to jazz guitarists who primarily play with a pick, but would like to explore some fingerstyle techniques.

This class will explore the style of legendary jazz guitarist & American pop star George Benson, particularly his early solo recordings and work with Brother Jack McDuff. Through transcriptions, examples, and analysis, we’ll learn how Benson forged his own inimitable style while being heavily influenced by Grant Green, Wes Montgomery, Hank Garland, and Kenny Burrell. This intermediate level class will take a deep dive into the techniques of block chords, reharmonization, “Benson” picking, jazz guitar tone, pentatonics, octaves/fifths, and the blues.

In this intermediate/advanced class, we’ll play through arrangements and improvise on some of the most beloved classic American songbook standards. We’ll learn ensemble techniques such as blending, timbre, reading chord charts (reading music will not be necessary), soloing & comping through a song form, and listening & playing with other guitarists.

I had a close connection with John in that we shared similar musical tastes, we toured together extensively (including the USA) and we collaborated together on duets and music for film. In this class we will delve into John’s vast treasure trove of compositions and arrangements exploring pieces such as “Judy”, “The Dark Isle”, “Buffalo”, and “Little Niles”. I look forward to exploring Renbourn’s styles with you, with the occasional anecdote along the way!

GUITAR GROUP! (Clive Carroll)
In this class for all levels, the group will explore three contrasting pieces: a 16th century dance tune, a swing number from the 40’s and something more up-to-date! We will be using TAB and chord charts and playing parts. This is a rare opportunity for guitar players of all abilities to play together in a relaxed and informal setting.

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. Aspects of each piece may lead on to discussion about various techniques, exercises, and ideas for improvisation.

Explore the rhythms of Brazil in this hands-on class for beginners. Plan to learn the basic of guitar accompaniment for bossa nova and choro and deepen your rhythmic understanding. Music reading not necessary.

Deepen your understanding of bossa nova, choro and samba. This class will dive into more complex accompaniment rhythms and begin to develop “baixarias” (bass lines mixed with comping).

Add a Brazilian guitar piece to your solo guitar repertoire. This class will put together chordal accompaniment and melody to create solo guitar arrangements. We will use the repertoire common to the genre to develop these ideas.

Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grapelli’s pioneering ensemble, Quintette du Hot Club de France, was unique in that the rhythm section was driven by the acoustic guitar. We will demystify the secrets of this rhythm guitar style. Expect to expand your chord vocabulary while learning rhythms such as ‘la pompe’, ‘swing valse’, ‘samba’, ‘bolero’ and ‘bossa’. Open to beginner and intermediate levels.

In this intermediate class, we’ll take an in-depth look at the amazing “everything” chord and how it can have three functions: as a diminished 7th, minor 6th, and half-diminished 7th chord in jazz. This chord brings movement and voice leading into your playing. We’ll take a look at how to apply this versatile chord in rhythm guitar and lead guitar situations.

Lisa will show you her method on how to solo and play lead guitar in gypsy jazz. You’ll learn her approach to improvisation using arpeggios, chromatic embellishments, chord voicings and rhythmic phrasing techniques. PDF handouts will be provided. Beginner and Intermediate levels welcome.

The Grateful Dead, the rock band synonymous with the ’60s hippie culture and one of the top-grossing live acts of all time, started out as a jug band and never lost touch with their traditional-music roots. American folk archetypes sprang up constantly in their original songs, even at their most electric and psychedelic; they covered a vast amount of folk, bluegrass and country material, and recorded several albums featuring acoustic guitars predominantly or entirely. This intermediate-level class will examine a wide range of the Dead’s material, particularly the songs of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter, and explore possible acoustic guitar interpretations of it. We’ll also have a look at Garcia’s free-flying lead guitar work and Bob Weir’s innovative rhythm style, and listen to some of their lesser-known acoustic recordings. Tie-dyed t-shirts optional.

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, however, you will definitely need a capo!

This intermediate class will focus on creating memorable ‘hook’ guitar riffs. We will look at some of the classic riffs that make all guitar lovers drool, break them down and translate them into a conceptual vocabulary and language that can be applied to your own music. All students will be encouraged to write new riffs throughout the week and share them with the class. Next, we will look at how to integrate these riffs into your songs, how to create variations of the riffs and use them to transition into song sections.

THEORY FOR GUITAR (Christie Lenée)
This class for all levels will explain music theory for the guitar in a way that feels accessible for both those who read music and those who don’t. We’ll dive deep into the Circle of 5ths and learn keys, how to memorize them, and practice methods for studying and integrating the concepts of scales and chord patterns. In application to the guitar, we will memorize sounds and shapes to help apply the knowledge to your musical vocabulary. Basic ear training will be included, and all levels of players are welcome.

This intermediate/advanced class will cover pieces played in modern fingerstyle guitar using open tunings. Attendees will receive sheet music (tabs and standard notation) from select fingerstyle tunes and the songs will be taught in sections throughout the week. We will also attend to right- and left-hand patterns which are used in the songs, including two-part rhythm coordination, right-hand fingerstyle guitar technique, and tapping guitar exercises to develop hand strength and muscle memory. Christie’s songs will be broken down into bite-sized parts, and while we may not get to cover the entire songs, all students will be encouraged to continue working on them and developing the techniques required to play them.

This class is great for beginners or for those who know chords and strumming, but haven’t yet worked with single notes or melodies. We’ll work on basic right- and left-hand technique and take time to savor each note while we learn some tunes at a very slow pace. This class is taught by ear and folks are welcome to bring small recording devices or take notes.

We’ll learn a few flatpicking tunes and work on the picking hand’s shuffle and ‘boom- ditty’ that drives the music rhythmically. Do you ever wear yourself out trying to keep up with the tempo of a fast tune? We’ll develop some tricks to increase our tempo and stamina. I will also share some of my favorite bass runs, fills and passing chords in the open keys for spicing up all of your favorite songs and tunes. This intermediate class is taught by ear and folks are welcome to bring small recording devices or take notes.

In Advanced Flatpicking, we’ll expand our repertoire with some less common tunes as well as learn how to improvise and create variations on some well-known classics. We’ll be focusing on the subtleties of flatpicking and working on refining our technique to get a good sound and tempo for the music. This class is taught by ear and folks are welcome to bring small recording devices or take notes.

This class is often assumed to be Irish music, and mostly airs, arranged for guitar. This won’t be ignored at all, but we’ll go a bit deeper and broader. We’ll look at some of the other Celtic regions: Scotland, Brittany in France, Galicia in Spain and look at the dance music of each. How does the instrumentation affect the music? What are the peculiarities of each region? What are the rhythms associated with each? And, of course, we’ll look at various ways these tunes can be arranged on guitar. Some of that will involve ornamentation, sometimes suggesting other instruments eg. How DADGAD tuning in particular can evoke the sounds of the harp, or how right-hand techniques can make the music “fiddle-like”. Hopefully some of this beautiful music will be under your fingers by the end of the week!

The role of the guitar in this music is most often accompaniment. We are usually the engine room of the session- driving the rhythm. There is nothing better than powering a rake of jigs and reels to lift the spirits. If you’ve been in this environment and wondered whether to get the guitar out and join in the party- this course will give you some tools to do that in a creative and inspiring way. We will look at the different dance rhythms and how we can articulate these on guitar, some common chord ideas, some modes that come up frequently and how we accommodate this in the chords we chose. We’ll pick individual tunes and find ways of backing them creatively to lift the melodies to a new level.

This course grew out of a pre-Covid one-off informal class offered at lunchtime where I tried to cover in 1 ½ hours as much as I could about the guitar work of one of the most iconic musicians alive. If you are aching to play her part to Big Yellow Taxi or Hejira or…. we can cover that (requests can be handled). If you want some insight into patterns in her approach that may be applicable to your own music we will cover that too. Her strumming patterns are unusual and are sometimes overlooked in the focus on her unique and inventive tunings. Her tunings range from the well-known (open C, D, G, etc.) to the exotic and beautiful. The big takeaway is that simple, and often transposable, chord shapes can, with the use of altered tunings, generate rich and inspiring voicings. We’ll examine this idea and its applications in some detail! It was a good omen that on the day I travelled from Nova Scotia to Swannanoa to teach this course last year, Joni stunned the music world giving her first live concert in 22 years.

This is a survey of guitar styles and traditions predominantly from the eastern side of the African continent (but also dipping into West Africa here and there!). Cory will be discussing players of yore like Mwenda Jean Bosco (Congo), Daniel Kachamba (Malawi), and George Mukabi (Kenya), as well as others from guitar-heavy places like Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Mali, Senegal and more. Through the use of tabs, audio files and live demonstrations, Cory will delve into different tunings, scales, polyrhythms and two-finger picking patterns. Having spent three years living in Ethiopia, Cory will also discuss his approach to adapting Ethiopian music for solo guitar. The ultimate goal of the class is less about mastering a specific style and more about learning and incorporating these different approaches to the guitar into students’ preexisting repertoires.

This is a class for beginner/early intermediate players eager to develop basic fingerpicking guitar techniques. Cory will break down the mechanics of alternate bass picking à la Mississippi John Hurt, and will introduce basic riffs, licks, and rhythmic feels to help the player in their quest to expand their game. 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! Tab exercises and songs will be provided as support for the lessons.

This intermediate/advanced class will provide a ‘bag of tricks’ for fingerstyle guitarists seeking to explore new techniques. The goal of will be to help develop different right-hand techniques: rumba style, thumb dragging, flamenco-esque strumming and polyrhythms, and to 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, but with extra emphasis on American fingerstyle guitar players/traditions. Students will be encouraged to apply techniques learned in class to songs they already play! Tabs will be provided as support.


OTHER Events

Throughout the week, we will have several of the finest luthiers in America on hand displaying their instruments, including guitars by John Slobod,, Judson Riviere, EJ Henderson, and John Kinnaird, In addition, Dream Guitars, from nearby Weaverville, NC, who specialize in fine, luthier-built instruments, will also be on hand to display a selection of their stunning guitars.

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