Guitar Week Classes – July 28-August 3, 2024


This class will cover the very basics of playing and enjoying guitar. Topics covered 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 back 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 ‘slow jam’ 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 ‘slow jam’ 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.

JAMMIN’ GUMBO (Toby Walker)
So many folks at Swanannoa simply love to jam with each other. In this intermediate to advanced course I’ll show you how to invent easy, and different ways of playing a simple song like “Your Cheating Heart” by Hank Williams and a 12 bar blues (so common in jams) called “Baby What You Want Me to Do” by Jimmy Reed. You’ll learn how to play the melody, how to harmonize it, how to play moving bass lines with those cowboy chords, how to add easy-to-play swing chords and some nice lead licks. Then at the end of the week we’ll all do the different parts in an ensemble!! Not only will you learn how to do this with any song, but when it’s your turn to pick a song in future jams, you’ll have tons of new things to play!

Folks like Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk and Tom Paxton came out with some very popular songs which embodied the spirit of a burgeoning music scene in the sixties. We’ll learn fingerpicking arrangements of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”, Tom Paxton’s “Bottle of Wine” and Dave Van Ronk’s “Green, Green Rocky Road.” You should be an intermediate player comfortable with basic ‘Travis Style’ picking – playing an alternating bass with an independent melody on top.

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. You should be an intermediate player comfortable playing basic open chords.

A transformative, participatory masterclass that aims at both the audience and the singer’s experience of specific phrasing and lyric delivery strategies gleaned from listening to powerful black rhythm & blues, soul, blues and jazz singers. This is a private, safe class for singers to experiment one-on-one with the instructor, using their classmates for the audience.

Born in 1911, dead at just 27, Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson has had an outsized impact on the development of rock & roll. 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. 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. These strategies 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. There will surely be a day on essential slide guitar techniques, as well.

Mississippi John Hurt first recorded in 1927 and 1928. The Great Depression deep-sixed his nascent career and the wider public didn’t hear from him again until 1963. By 1966, he was gone. Hurt’s spirited playing and basic kindness left an indelible mark on the folk music revival. We’ll work to assemble the vocabulary of hand skills necessary to play his work, concentrating on his ragtime fingerpicking style and gradually building up a picking vocabulary that will eventually have you playing Hurt’s music with ease. The week will give you a significant head start on playing in this style. As with all courses, you should be listening to Hurt’s work before class starts and getting immersed in the sounds he made. It will simplify things.

Django Reinhardt’s pioneering ensemble, Le Quintette du Hot Club de France, utilized all string instruments while inventing a sub-genre of jazz. Using repertoire common to the genre, the class will investigate the guitar’s role through melodic interpretation, improvising with chord tones, better tone through right-hand technique, and how to learn and internalize ‘Django licks.’ Additionally, the class will focus on good rhythm guitar practices. All material will be in standard notation, chord diagrams and TAB so reading music is not required.

Whether you want to post on social media, share with friends and family, or record yourself as a practice tool, a little recording know-how can go a long way. This class is a primer in audio and video recording and the basics of mic and camera placement, as well as the basics of lighting and room acoustics, and the role they play in any recording. Finally, we’ll talk about synchronizing audio and video recorded separately, and we’ll be recording ourselves and each other. We’ll bust myths about expensive gear! Our focus is on maximizing quality at minimum expense. It’s recommended but not required that students bring headphones and an audio recording solution beyond a phone (i.e. a Zoom recorder, etc.).

This intermediate to advanced fingerpicking class takes a deep dive into the world four of the players who defined the sound of the acoustic guitar in the 60’s and 70’s: Davy Graham, Bert Jansch, John Martyn, and Nick Drake. We’ll learn one piece by each player, looking at the influence they had on one another (and beyond), the idiosyncrasies of their respective styles, and they way they blended British and global sounds into something totally new.

Ever wanted to take something not written for guitar, and play it on guitar but don’t know where to start? Ever wanted to condense down a full band arrangement onto just one instrument? This class is for you. We’ll learn how to decide if a song is suitable for guitar, and then learn to distill it down to its core elements so we can work with our limitations rather than against them. We’ll talk about developing right-hand independence, and discuss how to find a key and a tuning that will work best if the original isn’t feasible. Students are encouraged to bring song ideas, as we’ll be working on the songs you want to learn!

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.

From bluegrass to jazz to rock to folk, adding color through extensions, alterations and reharmonizations can make a chord progression more expressive and transform the emotional impact of a melody. In this class we’ll work on developing understanding of the hows, whens and whys of chordal exploration, while enriching your harmonic vocabulary and expanding your understanding of how harmonic progressions work.

In this class we’ll take a favorite standard tune (TBD) and work on arranging it into a guitar ensemble piece. Through this process, you’ll develop valuable insight into good rhythm section practices, shaping an arrangement, soloing over changes and harmonizing a melody. Plan to be assigned a ‘part,’ and to perform it at the student showcase on Friday.

This class for intermediate players will explore and analyze the use of diatonic, non-diatonic, and modal practices of jazz composition applied to pop music. By looking at and listening to songs from artists such as Donald Fagan, Stevie Wonder, Michael McDonald, and Earth, Wind & Fire, we’ll analyze chord substitutions, voicing techniques, and arranging possibilities, to incorporate into your own writing and improvising. Handouts of harmonic progressions will be provided, and a basic understanding of diatonic harmony and music theory (triads, 7th chords, basic scales) is highly recommended.

This class, open to all levels, will cover health & wellness for guitarists with an overview of common physical injuries, preventative measures, and resources; mental aspects of practice including focus, developing repertoire, and performance anxiety; how to integrate creativity and structure into your practice sessions.

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.

BERT & JOHN (Clive Carroll)
I was lucky enough to share the stage with both Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, and in this class I will offer tips and studies on their contrasting playing styles, along with a selection of duets and solo pieces. We’ll cover duos such as “Orlando” and “The Time Has Come”, and solos will include “Lady Nothing’s Toye Puffe” and “Buffalo”. I look forward to exploring the styles of these two innovative figures in the history of British fingerstyle guitar (with the occasional anecdote along the way!)

PLAYING A SONG (Clive Carroll)
This class is 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 the parts will include bass lines, chord shapes, and, of course, the melody! 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 a Celtic 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.

In this course we will explore music theory from the ground up, with the goal of applying our newfound understanding to the guitar. Scales, intervals, chords, keys, progressions and other musical devices are what we will be digging into. I have some unique devices that make learning and, more importantly, putting the tools to use in your music, very quickly achievable. As the week progresses we’ll be using theory to examine several well-known songs in an effort to understand “where’d he come up with that?” Certainly students with some theory are welcome, however, no previous experience is required to benefit from this workshop. It is not uncommon for folks who have attended in previous years to sign up for another look. All guitarists and songwriter/guitarists are encouraged to enjoy this fun peek into how music ‘works’. Bring your guitar and some materials to take notes. Workshop handouts are provided.

This workshop picks up where Theory 1 leaves off. First we’ll do a quick review of basic Theory 1 stuff. Then, among other things, we will investigate seventh chords, diminished chords, chord extensions, playing melody in harmony, modes, V chord uses, chord ‘morphing’, and of course, the Blues. All with comprehensive ways of finding and playing all this on the guitar. Bring some materials for note taking and of course bring your guitar. Be prepared to work and to have some fun.

LET’S GET FUNKY (Ray Chesna)
We will, in this course, put together a multi-guitar arrangement of a classic Funk tune. In place of an original instrument’s part of the arrangement there will be a guitar version of that part. The object being to experience how timing, section playing, dynamics and polyrhythms each add up to become an extremely exhilarating sound. Each guitarist will be learning all of the parts so some ability with single note playing will be helpful. As James Brown said, “ One thing that can solve all of our problems is dancing”. When we play our song for everyone at the showcase we’ll strive to prove it.

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, CGCGCD (‘Canine’ tuning), and CGDGAD (‘Werewolf’ tuning) 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!

In this class Vicki will take you through a simple process that enables you to learn songs you know or have written in standard tuning using various open tunings. No previous experience with open tunings needed. Please bring a tuner and your curiosity! Late beginners and more advanced students welcome – the ability to learn and change chords fairly fluently will be helpful!

RHYTHM PLAY (Vicki Genfan)
This class is designed to improve your sense of timing and rhythm. Drawing from eastern and western traditions, we’ll practice listening, moving, clapping and speaking in ways that embody rhythmic principles like pulse, syncopation, beat and off-beat, subdivision and more, all without having to engage our thinking minds. We’ll end each class by grabbing our guitars and applying what we’ve learned to ten basic strumming patterns. All levels welcome.

This class will give students an opportunity to look at, experiment with, share and get feedback about different ways to incorporate percussive and unusual techniques into covers or original songs. Whether you’re an instrumentalist, or using the guitar to accompany your singing, these techniques, used by so many contemporary players, can add depth and color to your original songs, arrangements and performances. NOTE: This is not a class where we will focus on learning specific techniques, rather we will focus on how to think about incorporating these kinds of techniques in a musical and tasteful fashion. Vicki will share examples from her own arrangements and compositions. All levels welcome.

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 class is taught by ear and folks are welcome to bring small recording devices or take notes.

This class is inspired by the playing of the great Charlie Christian. It’s geared toward getting you solo-ing on blues and swing standards without having to learn and memorize a lot of music theory. We’ll learn how to find the right notes by examining the chords. The class will be taught by ear. All you need is a guitar, an open mind and perhaps a portable recording device and a notepad.

This class is open to all levels. Over the years I’ve collected a repertoire of tunes that are as beautiful as they are approachable. These are pieces that speak directly to the heart and can do so as they work their way beneath your fingers. These can be song airs, laments, dance tunes… even Christmas carols (perfect for July!). We will look at these tunes often in altered tunings- be not afraid, these allow the tunes to breathe and all will be explained at a gentle level. We will mostly be in Dropped-D (DADGBE), or the famous DADGAD. Far from complicating, these tunings make things easier and, particularly in DADGAD we can play across the strings to get sweet, harp-like effects. Think of these pieces, not as dumbed-down exercises (they’re not) but as gateway pieces: complete packages of melody, harmony, rhythm and soul! Music and tablature will be provided.

Or… how the Celts took over Europe, weren’t very good at it, and ended up on the barren, western fringes of the continent with music to match the weather. Alright, the truth: The Celts have a presence in Ireland, Scotland and Wales…but also Brittany in France, Galicia and Asturias in Spain and elsewhere. The traditional music of these regions is glorious and varied. A ‘jig’ in Ireland becomes a ‘muniera’ in Galicia. What might sound like a reel from Scotland could be a ‘rond de Loudiac’ from Brittany. Well cover some of the standard fare of Scotland and Ireland (the music I grew up with) but let’s go on a journey to Europe and to the diaspora! Through emigration this music has influenced the traditional cultures of the Appalachians, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and elsewhere in North America. We’ll dig into some of these connections. Most of the material will be fingerstyle but adaptable for your inner flatpicker too. Some altered tunings will crop up- but nothing too frightening. Music and tablature will be provided.

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. It has been a real pleasure to dig into music I truly love that’s a few time zones removed from my usual focus. 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! The fact that on the day I travelled from Nova Scotia to Swannanoa to teach this course two years ago, Joni stunned the music world by giving her first live concert in 22 years, was a good omen.

The fun is as infectious as the music in Mike’s hands-on guitar band approach to this unique 12-bar style. From the hillbilly boogies of the Delmore Brothers to the hip stylings of Louis Jordan, recruits will learn new tunes with cool licks, bass runs, and single-string soloing techniques guaranteed to ‘drill’ that eight-to-the-bar boogie bounce into your music and your repertoire. For intermediates and above. Handouts provided, audio recorders welcome.

This is a workshop for guitar students who have some experience playing swing rhythm. Mike takes it to the next level, exploring riffs, arpeggios,10th chords, melodic embellishments, and his own unique chord ‘code’ for the classic swing repertoire. Learn new musical devices that will get you started creating your own swinging solos. There will be lots of playing in class with no stressing allowed. Handouts provided, audio recorders encouraged.

Explorations in slide guitar for open D and G tunings. Learn how to use a bottleneck slide to add expression, color, and texture to your playing. The emphasis will be on tone and technique for creating slide ideas based on time-honored songs from artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell and Tampa Red, as well as tunes from Mike’s own original bottleneck slide repertoire. Students should be able to play a simple alternating-bass fingerpicking pattern. Handouts provided, audio recorders welcome.

SLACK-KEY GUITAR (Patrick Landeza)
Slack-key or ki ho‘alu is a distinctively Hawai‘ian style of guitar playing based on a variety of open tunings. This class is for the beginner but you must have some knowledge of guitar. We’ll focus on technique and how to develop the slack-key sound in the open-G tuning (Taro Patch Tuning) and touch on slack key scales, vamps and licks, which will lead to a song! Even with basic guitar skills, you will be in a comfortable environment that will make it easy for you to learn the basics.

This class is for those who want to learn basic Hawai‘ian chords, strums and melodies. Bring your steel guitar, `ukulele or guitar and let’s make Hawai‘ian music magic! With plenty of aloha, this class will add Hawai‘ian music to your private or public performance repertoire. We’ll be using what we learned at the Friday Swannanoa Luau, so get ready to share some SWANNALOHA!!


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, and John Kinnaird, In addition, Dream Guitars, from nearby Weaverville, NC, will be on hand to display a selection of their stunning guitars.

Each day, after lunch, Ed will lead the playing of common, easy songs at a tempo slow enough for folks to learn the tunes as they play.