Mando & Banjo Week Classes – June 27-July 2, 2021


This would be a good class for checking in on the fundamentals of your mandolin playing. There will be a strong emphasis on posture, right- and left-hand technique, pick hold, tone production and musical essentials. We will work on some simple songs (TAB and music provided), play some easy fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs and discuss how each of you can move forward in your mandolin journey. We’ll cover some of the basic moveable chord shapes and play in a few different keys. We’ll also look at some rhythm patterns from a few different musical traditions and I’ll keep the class reasonably paced, pretty light-hearted and fun.

As improvisors, we want to have a strong sense of the relationship between notes that we’re choosing and the underlying chords in a chord progression. We don’t want to play random notes and hope for the best: we want to be able to anticipate whether a note is going to sound good or bad against a given chord, and to make choices with these effects in mind. Our work in this class will be centered around two main ideas: learning/practicing/internalizing arpeggios (staring with the simplest triads and moving to more complex varieties of 7th chords) as a way of finding and organizing chord tones and non-chord tones, and in using voice leading exercises and guide tone lines to transition into using arpeggios to create improvisational lines.

‘DAWG’ MANDOLIN (Joe K. Walsh)
David “Dawg” Grisman is one of the most influential mandolin players of all time, a prolific tune-writer, a hugely important band leader, and a champion of our beloved eight-string box. His compositional and arranging sensibilities expanded the collective definition of what is possible for the mandolin, and bluegrass in general, and his stylistically fluid body of recorded work lay out a genre-hopping path that many other mandolin players have followed. In this class we’ll take a closer look at all things Dawg, learning a number of his iconic tunes and solos, and breaking down some of the inventive and effective arrangements.

A basic knowledge of the fingerboard including chords and double stops will be of help in this class. We’ll build breaks to common bluegrass songs and instrumentals, finding the melody in different places on the fingerboard, position shifting, double stops, improving your slides, hammer-ons and pull-offs, building speed and learning the steps to improvisation. We will work on kick-offs and turn-arounds to popular bluegrass vocal tunes as well as alternate breaks for common fiddle tunes to enhance your knowledge of the mandolin. We’ll also cover playing rhythm with a band as well as your role in other ensembles, adding rhythmic variation, and groove. We’ll cover how important it is to listen to music around you to find groove and play tastefully. We’ll learn classic licks to make your bluegrass playing sound more authentic. Your questions are always appreciated. There will be some handouts but a lot of ear practice as well. It’s gonna be fun!!

This class will focus on some advanced techniques in bluegrass mandolin and mandolin in general. We’ll look at standard bluegrass songs and some more obscure tunes as well as classic breaks in bluegrass. We will also explore how to “play around the melody” tastefully with traditional as well as more modern approaches. We will talk about the journey to true improvisation as well as discussing how to alter some of your favorite licks to get much more out of them. This will be an exploration of the mandolin that will help you down the road to creating your own style! Bring plenty of questions. There will also be handouts in this class as well. Gonna be a blast!!

In this class for intermediate and advanced level players we will cover the basics of blues, bluegrass and jazz (swing, Latin and modern styles) with an emphasis on improvisation in those styles, a step-by-step system on how to practice improvising and mapping out the whole fretboard. We’ll also explore ‘modern’ chord forms and chord substitutions, open tunings, odd time signatures, slide mandolin technique and usage of the bottleneck slide in open and standard tunings, chord melody, arranging for solo mandolin, the ‘duo style’ and sound reinforcement ideas. Several handouts will be available.

In order to grow as a musician, it is important to develop your ability to recognize what you hear in live music sessions and recordings, and then translate that to your instrument. This class will teach you to correctly recognize what you hear more quickly, allowing you to interpret and respond to music with greater conviction and expression because you are more certain of the notes you are hearing, playing and singing. It builds connections between your inner hearing (or aural imagination), your voice and your instrument. Melodic ear training: intervals, scales, modes. Harmonic ear training: harmonized scale, six basic types of chords and their extensions, chord progressions, key centers and modulations. It will be taught using well known songs and tunes. Main emphasis will be on practical use of this skill, making you better at your playing, singing, improvising, arranging, transcribing, teaching and composing. Printed materials will be provided and audio recording is encouraged. This class will be taught using the mandolin, guitar and keyboard though it is open to players of any instruments and all levels are welcome.

In this class, the emphasis will be on learning to keep the basics in mind, i.e., playing a song’s melody cleanly with good tone and timing. We will learn some fiddle tunes and songs from the old-time repertoire. The fiddle tunes will show the proper right-hand picking patterns. The songs will incorporate double stops. We’ll look at the bluesy style of Bill Monroe and other early bluegrass practitioners like Everett Lilly and Pee Wee Lambert. We’ll also discuss basic technique, with emphasis on tone production. Prerequisites: students should know all the standard bluegrass closed chop chords, and know some fiddle tunes and be able to play them at a reasonable tempo.

In this class we will learn some great traditional and original tunes in a variety of styles – old-time, bluegrass, New Acoustic, Latin, and jazz. In addition to the melodies, we will examine the techniques involved in playing the stylistically-varied tunes. For example, to work on double-stops and tremolo we will learn “The North Shore.” For uptempo bluegrass-style playing we will learn “Big Bug”. For single-note fiddle tunes we will learn “Cazadero.” For syncopated right-hand rhythms we will learn “La Arboleda.” For more progressive bluegrass and New Acoustic music we will learn “Dawg’s Bull and “Devlin.” For jazz chord/melody we will learn “Yardbird Suite.” The rhythmic accompaniment for the various tunes and styles will be covered, as well as some improvisation ideas.

This class will bridge the gap between the folk mandolin and classical mandolin. We will begin by working on the fundamentals of sound production, and the philosophy of the classical mandolin sound, then move on to some basic mandolin techniques that include cross-picking, some warm-up exercises and some wonderful simple melodies. Lastly, we will work on coordination and speed, but we’ll keep the focus on having fun. The ability to read music will really help in this class.ns for our performance on the last day.

This class will consider the variety of ways in which the mandolin can operate in Celtic music. With an emphasis on melodic playing of traditional Irish and Scottish tunes, we will explore ways of playing that are both idiomatic to the mandolin and at home in traditional Celtic music contexts. We will develop approaches for accompaniment and think about how to complement other melody players. We will also delve into techniques for good tone and projection, focus on technical stylistic elements like triplets and crosspicking, and further our understanding of the fretboard. Melodies will be taught by ear. Note: this class is also open to tenor banjos in Irish tuning (GDAE), an octave below the mandolin. The technical elements will be similar for both instruments.

This course will try to help students bridge the gap between bluegrass and jazz, and will focus on tunes in the style of David Grisman, Tony Rice and other masters of modern “jazzgrass” and “Dawg” music. While we look at some great tunes, we’ll also look at ways of approaching improvisation and rhythm playing on those tunes. Think of it as the grassier side of jazz, or the jazzier side of bluegrass.

We’ll look at the myriad styles of American fiddle tunes and look at ways of creating your own solos on them. Changing octaves, using chord tones and adding some new melodic ideas will be the focus, along with some theory and ear training. Tunes will range from old-time to slightly swingy, and variations will range from fairly basic to fairly advanced. We’ll also integrate chords and inversions of chords into how you play both lead and backup.

“Rhythm & Repertoire.” Improve your accompaniment playing in any style by adding color tones, connecting chords, substitutions, and ‘cool notes.’ We’ll learn some ultra-standard swing jam favorites and increase our understanding of chord progressions and how to dress them up – what to add, what to leave out. Amaze your friends and fans! Why play 3 chords when you could play 50? Handout materials will include chord diagrams, fakebook-style chord charts, and the like, so all you’ll need to bring is a tuned-up mandolin and your ears. Helpful but not essential is the ability to relate to chords and progressions by number(I-IV-V, ii-V-I, etc.). We’ll be looking to add more progressions, voicings and tunes to your vocabulary.

“Melodic Materials.” Here we’ll approach improvisation from a few different angles: ornamenting the melody of a tune and examining how other players have done so; making fills in the spaces of a melody and examining how other players have done so; making a new melodic solo by drawing notes (the Good Notes!) from a tune’s chord progression. Learn some chops by developing some essential swing and jazz melodies: “the fiddle tunes of jazz.” Learn many licks and tricks for adding swing feeling and schnazzy jazzy pizazz to your melodic creations. All handouts in this class are in both standard notation and tablature, supplied mostly for reference as we emphasize the ears and hands in finding ideas on the fretboard. Fundamentals that would come in handy for these sessions would be the ability to find scales(major, minor, dominant 7th, diminished, etc.) with open strings included and the all fretted moveable positions, and the ability to understand and transpose chord progressions. We’ll supply the cool notes that are “in the cracks”.




For this class, Tony will discuss the all-important concept of playing the ‘syllables’ of a tune. This is a Scruggs concept that allows you to play the real melody of a tune. In the process you learn how to play solos up the neck and in different keys without a capo. We’ll feature Earl’s Pearls… a compendium of some of his greatest obscure licks. The class will also cover tools for improvisation, the ‘melodic’ style, ‘single-string style’ and back-up. Tab will be provided.

Knowing how to survive a bluegrass jam session with confident back-up and lead playing will unlock the joy of making music on the banjo with others. In this class, we’ll develop the skills you need to have a blast in any jam session or band. Through the week, we’ll develop listening skills to better hear and understand chord progressions and bluegrass song forms, use the capo to play in all keys, creatively use licks to create solos on the fly, and get comfortable accompanying others for fast and slow songs, fiddle tunes, bluesy songs, ¾ time and much more. This is a “grab-your-banjo-and-let’s-pick” style of workshop where we’ll do a lot of group playing together and learn a bunch of great tunes in the process. Tab examples will be presented for everything covered in this class.

This class will examine composition, so that you can fully explore your own creative potential. The class will also cover advanced backup techniques as played by Earl Scruggs and J.D. Crowe. Advanced improvisatory techniques such as those used by Trischka, Fleck, etc., will also be covered. In addition, you’ll learn how to subdivide two measures into groupings of 3s, 5s and 7s for freshening up fiddle tunes and beyond. Tab will be provided.

Bill will show you how to turn technique-building exercises in Scruggs, melodic and single-string styles into powerful licks that you can use in everything from traditional bluegrass improvisations and solos to fiddle tunes and blues and jazz-tinged solos. You’ll map out the fretboard and master major scales, octave shifts, chromatic licks and more in melodic and single-string styles while gaining a new understanding of the theory underlying these contemporary approaches. We’ll even throw in a bunch of great tunes that put to use what you’ve discovered through the exercises. For good measure, we’ll also explore roll-based exercises and licks that will strengthen your Scruggs-style playing and backup. Short assignments will be given each day.

This clawhammer and fingerpicking class will help you build your skill and style on the banjo through a combination of repertoire, technique, practice and context. We will work on keeping excellent time, understanding melody and refining style as we learn both classic and more obscure tunes of the southern mountains. Come prepared to explore repertoire of legacy players including Wade and Fields Ward, Tommy Jarrell and other Round Peak artists; Matokie Slaughter, Giles Lephew and more. We will also consider the history and context of southern mountain banjo music through commentary and hearing recordings. About three quarters of our class time will be devoted to learning on the instrument, and about one quarter to context and guided listening to recordings of outstanding legacy artists. Come prepared to play your banjo, clap and sing. You’ll have a great time and learn a lot. Please bring extra strings, a capo and, if possible, a banjo strap.

This class presents an opportunity to focus at an advanced level on tunes, tunings, technique, style and context. The class will be based in clawhammer style with fingerpicking instruction as well. You should arrive able to play comfortably in at least three keys in clawhammer style and able to tune your instrument with some facility. We’ll consider the core characteristics of the banjo – melody, drone, rhythm and percussion – and how to bring them out. We’ll work on training the ear for melody, and we’ll focus at a high level on keeping exquisite time. We will add repertoire, mostly from the southern mountains, in unusual as well as standard tunings. We will devote about a quarter of our time to the history and context of southern mountain traditional music, including guided listening to recordings of great players. This will provide understanding you need to best bring out the banjo’s core characteristics at your level of playing. You’ll have the chance to play in a duo with your instructor on the fiddle or guitar, further improving your understanding of timing and of interplay with other instruments and musicians. Please bring extra strings, a capo and, if possible, a banjo strap.

Intrigued with the sound of clawhammer banjo? This is the class for you! We’ll work on the basic clawhammer down-stroke style, develop some left-hand techniques (slides, hammer-ons & pull-offs) and pull these all together using some simple, yet great, southern tunes. This class is designed for players new to the banjo or new to the clawhammer style. I can promise a fun, comfortable pace. Singing and laughter is encouraged! I encourage you to bring a capo, extra strings and a strap. Tablature will be provided for most of the tunes AFTER we’ve worked on them.

Although there isn’t one specific Round Peak clawhammer banjo style, there are elements of style that contribute to a recognizable sound from the Round Peak region of northwest North Carolina. This intermediate/advanced class will explore some well-known tunes from the great players of the Round Peak community as well some from nearby Galax and Independence, Virginia. We’ll focus on the space, style and timing that make this music recognizable. We’ll go at a comfortable pace in a safe, fun and encouraging environment and spend some time during each class listening to the masters playing the tunes we’re learning. As the week progresses, we’ll practice refining our tunes to the playing of a particular fiddler. For the most part, we’ll play in the keys of A and D. I encourage you to bring a capo, extra strings and a strap. Tablature will be provided for some of the tunes AFTER we’ve worked on them.




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.  (Find this class in the Fiddle Week Schedule)

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. (Find this class in the Fiddle Week Schedule)

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.



Other Events

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)

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.