MBHeadMando & Banjo Week - JULY 29-August 4, 2018

(Unless otherwise indicated, all classes have a limit of 15)


OPENING MANDO DOORS 101 (Mike Marshall)
This class will be an overview of my approach to playing the mandolin. There will be a strong emphasis on basic posture, technique and fundamentals. We will work on some simple tunes by ear, play some of the classics fiddle tunes and bluegrass songs together and discuss how to move forward with each of our stumbling blocks. We will cover some of the basic chord shapes and how to move them around into other keys. We’ll look at some rhythm patterns that can be most useful and I’ll show you some finger exercises and basically keep it at a reasonable pace, light hearted and fun.

OPENING MANDO DOORS 201 (Mike Marshall)
This class will go at a much quicker clip than my 101 class. We will learn some more advanced fiddle tunes, talk about how to create variations and improvise on these tunes. We’ll work on our classic bluegrass repertoire improv and learn some Brazilian choro and jazz tunes. We’ll discuss the deeper side of music theory and how it applies to the mandolin in terms of chord construction, but also scales and arpeggios up and down the entire fingerboard. We’ll discuss improvisation and do some fun call-and-response work to try to open up those creative blocks that you all might be coming up against and give you some tips on speed development.

This class will focus on many subjects designed to improve the clarity and precision of your mandolin playing, including technique (both left- and right-hand), tone, playing with clarity and confidence, crosspicking ideas, playing up the neck, rhythms and rhythm playing at speed, chord inversions, rehearsal strategy and thoughts for practicing. Handouts will be provided, and tablature will be used in the handouts and in the teaching of this class. Bring your audio or video recording devices if you wish, and lots of questions are always useful and welcome, and often provide interesting and informative topic exploration.

This class will be a forum on learning how to embellish and tap into ever-expanding creative sources, to open up lyrical possibilities of improvisation presenting your melody on the mandolin. Learn how to recognize the tools of creativity, and how to use your creative pallette to treat your listeners to fresh ideas and creative mandolin breaks. The class will also delve into improvisation, and Emory will take the class through creative improvisation exercises, and get you started on your way to creating great solos that are fun and always evolving. A collection of classic and modern bluegrass and newgrass songs will be studied and played by the class. Handouts will be provided.

This class is for intermediate players, and a basic knowledge of double stops will be of help. We will cover various ways to kick off songs in many different keys but also take it to the next level. We will explore building your solos for an entire song and then adding the ornamentation to make your basic breaks more interesting. This will be of help for folks looking to get out of a “rut” of doing things the same way. This class will be helpful in giving you the tools to be creative with other songs you encounter in your musical journey. We’ll also cover classic licks to make your playing sound more authentic. Questions are welcomed and appreciated as always! I also encourage you to bring recording gear. There will be handouts as well.

This class will be for the more advanced skill level. We will study some tunes that are better-known as well as some that are more obscure and then concentrate on some other ways to play them incorporating licks or ‘ideas’ that will lead us down the path to true improvisation. We will cover some rhythmic ideas as well. This will be an exploration of the mandolin that will help you on the road to creating your own style. All questions are welcomed and encouraged. There will be handouts and some playing by ear in this class.

Whether you play fiddle tunes, rags, bluegrass, classical, jazz, or Led Zeppelin songs, a well-organized right hand is essential to mandolin playing. This class includes a series of exercises designed to build right-hand strength and coordination along with tunes that make good use of these important skills. Topics will include holding the pick and relaxing your right hand; making a full, sweet sound; alternate picking and metered tremolo; triplets; down-strokes and when to use them; cross-picking and jig picking basics.

Ever wonder how some musicians can just make up solos on the spot? This class explains some of the basic elements of the language of the improviser including common types of improvisation techniques used in a variety of musical styles. Learn to use these crucial improvisation tools: punctuation – developing phrases that have beginnings, middles, and endings to tell a story; melodic improvisation – improvising based on an existing melody; harmonic improvisation – improvising based on the chord structure of a tune; drama – exploring tension and release in music; the blues – the American sound and how to use it in a variety of styles; effective workout – getting the most from practice tracks/apps.

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 will also 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. Students are encouraged to bring a recording device.

In this class we will learn some advanced mandolin techniques by studying a few of John’s original tunes and other instrumentals from his repertoire. 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” and “Side by Each.” For single-note fiddle tunes we will learn “Itzbin Reel” and “Cazadero.” For more progressive bluegrass and ‘new acoustic’ music with more complicated chord progressions we will learn “Birdland Breakdown.” We might even touch on jazz chord/melody by looking at “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We will also study chordal accompaniment, improvisation, and tone production.

This class will bridge the gap between the folk mandolin and classical mandolin. We will begin by working on the fundamentals of sound production, then move on to some basic mandolin techniques that include cross-picking, some nice exercises and some wonderful 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.

This class requires the ability to read music. We will build on the classical mandolin basics and the pieces will become a bit more challenging. We will focus on the great repertoire spanning 300 years of classical mandolin literature. We will also work on speed, double stops, coordination, tremolo, duo style, and the harp arpeggio techniques from the 18th and 19th centuries on some beautiful original mandolin compositions.

This class will explore the different ways the mandolin can play a role in Celtic music, with a focus on both melodic playing and varied forms of accompaniment, both for tunes and for songs. We will look at various stylistic elements that are essential to Celtic music, and will also cover topics that will be useful for musicians in many styles. We will also work on technical elements such as picked triplets and drone and modal-based playing. Classes will be taught mainly by ear. Students are encouraged to bring an audio recorder, pen and notebook. 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.

Mr. James believes that every human being is born with the innate ability to play “Shortnin’ Bread” on the mandolin; and that by realizing this potential, anyone can open the door to a world of music. (He offers his own career as evidence.) This class will present basic technique instruction along with songs for “first time” mandolinists to play, solo and as a group. We’ll start with “Shortnin’ Bread”…since you already know it.

Blues has been played on the mandolin since syncopating string bands roamed the streets of America’s Ragtime Era. The repertoire is vast, and it’s interpreters have included some real giants on the instrument. These hands-on sessions will be devoted to exploring and adapting some sounds from that legacy. Basic picking and fretting techniques will be applied to bluesy song arrangements. These will include melody, chord- and riff- accompaniment , plus some musical vocabulary for mandolinists who like to improvise. Some hand-outs will be supplied, and those who wish to use recording devices will be accomodated, but the emphasis here will be on actively playing by ear.

A Brazilian cousin of dixieland and ragtime, choro has experienced a revival in the last few decades in Brazil and increased popularity here in America, thanks in particular to the fact that it prominently features the mandolin. In this workshop, students will learn to play a few classics of the choro repertoire: Não Me Tocques, Naquele Tempo and Receita de Samba. Tim will provide a brief music appreciation session as well, with recorded samples of the masters of the genre, and a layout of the form and idiosyncracies of the genre. Take-home sheet music and mandolin tablature provided.

Learn to play several popular tunes arranged for solo mandolin. Tim will provide free copies of notation and tab for three tunes from his new album, MandAlone – “Here Comes the Sun,” “Yesterday” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” These arrangements will serve as examples and a springboard for a discussion of various strategies for arranging melodies and chords for solo mandolin.

“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?

“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.


In this class for intermediate players, we’ll analyze the solos of Earl Scruggs on “Blue Ridge Cabin Home,” “Your Love is Like a Flower,” and “Little Darlin’ Pal of Mine.” We will take a musical and technical pilgrimage as we explore in detail “John Henry,” and “Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” from the Jimmy Martin/J.D. Crowe repertoire. We’ll also look at practical ways to search for melodies, explore the concept of “play where your fingers are,” learn how to play backup by combining chord shapes, rolls, licks, and runs to produce quality bluegrass banjo accompaniment, and learn to combine the rolls and melodies in a stylized fashion that produces bluegrass banjo solos. Tab will be provided, and use of a small audio recorder is encouraged. (Class limit: 20)

Learn Bluegrass Banjo Jam Survival Skills! Knowing what to play when accompanying others is the key to having confidence and experiencing the joy of making music with others in bands and jam sessions. This will be a practical, easy to understand “hands-on-and-let’s-pick” week of classes covering techniques that you can put to immediate use in your next band rehearsal or the evening Swannanoa Gathering jam sessions! We’ll begin by mapping out the fretboard and create road maps using movable chord shapes for vamping in different keys using classic songs and fiddle tunes as examples. We’ll move on to down-the-neck roll pattern backup, with a focus on using forward rolls to give your backup that extra drive and power. We’ll then venture up the neck to learn some of the great sounding backup strategies pioneered by Earl Scruggs, J. D. Crowe and Sonny Osborne using the “In The Mood” roll, D-position licks and classic fill-in licks. Along the way, we’ll learn how to quickly hear new chord progressions, use the capo to play in any key and know what to play when. Tablature examples will be presented for everything that’s covered but it’s not necessary to read tab well to get a great deal from this workshop. Audio or video recording is encouraged. (Class limit: 20)

This class for advanced players will cover “Nine Chord Shapes That Explain the Fingerboard” by learning the names of the notes and where they are, diatonic chord systems, intervals, and much more. We’ll look at how to play in keys other than G without a capo, how to create beautiful and interesting back-up and chord solos for slow songs, the melodic style of playing fiddle tunes (and the different way of viewing the fingerboard needed to perform them), including “Red Apple Rag,” and “Lonesome Indian,” and we’ll take a look at some of Alan’s original tunes including “Peaches and Cream,” “Molly Bloom,” and “Munde Night Waltz.” We will look into the playing style of Allen Shelton during his years with Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys and explore Shelton’s playing on “Blue Bonnet Lane,” “Standing on a Mountain,” two standard bluegrass roll-based solos; “Company’s Coming,” a great lesson in playing in the key of F without a capo; and “Congratulations Anyway,” an inspiring playing of a slow country-type song. Tab will be provided, and use of a small audio recorder is encouraged. (Class limit: 20)

Exploring Progressive Banjo Styles. Melodic and single-string banjo styles, as developed by Bill Keith, Don Reno, Bela Fleck and Noam Pikelny can not only add excitement to your traditional bluegrass playing but also open the door to create solos for fiddle tunes, jazz and classical pieces and greatly increase your improvisational options for all styles of playing. We’ll analyze the picking- and fretting-hand techniques used for melodic and single-string banjo from the very basics to more advanced explorations of the upper reaches of the fingerboard through step-by-step exercises in different keys that you can turn into licks and solos. You’ll gain an understanding of the similarities and differences of these two ways of playing, explore how each approach utilizes the fingerboard, how to create licks in each style, and we’ll try a bunch of great tunes that allow you to put to use the techniques you’ve learned. Short daily assignments will allow you to progress through the materials in an easy-to-understand, step-by-step approach. (Class limit: 20)

This 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 listening to 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. Recording devices are encouraged.

This class presents an opportunity to focus at an advanced level on tunes, tunings, technique, style and context. 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 in clawhammer style. 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 the time in each class to the history and context of southern mountain traditional music, including guided listening to recordings of great banjo players past and present. This will provide understanding you need to best bring out the instrument’s core characteristics at your level of playing. You’ll have the opportunity 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. Recording devices are encouraged.

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, a strap and a recording device. 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. 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. 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, a strap and a recording device. Tablature will be provided for some of the tunes AFTER we’ve worked on them.


Swing guitar is fun and accessible. This hands-on class is intended for either a beginning guitarist or someone new to playing guitar in a swing style. We will use tunes common to the repertoire to learn the basics of chord voicings, pick technique, melody playing and accompaniment practices. Plan to be jamming over your favorite tunes by the week’s end. (Find this class in the Fiddle Week Schedule)

This hands-on class will deepen your understanding of swing guitar. We will examine the guitar styles of Freddie Green, Eddie Lang, Django Reinhardt and Oscar Aleman and will utilize elements from each player. Plan to expand your chord knowledge, learn how develop thoughtful accompaniment practices, play energetic chord solos and add some “hot” guitar licks into your vocabulary. (Find this class in the Fiddle 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.

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.

This class will cover the basic skills essential to providing good session guitar accompaniment. Conducted in standard tuning, a number of the concepts could also be applied to other tunings. The student will learn basic chord shapes, modal chords, chord inversions, and a variety of progressions for effective accompaniment in the principal keys used in Irish music. We will focus on jigs and reels, with detours for other dance tune forms and perhaps a song or two, but it’s worth mentioning that many of these skills can also be applied to other musical genres and styles. Classes will be taught mainly by ear. Students are encouraged to bring an audio recorder, pen and notebook.

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 Fiddle 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 at first band meeting time, no advanced registration required.)

Throughout the week we will feature several fine luthiers displaying instruments, including bowmaker Roger Treat, violin maker Joe Thrift and mandolin builders Max & Lauri Girouard.

Master luthier Lynn Dudenbostel will be offering his repair services throughout the week. Contact him through his website for his rates: