Old Time Week Classes - July 17-23, 2016



In keeping with the tradition and nature of Appalachian music, learning by ear is encouraged. Some instructors may provide tablature and other handouts as memory aids. Hand-held audio (not video) recorders are highly recommended for all instrumental and singing classes. Unless otherwise indicated, all classes have a limit of 15. Fiddle classes are offered at four different levels: 0 – Beginner; I – Advanced-Beginner; II – Intermediate; III – Advanced (see definitions on pg. 1). Please consider your skill level carefully when registering for classes.


OLD-TIME FIDDLE 0 (John Herrmann)
This class for complete beginners will start with the basics of tuning, bowing, and finding the notes on the fingerboard. By the end of the week students will have learned cross-tuning, a few simple bowing patterns, how to learn tunes by ear, and be able to play a few standard old-time tunes. Please bring a working fiddle and bow. No prior experience necessary.

This class will focus on enhancing and building upon bowing style and technique to help the student get that “old-time” sound. We will cover various tunes from different regions of the country with an emphasis on repertoire. In addition, the class will focus on tunes with interesting tunings to aid the student in being more familiar with their instrument. Most of all, we’ll have fun.

OLD-TIME FIDDLE I B (Erynn Marshall)
This is a class for advanced-beginner fiddlers who already know a few tunes and would like to learn how to improve them, play with ease and join the jams. Bowing tips and left hand ornaments will be explored. Bring a recorder. We will learn tunes slowly by ear and have fun!

OLD-TIME FIDDLE II A (Erynn Marshall)
One of the best stringbands to come out of Virginia (Fauquier County) was John Ashby & The Free State Ramblers – one of the longest-running bands ever. This fiddle class will pay homage to Ashby (1915-1979) by learning several his great dance tunes. We will delve into old-time ornaments, bowing secrets and how to bring life to your fiddling. Bring a recorder and get ready to learn some blue-ribbon worthy tunes.

In this class, we’ll survey regional styles, from Texas to North Carolina to Georgia and the Midwest, making stops along the way to dig into some tunes in detail. Emphasis will be on using the bow to make rhythm, on proper phrasing, and just making the fiddle speak. We’ll spend some time learning to grab a tune from the air (the aural tradition) and put it on the instrument. If enough folks are interested, we’ll also do a session on singing with the fiddle.

We’ll explore three significant Appalachian styles: the graceful sounds of the old repertoire and bowing from the Galax, Virgnia area; the Round Peak fiddle tradition of North Carolina and Virginia; and the post-World War II square dance style with a longer bow and strong attack. We’ll listen, sing, and play, focusing on excellent timing and phrasing, and considering what makes great fiddle playing great. Please bring a recording device if you can, listen to plenty of fiddle music before camp, and be prepared to learn by ear and to further train your ear in a welcoming and fun setting.

This class for intermediate fiddlers will focus mostly on building a repertoire of fiddle tunes. Students will be introduced to a range of tunes from the Midwest, the Ohio Valley, and the Appalachian Mountain and Shenandoah Valley regions. The class will explore tunes in different tunings, keys, tunes in two keys, as well as just plain old jamming. We will also explore strategies in bowing to get the sound you want when playing with just a banjo, twin fiddling, or leading a guitar. We’ll also be sure to have a good time.

In this class for intermediate and advanced fiddlers, we’ll take a deep look and listen to some classic old fiddle recordings. The goal is to discover what makes the performances so powerful, and to learn and play those tunes together. We’ll identify and develop the things that make old-time music strong and unique: ornamentation, intonation, pulse, and language. We may also have a session on harmonizing and accompanying songs with the fiddle.

This class is for intermediate/advanced fiddlers. We will learn some of Eddie’s favorite tunes, especially tunes he would consider good fiddlers’ convention tunes (tunes with a lot of drive). Emphasis will be placed on bowing and expanding your repertoire. We will try to learn at least two tunes a day if possible. Students are encouraged to bring recording devices to this class. Come prepared to have a good time as well! We will talk about different regional styles of southern Appalachia, and the different influences they have had on Eddie’s personal style. He will be teaching tunes out of standard tuning as well as cross key, and we may even cross the border of Virginia into the West Virginia repertoire! Eddie trys to show up at least 20 minutes early each day and go over what we have learned so far that week, a sort of warm-up session before the class. A CD of the tunes that we will learn (slowed down version) will be provided as well.

We’ll build on the vocabulary of southern bowing rhythms by looking at some of the complex, syncopated rhythms that traditional fiddlers commonly use, and learn repertoire that gives them a good workout – one or two tunes a day, drawn from different parts of the south. We’ll also talk about other elements of style and quirks of individual fiddlers. This is an advanced class, so you should already have good facility on the fiddle (no difficulty keeping up with others in jam sessions or bands), be familiar with the most common keys (A, D, G, and C), and be able to learn short phrases by ear. We’ll use other tunings besides the standard GDAE, and you should be willing to learn to use them. Bring a recording device as well as extra strings.

FIDDLE & BANJO – GALAX STYLE (Eddie Bond & Josh Ellis)
Focusing on the old-time repertoire from the region surrounding Galax, VA, this class for intermediate and advanced players will focus on the tight interplay between the fiddle and banjo. These two instruments formed the basis of southern Appalachian dance music for the better part of a century, and they remain the core of the old-time band sound today. We will learn tunes from the Galax repertoire and explore the rhythmic connection between the fiddle and banjo, the relationship of melody to chords/drones, the ability to adapt to one another, in short, utilizing the complementary nature of these two instruments to create as much sound and rhythm as possible. (Class limit: 12 fiddles, 12 banjos).


In this class for the total beginner, we’ll build a solid foundation of clawhammer banjo technique layer by layer: driving rhythm, ringing tone, learning melodies by ear, and listening to other musicians. Our main focus will not be on learning repertoire, but we’ll learn one or two common old-time tunes that we can play together by the end of the week. Most important, we’ll create a warm and welcoming musical community that offers an encouraging environment for learning! A recording device, an electronic tuner, and an open mind are all useful tools to bring to this class.

OLD-TIME BANJO II A (Gordy Hinners)
For advanced-beginner/intermediate clawhammer banjo players, who know some tunes in the clawhammer style, this class will focus on the rhythm of Southern clawhammer playing and explore tunes and “licks” in several banjo tunings. The use of a recording device is highly recommended, as all tunes will be taught by ear.

OLD-TIME BANJO II B (Sheila Kay Adams)
This class is for advanced-beginner banjo players who know at least a few tunes and want to expand their repertoire and learn more clawhammer technique. Students will work on a basic repertoire of tunes that are familiar to many musicians, as well as some North Carolina standards.

In this class for advanced beginner/intermediate players, we will concentrate on learning Galax/Round Peak-style clawhammer banjo, phrase by phrase. Different skill levels are welcome, so don’t worry about what level you think you may be, just come prepared to learn and have fun! Recording devices welcome and encouraged, but a CD of the tunes with slowed-down and full speed versions will also be available.

OLD-TIME BANJO III A (Brad Leftwich)
This class for advanced players will take a close look at the playing styles of northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia – especially the exciting Round Peak banjo playing from Surry Co., NC. We’ll learn the musical elements that sound so distinctively “old-time,” and a couple of new tunes every day. You should already have command of the basic clawhammer (or frailing) right-hand technique, as well the drop-thumb lick and hammer-ons, pull-offs, and slides. You should be able to keep up easily playing along with others and learn short phrases by ear. Bring a banjo that can be tuned up to standard pitch (G or double C) and a capo if you use one, extra strings (we’ll do a fair amount of retuning), and a recording device with plenty of extra batteries. I encourage you to learn by ear, so I don’t use tablature, but if you’re absolutely addicted to it be sure to bring paper and pencil so you can write it out for yourself.

OLD-TIME BANJO III B (John Herrmann)
This class for intermediate/advanced banjo players will focus on playing banjo with a fiddle. Emphasis will be placed on the rhythmic connection between the two, the relationship of melody to chords/drones, and the tight interplay between these two instruments, which are the core of the old-time band. This is not a tune-oriented class. We will mainly cover technique and theory and there will be tips on how to play tunes you don’t already know.

This class will explore two- and three-finger picking in multiple tunings and keys. We’ll try repertoire from established masters; effective backup styles; some of your instructor’s better-known tunes and songs, and take time to experiment and create new arrangements. All the while, we’ll train our ears and keep the banjo’s core characteristics in mind as we expand our abilities and banjo-picking tool kits. Bring a recording device if you can, listen to banjo playing ahead of camp, and be prepared to learn by ear.

Guitar & Mandolin

OLD-TIME GUITAR I (Carol Elizabeth Jones)
This intro to rhythm guitar is for beginners who can play basic guitar chords (G, C, D, F, E, A, Am, Em) but want to learn to play music with others. We’ll play backup for songs and learn to parse the structure of fiddle tunes. You will learn to play solid rhythm and understand how to hear chord changes in songs and instrumentals.

While it’s great fun to play the melody on the fiddle or the banjo, it’s all too often overlooked that the instruments playing rhythm are every bit as important to the ensemble sound. This class will focus on the role of the rhythm guitar in a string band playing songs and fiddle tunes. We’ll cover the common keys of C, G, D, A, and E; also the what, when, and why of bass runs in those keys. An emphasis will be placed on the strumming patterns for the right hand and how to develop a rock-solid feel that helps and supports the melodic instruments. We’ll try to de-mystify how chords (think I,IV,V) can be used to back up fiddle tunes and songs, whether they’re major, modal, or minor. Bring an electronic tuner, a capo, and extra strings (a strap would also be good).

If you know a handful of basic chords, and can hold a flatpick you’re ready for this class. If you’d rather grab a bass with your thumb and add a finger strum that’s fine too. We’ll explore the art of back-up guitar for stringband tunes and songs. Topics will include: the boom-chuck rhythm, chord choices, bass notes and runs, keeping time, tuning, learning to listen, and putting it all together into a duet, trio, or band. Guitar students may get together with fiddle and banjo students during the week. The guitar is an incredibly versatile instrument, which we will enjoy and discover throughout the week. A recording device and notebook are always recommended.

Making the jump from playing chords, to “Maybelle”-style leads, to flatpicking fiddle tunes in eighth-note style, requires good fundamental right-hand rhythm, comfort with a flatpick, some knowledge of the fingerboard, and a good ear for melody. In this class, we’ll use a few common fiddle tunes/songs to cover such topics as making the leap from quarter-notes to eighth-notes, pick direction and accenting (playing with a pulse), left-hand positions that put your fingers in the right spots, playing out of chord positions, using double stops to create leads, breaks and turnarounds, and good practice habits and exercises. If you can play “Wildwood Flower,” can kind of hear fiddle tunes in your head, and just need the skills to get to the next level, this is the class for you. This year we’ll also spend some time on what made Doc Watson so special, by learning some of Doc’s iconic runs, signature licks, tags, and endings.

Mandolin can add rhythm and melody to old-time tunes and songs. This class will teach beginners how to play simple chords and basic melodies using traditional fiddle tunes and songs. We will learn how to get the instrument in tune, how to hold the pick, and how to get a pleasing tone as we build a repertoire of essential chords and common melodies. Tunes and songs will be taught by ear. Please bring your mandolin, an electronic tuner, and a flatpick. A small recording device is also recommended.

This intermediate-level class will focus on learning old-time songs and tunes, with a good dose of music theory included. We’ll come to appreciate just how handy and amazing the mandolin really is. Two- string chord shapes will be our springboard for making it easier to improvise and feel more comfortable in all the common keys and anywhere on the fingerboard. An audio recording device and notebook is recommended and having fun while learning will be unavoidable.

Other Instruments

Easy and fun! This class is for absolute beginners or those interested in building a solid foundation for playing mountain dulcimer in old-time music. Class will include dulcimer history, as well as playing techniques for developing the old-time sound. Traditional songs, tunes, and hymns will be taught by ear, but tablature will be provided. Bring a recorder.

This class for intermediate players and above will focus on playing techniques for old-time music on the mountain dulcimer. We will learn traditional tunes, songs, hymns, playing by ear, various noting techniques, different modes, dulcimer history, and more. The class will be taught by ear, but tablature will be provided. Bring a recorder.

OLD-TIME BAND 101 (Terri McMurray)
This is the right place for beginning to intermediate old-time musicians who can play several tunes and know some basic chords but want the thrill of bonding and playing with other musicians in a no-stress fun string band. Bring your list of tunes and songs and we’ll learn to play and sing together. All stringed instruments and singers welcome! (No class limit)

OLD-TIME BAND LAB (Meredith McIntosh & Gordy Hinners)
Students in this class will form string bands and with a little coaching, learn how to play together and achieve a cohesive band sound. We will consider each individual’s responsibility in a band, how to start and end tunes, tempo, rhythm, lead, back-up, chord choices, singing, band dynamics, and playing for dances or concerts. Bands will have the opportunity to perform at a Student Showcase or play for a dance at the end of the week. It is expected that students already know how to play their instrument, and that lead instrument players know a few tunes and/or songs in several keys with the accompanying chords. (No class limit)

My motto is “Uke Can Do It!!” We’ll learn the basic chords in the keys of A, C, D, and G and explore right-hand strumming techniques. We’ll work on hearing chord changes and we’ll play and sing a lot. Bring a working ukulele or banjo-uke. This class will be taught at intermediate level, but it’s easy enough that beginners should be able to do it, and guitarists will have an advantage.

BASS BASICS (Meredith McIntosh)
This class will cover the basics of old-time bass technique, including tuning, noting, listening, finding chord changes on tunes, songs and waltzes and most importantly, playing in the old-time groove. We will also talk about good body mechanics. It is strongly suggested that you bring your own instrument. If you don’t own a bass, the Swannanoa Gathering office can refer you to local folks and music stores for rentals. No experience necessary.

AUTOHARP I (John Hollandsworth)
The autoharp has been a part of mountain culture since the early 1900s and since then has played a prominent role in old-time and early country music with the original Carter Family, Pop Stoneman, Kilby Snow, and others. Drawing on tunes from the old-time repertoire, topics in this beginner-level class will include right- and left-hand techniques, finger memory, tuning, timing, playing in 3/4 and 4/4 rhythms, basic chord progressions, playing in major and minor keys, harp setup, and playing scales that will lead you into melody playing. Ability to read music or tablature is not necessary, but handouts on the tunes and techniques covered will be provided. Students must have an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two finger picks. A music stand might also be helpful.

AUTOHARP II (John Hollandsworth)
During the past twenty years the autoharp has had a huge revival, with some major performers and landmark recordings. This class will provide insight into what top players are doing and how to expand the role of the autoharp as a melody instrument. Drawing on tunes from the Appalachian tradition, we will cover both chromatic and diatonic playing, rhythm changes, syncopation, chord substitutions, playing in 3/4 and 4/4 time, arranging, alternate tunings, and how to interact with other instruments in a group situation. Students will refine their playing skills and gain a good understanding of clean melody playing on the autoharp. A basic knowledge of melody playing would be helpful, but ability to read music or tablature is not required, and handouts on the tunes and techniques covered will be provided. Students must have an autoharp in good playing condition, one thumb pick, and two fingerpicks.

This class is for teens only! It’s a time for all of you to come together and make plans to take over Swannanoa and possibly the world with music, dance, and other creations. Some adventures may include a young old-time flash mob, arranging country songs and practicing two-stepping for the Honky Tonk, creating our own square dances, old-time-ifying pop songs, big group harmony singing, and a little clogging for good measure. Games and mischief abound. All proposals for fun activities will be considered! (Class limit: 20)

Songs & Folklore

What IS old-time music? How is bluegrass different from old-time? What do terms such as “authenticity” and “revivalism” really mean? What are drop-thumb, frailing, clawhammer, two-finger, and rapping? Where are Galax, Clifftop, and Mount Airy? Can you dance a Tobacco Hill? What is a crooked fiddle tune? The answers to these and other such mysteries will all be revealed here. Focused presentations on “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” the Georgia Fiddle Contest of 1924, ‘Affrilachia,’ moonshining, and Marion Sumner will provide windows on the style and culture. Discussion, recordings, videos, and guest presentations will nurture an overview of the history and context of old-time ballads, fiddle tunes, hillbilly music, and string bands from the Skillet Lickers to Uncle Earl. (No class limit)

We will engage in musical and social harmony through the recreation of a rural nineteenth-century singing school. Singing from the Sacred Harp tune book (1991 edition), which features intoxicating harmonizations written in a unique four-shape notation of triangles, squares, circles, and diamonds makes learning to read music easy and enjoyable. The class will also weave in background historical and social context. Songs from other tune book traditions will be explored, including the Southern Harmony, Christian Harmony, and the Shenandoah Harmony. The class will accommodate both total beginners and veteran singers. Books will be available to borrow for class use. At the end of the week, members of the class are invited and encouraged to participate in the eleventh annual Swannanoa Singing with dinner on the grounds. This will be held on Saturday, July 23 from 10:00 AM-3:00 PM at the Warren Wilson College Pavilion. (No class limit)

BE A SINGING JAM HERO (Carol Elizabeth Jones & Paul Kovac)
Everybody loves a “jam hero” – that’s the person who knows the songs that are fun to sing and easy to follow and who makes great song choices for each jam situation. The jam hero knows how to share the spotlight and can lead a song in a jam with confidence and good grace. This class will teach you how to be a jam hero with a selection of songs we’ll learn in class. Students will have the opportunity to learn harmonies and jam on those songs during the class period. Students should be able to carry a tune, and while it’s not necessary to play an instrument, those who do play should bring their instruments to class and will receive help with playing backup and breaks. (Class limit: 20)

This class will cover the unaccompanied singing style of Appalachian songs and versions of ballads brought from the British Isles to western North Carolina in the 18th and 19th centuries. Handouts will be provided and there will be plenty of class participation. (Class limit: 20)

In this singing class, we will focus on style and repertoire in traditional country singing. We will explore ways to become a stronger singer by finding and using your natural voice to get that country, old-time sound. We will also touch on harmony, but that won’t be the main focus of the class. Bring recorders and voices. And bring some songs that you’re working on or need help with. (Class limit: 20)

SOUTHERN HARMONY (Alice Gerrard & Paul Kovac)
This harmony class will focus on how to find and sing traditional old-time and bluegrass duet harmonies. How do you find a harmony? How do you work with another person to get a good harmony sound? What goes into harmony singing besides the right notes? We will examine the challenges of different combinations: two women, two men, etc. One of the goals of the class will be to end up with students singing in duets. (Class limit: 20)

This class will explore the music, career, and unmistakable vocal style of the “Father of Country Music:” Jimmie Rodgers. Also known as “America’s Blue Yodeler,” Rodgers pioneered the use of yodeling in early country music. This class will demystify this high, lonesome sound, teaching several useful yodels in various keys. We will also learn a variety of popular Rodgers songs, including “T for Texas,” “Mother, the Queen of My Heart,” “Dear Old Sunny South by the Sea,” “Peach Picking Time Down in Georgia,” and others. For the guitarists in the class, we will also discuss back-up for these songs, including Rodgers’ unusual picking style. We will listen to some recorded examples and briefly discuss Rodgers life, career, and influence on the history of country music. Open to all singers. Lyric sheets and guitar chords will be provided. (Class limit: 20)


This class, open to dancers as well as dance callers, of all levels, will focus on the traditional square dances of the southern Appalachian region. No prior experience is required. We will learn about, and dance four-couple squares as well as Southern big circle dances, and students will have the opportunity to try their hand (or voice) at calling out the dance figures. Dance callers of all levels will have the opportunity to expand their repertoire and receive feedback to improve their calling skills. Mainly though, we will have fun dancing and learning about the traditions of southern Appalachian square dances. (No class limit)

CLOGGING I (Rodney Sutton)
Let Rodney prove to you that everyone can learn Appalachain clogging steps. This class covers beginning southern Appalachian clogging and buckdancing from “step one.” Learn the basic steps and how to put them to use with live old-time music. Wear smooth-soled shoes – leather is best, and no taps. (No class limit)

CLOGGING II (Ellie Grace)
Are you ready to crank your dancing up a notch? If you have already taken beginning clogging or have previous percussive dance experience, this class for intermediate/advanced dancers is for you. The driving rhythms and beautiful style of Appalachian flatfooting will be explored, and you will learn specific techniques for making a clean, crisp sound and connecting with the music. The dancing will still be highly approachable, but we are going to have a grand time forging ahead towards clogging greatness! Tap shoes are welcomed and recommended, but not required. (Class limit: 25)

Special Events

T'AI CHI (Don Pedi)
Start the day with a smile with these ancient, gentle, easy to learn rejuvenation exercises. Reduce stress. Focus on breathing, balance, and gentle stretching. Includes: T’ai Chi, Chi Kung, Standing Meditation, Eight Pieces of Brocade, and more. No experience necessary and no registration required. (No class limit)

In addition to the regular class sessions, Potluck Sessions are offered most afternoons. These one-hour mini-classes give students access to the entire teaching staff, and provide a wide variety of class offerings to choose from. No advance registration is necessary.

After supper each night, students have the opportunity to participate in slow jams and singing sessions. At the slow jams, common tunes are played at a speed that is accessible even to beginners. The singing sessions are a chance to share your voice and songs.

During Old-Time Week, teenagers have the opportunity to get together each evening after supper for a young-folks-only hour of music and socializing facilitated by Ben Nelson. The Young Old-Time band that forms at this jam session for younger players will have the opportunity to play for the square dance on Wednesday night! Teenaged string players, singers, dancers, and non-musicians are all welcome.

Evening dances will be held throughout the week, with plenty of chances to dance a variety of traditional Southern Appalachian squares and circles. Thursday features the long-standing weekly dance, the Old Farmers Ball.

Children's Program

We offer a full-day program, taught by Melissa Hyman, for children ages 6-12. Children must have turned 6 by July 1st to participate. No exceptions please. Evening childcare for ages 3-12 will be provided at no additional cost.

This summer, we will explore the fascinating world of ANCIENT EGYPT! Journey back in time to visit one of the most powerful and colorful civilizations on Earth. Over 3,000 years of mummies, pyramids, mythology, and mystery will be our inspiration. We’ll learn about the ancient world of the Nile Delta through crafts, music, games and stories. We’ll make new friends, play our favorite messy games and dress up like kings and queens of the Old Kingdom. We’ll write our own original, Egypt-themed songs with the help of our very talented music teacher, Jane Kramer. At the end of the week, parents will get to hear us sing and see the crafts we’ve made, at our big performance at the Student Showcase. As a special treat, we will be visited throughout the week by wandering musicians and artists (Gathering staff) who will perform just for our kids. We will, of course, continue our beloved traditions of shaving cream hairdos, movie night, crazy contests and the Gathering Scavenger Hunt. Hop into our time machine for the journey of a lifetime!! There will be a $30 art/craft materials fee for this class, payable to Melissa, the Children’s Program coordinator, on arrival.