July 27-August 3, 2014
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, Washington
Details on our 2014 workshop are under development. Stay tuned for more information. Below is information from our 2013 gathering. For information contact: Acoustic Blues Program Manager, Mary Hilts at email@example.com, or 360.385.3102 x 116
Each year, hundreds of blues musicians descend on Fort Worden State Park, turning the historic facility in to a giant resonating chamber for acoustic blues music. The Park comes alive, and so does each musician who makes it happen.
The cornerstone of the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival is the week-long workshop where participants live and play with the bearers of acoustic blues traditions.
Led by Artistic Director Daryl Davis, the week is designed to make you a better musician–and does it ever–but it is so much more. Day and night, you’ll hang out, jam and swap tunes with interesting, accomplished, and fun musicians from around the nation.
This generous community shares your passion and energy, and we can almost guarantee that by the end of the week you AND your playing will be heading into directions you didn’t predict just a few days earlier.
Daily classes are offered in Hill Country, Delta and Piedmont styles, finger-picking, blues guitar, slide guitar, harmonica, violin, mandolin, banjo, blues piano, bass, blues singing, and gospel choir, all taught by masters of the traditions.
From the moment you check-in until you leave, you’ll be in community with and learn learn from acoustic blues masters. There will be playing opportunities, listening opportunities, and time for the unexpected…
Port Townsend Acoustic Blues workshop schedule:
- 3:30-5:30pm check-in
- 6:00pm DINNER
- 8:00pm welcome session – Wheeler Theater
(four class sessions)
- 8:30am – BREAKFAST
- 9:30 am – choice of instrument, vocal workshops
- 10:45am - choice of instrument,vocal workshops
- 12:00pm – LUNCH
- 1:15 pm – choice of instrument, vocal workshops, band labs, gospel choir
- 2:30pm - choice of instrument, vocal workshops, band labs, gospel choir
- 3:45pm - back porch jam, blues history
- 6:00pm – DINNER
- evenings - faculty-led jams, showcases, house parties, blues dance…
Friday night and Saturday afternoon and night
- Public performances and Blues in the Clubs
- 8am – breakfast
- 9am – shuttle leaves for airport from Centrum office
- 11am – everyone out of housing
Port Townsend Acoustic Blues faculty class descriptions:
(listed in alphabetical order by faculty’s first name)
Andra Faye Beginning and Intermediate Blues Mandolin/Violin – Overview of blues styles and ideas in different keys with the goal of getting’ you jammin’ and improvising the blues!
Angela Hill Blues Vocal Technique (all levels welcome) – For all vocalists and anyone who wants to sing Blues and Swing. Learn how to embellish a song with vocal runs, sustaining notes, when and where to breathe, maintaining the pitch, phrasing rhythms on and off the beat. This enhanced vocal class is an essential part to creating the finest vocal program to date and is designed to work in conjunction with both Gaye’s Performance & Repertoire and Maria’s Vocal Health & Warm-Up classes. The serious vocalist will definitely want to take all of the vocal classes offered.
Gospel Choir (all levels welcome) – This is an uplifting spiritual experience not to be missed as we team together two of the finest Gospel talents ever under one Chapel roof. Audiences will be moved to sing your praises as you learn to raise your voices in such feel and fervor that you make their knees freeze, their liver quiver, bring sight to the blind, and make the lame walk and the deaf and dumb hear and talk.
Arthur Migliazza Beginning Blues Piano – Students will learn how to play a 12 bar blues on the piano, with both hands. In the left hand, a simple shuffle bass pattern and a Jimmy Yancey style bass pattern will both be covered. In the right hand, simple chords and a blues lick will be covered. Using the blues lick, students will learn a method of improvisation and accompanying another soloist. A simple Introduction, Turnaround, and Ending will also be covered. By the end of the week, students should feel comfortable jamming with others and improvising over a 12 bar blues form. Please bring a recording device of some kind and a pad of paper and writing utensil to take notes with. We will be learning everything by ear. No sheet music will be used. The only requirement for this class is that you know how to name the keys on the piano (i.e. you know how to find C-D-E-F-G-A-B, and their sharps and flats. So if I say, “play the chord C-E-G-Bflat, you know what that means)
Billy Flynn Mississippi Blues Guitar – styles like Muddy Waters Robert Nitehawk, Son House/Open Tunings and Slide.
Boo Hanks Real Piedmont Blues Today – Students will learn Boo’s unique playing style. Boo will demonstrate and break down his two finger approach to chording and bass accompaniment. Students will learn his approach to timing, chord structure and melodic phrasing.
Real Piedmont Blues Today Repertoire – Boo will share several songs from his repertoire, their origins and cultural significance. Students will have the opportunity to learn Boo’s own arrangements and explore the finer points of his own approach to his material. At the end of this session, dedicated participants will be able to play several songs from Boo’s repertoire just like the master.
Caitlin Romtvedt and Dean Mueller Band Lab In and Out of Blues around the World – This band lab will focus on the edges of blues music all around the world: musics that have helped to form the blues, have been influenced by the blues, or have grown out of the blues. We will spend the week learning and arranging songs together to form a band. The music will come from West Africa, Spain, Brazil, and the United States.
Chase Garrett Blues Piano – basics as well as advanced techniques of how to play blues, barrelhouse and boogie woogie piano. We’re going to cover everything from Otis Spann and Leroy Carr to Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson. I hope you’re ready to learn how to play blues piano!
Clay Swafford Blues Piano – The idea is for everyone to have fun and walk away with something new and exciting. I will be going over several styles and forms of blues and boogie woogie. We will discuss different left hand patters, chord comping and soloing in the right hand. We will discuss piano styles from different regions and talk about the history of the styles and the different cultural sounds and lifestyles that helped craft these sounds. In addition, we will talk about playing with a band, covering ideas of working with bass players and backing singers.
Daryl Davis Master Class – ‘Gig Ettiquette’ to enhance the chances of the musician(s) getting a return invite to perform. The do’s and don’ts before, during, and after a performance, will be discussed.
Del Rey Blue Uke – Level: be familiar with basic chords and be able to keep time while changing them. Songs from 1920s guitar greats like Charlie Jordan and Barbecue Bob, suit the ukulele, but there are also little known ukesters, Lemon Nash of Louisiana and Rabbit Muse of Virginia who were African American ukulele players and showmen with distinctive styles on traditional and standard jazz material. An introduction to right hand finger-picking, what makes a melody “blue”. An introduction to learning melodies and accompaniment on blues repertoire suitable for the ukulele. We’ll listen to some recordings of cool source material and then learn songs (by ear-no tab) in class. Bring your uke, notebook and pencil, recorders ok if unobstrusive.
Playing Guitar Like A Piano – Some of the greatest guitar playing comes from the guitar trying to imitate the piano. This class will listen to Cow Cow Davenport, Little Brother Montgomery, Ferdinand Morton, Professor Longhair and others in class and find ways to play their fat evocative chords and pounding bass lines on our pusillanimous six strings. Lots of listening, no written material.
Dom Flemons Banjo and the blues- this class will focus on the banjo and the way that i have found it applies to the old-time blues. I want to let everyone know will not be using the 5th string for the first few days so bring a couple of extra sets of strings. We’ll go over different strumming and picking techniques and later in the class go over basic clawhammer techniques.
Eleanor Ellis Introduction to Alternate Tunings without a Slide – Open tunings are often associated with slide guitar, but there is also a tradition of playing in these tunings without a slide; in addition, they can be a useful way to get fresh ideas for arrangements, voicings and sounds which are different from standard tuning. It’s not necessary to know anything about these tunings before we start, but is helpful to have a basic knowledge of guitar in standard tuning. If time allows, we will cover open G, open C, and dropped D tunings. We will begin with an overview of the tunings – basic chords, chord substitution, turnarounds, intros, rundowns, etc. – and will put these elements together to learn a song in each of the tunings we use. Handouts will be provided, but recording devices are always a good idea.
Beginning Blues Guitar – An overview of basic finger-style blues guitar for people who have some familiarity with the instrument and can easily make and change chords on the first 3 or 4 frets. We’ll explore several blues forms, rhythms and styles, building up a repertoire of songs in different keys. Over the week we’ll work on 8 and 12 bar blues which use a steady thumb bass (like Mance Lipscomb), a shuffle (like Jimmy reed), and Piedmont alternating bass (like John Jackson, John Cephas, John Hurt). We’ll learn some useful “bluesy” chords, intros, turnarounds and endings, and go over some open tunings. We’ll talk about ways to practice that are fun. Sometimes, for those who are so inclined, we might even sing. All along we’ll listen to some examples from the originals, with a bit of blues history thrown in. There will be handouts, but recording devices are also very welcome and come in very handy.
Elijah Wald The guitar of Dave Van Ronk (intermediate) – This class uses Dave Van Ronk’s work as a primer for creating blues guitar arrangements. Van Ronk’s approach was based on earlier players such as Mississippi John Hurt, Furry Lewis, and Rev. Gary Davis, but also deeply informed by the arranging styles of Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington and the piano accompaniments of Morton and Leroy Carr. Though he was one of the most influential and admired guitarists on the early New York scene, his arrangements were primarily designed to back his vocals, and they provide a sort of textbook on how to retain the loose, comfortable feel of the older vernacular styles while providing a rich harmonic foundation and varied rhythmic texture, and never get in the way of the singing. In particular, his work suggests elegantly simple ways to approach the more chordally sophisticated blues of Bessie Smith and the jazz-influenced piano players.
Blues History, Music and Culture – A mix of history and listening sessions, these classes are open to players and non-players alike, and explore the breadth of the blues tradition. Each covers a particular aspect of blues history–or the history of the interaction of blues with other styles such as country or gospel music–with stories about performers, historical background, and involve listening to lots of music drawn from over a century of recordings. In the past, these classes have often shifted focus depending on people’s interests, and suggestions for areas that should be covered are very welcome.
Gaye Adegbalola Vocal Performance – Learn how to get the best out of your performance, work the stage, engage the audience, pace your performance, free up your inhibitions and perform. Students will also help develop one another through peer constructive critiques. Want to go professional? This is your last stop, baby.
Performance Class – is for the more serious vocalist — someone who is performing or wants to perform on stage. Students will perform and will be given immediate feedback in specific areas: stage presence, pitch, rhythm, body language, believability, projection, the “goosebump” factor, etc. I will foster an environment for all participants to receive and give constructive criticism. By observing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, one should learn how to more effectively evaluate one’s own performance. STUDENTS MUST PREPARE (know the words and his/her own key) to one or two standard BLUES SONGS for performance. (Please, no “Summertime”) KEEP THEM SIMPLE — that is, they should NOT have a zillion chord changes or, if they do, you should bring sheet music. Our accompanist, on piano, should be able to work with you so that you will not need to play an instrument. This will allow you to focus on your vocals. Only if your instrument is second nature to you should you play.
Sometimes in the past students have said they don’t know any blues songs. If that is the case, you should select from the following list of well known tunes: Drown in My Own Tears (Ray Charles or Aretha Franklin versions are good) / Stormy Monday (written by T-Bone Walker, but any version okay) / Cherry Red (Pete Johnson, Big Joe Turner) / Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out (Bessie Smith) / ‘T Ain’t Nobody’s Business (Bessie’s is good or most any version) / Mighty Tight Woman (Sippie Wallace and/or Bonnie Raitt) / It Hurts Me Too (Elmore James) / Thrill Is Gone (B.B. King) / Ball and Chain (Big Mama Thornton or Janis Joplin) / Since I Fell for You (most any version). These songs are not hard to find. I encourage you to find your own song, a song that fits you, but these are indeed classics and will work fine in this class. You should bring the song you would like to sing, sheet music (if the song is difficult), and a recording, if possible.
Grant Dermody Beginning Harmonica – There is no such thing as being too much of a beginner for this class. We will start at square one and move forward at a pace that will challenge but not overwhelm. We will work on and play with chords, single notes, rhythmic ideas, simple tunes, blues progressions and the beginnings of improvising. We will be making music and learning blues on the first day.
Intermediate/Advanced Harmonica – The main focus this week will be on tone production and improvising. We will look deeply at and spend a great deal of time on each. We will choose some blues tunes to help us hear, learn, and practice tone. We will also practice laying down rhythmic grooves in different speeds and feels and soloing over them. The idea is to find each players comfort zone and find the best ways to move forward. We’ll also spend time working on tunes where country blues meets old time.
Jake Heck Band Lab (all levels welcome) – Along with Maria Woodford, Jake will help students assemble bands, help them understand how to sound like a polished ensemble, rehearse them, help them choose material, and prepare them for performance.
Beginner Blues Guitar (all levels welcome) – Providing the skills necessary to play in a variety of settings, this class will cover different blues styles, chord positions, turnarounds, and a bit of soloing. The goal this class will achieve is enabling the student to learn the skills needed to play along with other musicians and create simple solos.
Jon Parry Blues violin - we will be studying the minor and major pentatonic scales in every key in the 1st through 5th positions across the fingerboard. There are six finger patterns on the violin that together cover every pentatonic pattern. The participants will receive hand outs of these scales.
With our accompanist we will put this information to practical use by improvising with a variety of blues tunes. We will discuss how to approach improvising with the blues violin, when to play, and just as important, when not to play. We will learn to identify common grooves and how to comp rhythmically with them. The blues violin has a rich history and I look forward to the discussion of its role in a historical sense as well as where the blues violin can evlove. Most importantly we will have fun!
Jerron Paxton will be teaching the music of Tom Dickson which will dissolve into general Jerronines…
Lauren Sheehan Guitar / Singing (intermediate) – Accessible finger-picking blues using the alternating thumb, with an emphasis on hearing/ thinking about the melody and then simple improvisation. We’ll learn an old arrangement or version by ear then play with techniques for improvising on it, mostly working out of the chord shapes (not scales or single note patterns). Expect to vocalize some, singing lyrics and melodies. Don’t worry I’ll help with that, too.
Songs for Sinners – Band Lab with Johnnie Ward and Lauren Sheehan – Horns, fiddles, guitars, mandolins, harmonicas, bass, rub boards, voices – you bring ‘em and we’ll integrate you into the band and shape it accordingly. Expect thematically appropriate cool songs from Johnnie’s song bag and be ready to work with whoever and whatever shows up. We’ll learn by ear, arrange and rehearse a few songs, polish up a couple and see what happens.
Lightnin’ Wells Intermediate/Advanced Piedmont-Style Blues Guitar - featuring the finger-picking style. The class will explore blues tunes in the keys of C,G,A,D, and drop D. The class will cover tunes from such Piedmont blues artists such as Blind Boy Fuller, Gary Davis, Sylvester Weaver, Elizabeth Cotton and William Moore. Students should have some familiarity with finger-picking guitar techniques.
Ukulele – Vintage tunes in the mainland style for the standard (soprano) ukulele. Vintage tunes from the 1920s, when the uke reigned supreme in America, will be explored such as Loud Speakin’ Pappa, Insufficient Sweetie, I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None Of My Jelly Roll and Shake That Thing. Several intros and endings in several keys for this small but mighty instrument will also be taught. Copies of many of the songs presented from vintage sheet music from the era with chord diagrams will be available. All songs will be presented in the now widely accepted C tuning for the ukulele G-C-E-A.
Maria Woodford Band Lab (all levels welcome) - Along with Jake Heck, Maria will help students assemble bands, help them understand how to sound like a polished ensemble, rehearse them, help them choose material, and prepare them for performance.
Vocal Health and Warm-Up (all vocalists welcome) – The primary purpose of this class is to increase vocal flexibility, range, control, stamina, and safety. Students will learn and participate in vocal exercises, stretching, and breathing techniques designed to strengthen and protect the vocal mechanism. Various tricks of the trade to keep in top voice no matter the circumstances will be taught. The primary purpose of this class is to increase vocal flexibility, range, control, stamina, and safety. This is considered the vocal warm-up for all the vocal classes that follow. It is highly recommended that all vocal students attend this class in preparation for the rest of the day’s vocal classes and to maintain vocal health throughout the week.
Mary Flower Guitar Styles of Rev. Gary Davis – This class will explore the ragtime, gospel and blues guitar finger-picking of the prolific and legendary Gary Davis. Davis challenging rhythms and moving melodic voicings up the neck were certainly piano-like and inventive. We will dig in and learn a song a day from his remarkable repertoire in an attempt to glean wisdom and technique from this master. Expect “Buck Rag”, “Oh Glory How Happy I Am” and more. Advanced players will benefit from this class. Tab will be available and audio recording recommended.
The Black Pearls: Where It All Started – This will be a guitar and repertoire class from the early country and classic blues women where we’ll pay tribute to the ones who started it all…Mamie, Minnie, Bessie, Geeshie, Lucille and more. We’ll pass the lyrics around and share the singing, talk a little history and work on guitar accompaniment. They don’t write ‘em like they used to and we’ll delve into this century old song bag of humor, love gone wrong and double entendres.
Orville Johnson Bottleneck Slide – We’ll spend the first day going over some technique info, making sure everyone can make a good sound and examining some damping and muting techniques. After that, we’ll learn a song each day. We’ll do songs in open G, open D, and standard tuning over the course of the week. Tip for those who haven’t done much sliding: wear the slide on your pinky finger and get a slide that is about the length of that finger but no longer.
Lap Style Slide – If you would like to take this class and don’t have a squareneck resonator guitar or a weissenborn lap guitar, you can convert a regular acoustic guitar by picking up a nut-raiser (a metal nut that slips over your existing nut and raises the strings) at the music store for about 6 or 7 dollars. You’ll need a steel bar and some finger picks and you’ll be good to go. We’ll use open G tuning (G,B,D,G,B,D low to high). We’ll spend the week learning some blues tunes and some patterns for improvising blues licks and phrases.
Phil Wiggins Harmonica – all levels of harmonica: beginning; intermediate and advanced, “depending on who shows up”. Phil is a master and tradition bearer of acoustic pre-war and Piedmont blues.
Rich DelGrosso Mandolin Blues (advanced) This course will open with a survey of the music of the African-American mandolinist, from ragtime and jug band to the music of Chicago’s Southside. Lessons will include examples of Vol Stevens, Howard Armstrong, Charlie McCoy, Yank Rachell and Johnny Young. We will also explore new ideas for mandolin, adaptations of music recorded by guitar players; from Son House to Gatemouth Brown, Muddy Waters to Hollywood Fats. Tons of new grooves and riffs! Bring a recording device. You should have basic playing skills on the mandolin. Music will be provided in standard and TAB.
“Sunpie” Blues/Zydeco Accordion – Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes will teach the rhythms, styles and soul of Zydeco and Blues from Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta on accordion and harmonica.
Tim Sparks Using Blues as a Roadmap to Fretboard Comprehension – We will start by learning simple blues scales in the 5 first position keys of G,E,D,C, and A then the fingerings and corresponding chord shapes up the guitar neck. If you like to jam you will LOVE what you learn in this class! Tabs provided.
Taking the Mystery Out Understanding Chords – Tim will demonstrate how chords are constructed and show how to harmonize melodies so you can make your own arrangements of your favorite songs. He will also hand out and explain tabs to some of his best arrangements like, The Mississippi Blues, I’ll Fly Away and Blue Bayou. And play around with a little Blues Swing.