July 28-August 3, 2013
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, Washington
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’re going to live the blues here in Port Townsend. When we design the week, we try to keep a nice balance between playing opportunities, listening opportunities, as well as time for the unexpected. Here is what was our 2012 schedule looked like; the 2013 schedule may change some but most likely not much.
- 3:30-5:30 check-in
- 8:00 welcome session – Wheeler Theater
(four class sessions)
- 9:30 choice of instrument/vocal workshops
- 11:00 choice of instrument/vocal workshops
- 2:00 choice of instrument/vocal workshops
- 3:30 choice of instrument/vocal workshops – gospel choir
- 4:45pm back porch jam
- evenings faculty-led jams, showcases, house parties
Friday and Saturday
- Public performances and Blues in the Clubs
- Breakfast 8:30
- Lunch 12:30
- Dinner 6:00
For more information:
contact Acoustic Blues Program Manager, Mary Hilts at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 360.385.3102 x 116
Below are the 2012 faculty’s classes. We’ll post descriptions for 2013 as they become available. In the meantime, we’ve left last year’s up so you can get an idea of what kind of fun we have here…
2012 Class/Session Descriptions
Mark Brooks – bass
A native New Orleans bassist that will teach a few bass classes at your up coming festival. I will offer the various different forms of the blues as well as the different bass line that can be applied to the different forms. We will also learn a couple tunes if time permits and I would like to as I did before, see how many of my students are up to the challenge of playing the melodies for me while the others study the bass lines. So that translate into, I look forward to having a little fun with you guys.
Eleanor Ellis – guitar
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.
Intro to Piedmont Blues Guitar
At first it seems so hard to do, and somewhere along the way it becomes so easy that you want to play all night. There is a “breakthrough” point in learning to play Piedmont blues, and there are various ways to get there. It won’t happen in a week, but once it does it’s one of the most satisfying, fun and useful guitar styles to play. In this class we’ll go over some basic techniques for learning, practicing and playing Piedmont blues guitar, each day working with a song in a different key. We’ll listen to some of the musicians who originally played this music, and find out some blues history along the way. You should have some playing experience, and know and be comfortable with making and changing chords on the first 3 or 4 frets. The class could also be helpful to more advanced players who want to learn this style of blues. There will be handouts, but recording devices are also a good idea. In addition to these two introductory classes, I could also teach these three classes: 1.Introduction to open G turning (without a slide); 2.Playing in dropped D tuning, featuring songs like “Big Road Blues”; 3. Tricks, transitions and turnarounds in the key of E.
Grant Dermody – 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.
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.
Rev. Robert Jones – guitar
Blues Fingerpicking 101
This class concentrates on providing a solid introduction and foundation to the aspiring blues fingerpicker. We’ll concentrate on techniques for developing monotonic, alternating and walking bass lines. We’ll explore how blues players move first position chord shapes up the neck in order add variety to your playing as well as to play in different keys. We’ll also explore how the “CAGED” system of chords can be applied to tradition styles of country blues. We will do all this while learning some key tunes of seminal blues guitarists of the past. All tunes will be in standard tuning. While everyone is welcome to come to the class, a solid knowledge of basic first position guitar chords would be most helpful. Also, since this is a fingerpicking class, the use of a thumb and fingerpicks and a steel string guitar is recommended.
Blues Slide Guitar
If you have ever wanted to tune your guitar to an open chord, pick up a slide and explore the sounds of bottleneck blues this class is for you. We will be learning the music of such slide guitar giants as Elmore James, Robert Johnson, Son House, Blind Willie Johnson, Tampa Red, Blind Willie Johnson and Mississippi Fred McDowell. We’ll explore many aspects of guitar playing such as the use of alternate tunings, with and without slides; slide selection, regional styles, essential artists and recordings, and more. Players of all levels of guitar proficiency are welcome, but a steel string guitar and a slide (either metal, glass or ceramic) will be needed.
Steve James – mandolin and slide guitar
Blues Mandolin Basics
Blues players who are adopting the mandolin as a second instrument and mandolinists who would like to add more blues sounds to their repertoire will enjoy these hands-on lessons. Using familiar blues themes as a basis, we’ll explore picking and fretting techniques, useful chord shapes and progressions, plus some easy to play (and transposable!) “lickology” for the gig or jam session.
Open Tunings and Slide Guitar
Starting with basic chord shapes, phrases and “turnarounds” in “‘Vastopol” (D A D F# A d) and “Spanish” (D G D G B d) tunings, this program will cover song arrangements from blues classics to Steve’s own song bag. The emphasis will be on touch, tone, intonation, and the effective combination of fretted and “bottleneck” guitar sounds. Bring your instrument and accessories plus a notebook. Some tab and handouts supplied. Sound recorders OK (as long as you don’t have to hold them).
Orville Johnson – slide guitar
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. We’ll spend the week learning some blues tunes and some patterns for improvising blues licks and phrases.
John Miller – guitar
Country Blues Repertoire by Ear
Each day in class we’ll work through and learn at least one song from Country Blues recordings made in the period 1926–1980. We’ll work through songs phrase by phrase with lots of repetition to make sure you get the songs. No notation will be provided, so bring a portable recording device to benefit best from the class. Class participants should be comfortable finger-picking with alternating bass while playing melody. Songs chosen for the class will not require advanced skills.
Country Blues–Trying New Things
Emphasis in this class will be on skill-building, learning how to work in different tunings, create your own arrangements, be able to join in on jams right away, appropriately, play time and chordal accompaniment rather than the melody, and other related topics.
Guy Davis – guitar
Delta Blues guitar, with some Piedmont style thrown in.
We’ll learn “Dust My Broom” and “Drifting Blues”in standard tuning, “Little Red Rooster” and “Statesboro Blues” drop D, and “Walking Blues” in 3 different tunings. AND Performance Class. Anyone can come, with any instrument, or no instrument, just your voice. Any kind of music welcomed. Open up your soul. Try something old or new. Tweak your on stage presence.
Mary Flower – guitar
Great Instrumental Guitar Arrangements (adv. level)
If you are one of the many guitar players who choose not to sing, making your own solo guitar skills shine might not be a bad idea. Mary will discuss how she manages to create solid instrumentals with multiple parts on guitar. She will share a tune a day with the class, some originals and some standards from the blues and rags pool, in order to stretch your playing to higher level. Expect fingerpicking and some tab handouts. Audio taping encouraged.
Open Tuning Blues (adv. level)
Mary will bring some of her favorite tunes to this class to demonstrate the primitive and catchy nature of open tuning. Blind Blake, Bo Carter and Skip James (to name a few) all slacked their strings for signature sounds. Class will explore how to improvise, how to listen and how to make a 12 bar blues your own. It’s no secret that open tunings are easier on the fingers than standard tuning! Players should come prepared with an extra set of strings, just in case! Taping any/all parts of the class is encouraged and ability to read tab read is extremely helpful.
Billy Flynn – guitar
I will be covering the Mississippi Blues Guitar styles, like Muddy Waters Robert Nitehawk, Son House. Also open tunings and Slide.
Terry Bean – harmonica/guitar
In addition to his class in Harmonica on the Rack, while playing guitar with energy and drive, Terry “Harmonica” Bean will teach Mississippi Hill Country Blues, guitar finger-picking and slapping, bending notes and Hill Country rhythms.
Lightnin Wells – guitar/ukelele
Piedmont Blues Guitar
Lightnin’ will teach 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.
Vintage Uke Tunes
Lightnin’ Wells will also teach 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. Songs may range from popular standards to the obscure and may come from the repertoires of such past recording artists as Johnny Marvin, Cliff Edwards and May Singhi Breen. 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.
Rich Del Grosso – mandolin/guitar
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.
Blues Guitar: Working Up The Neck (intermediate)
Tired of being stuck at the first three frets! Do you marvel as you watch other players maneuvering easily up the neck, wondering how they do it? This class will unlock the secrets. Players use “key” chord formations to find riffs and licks shifting between them to build a dynamic solo. You will learn this technique as you move horizontally on the neck. Bring a recording device. You should have basic playing skills on the guitar, including barre chords. You should know the E, F barred, C, A barred, and D chords. Music will be provided in standard and TAB.
Ann Rabson – piano
My blues piano class will be driven by what the students want to learn. I expect we’ll look at blues forms and styles including boogie-woogies, shuffles and classic blues. We’ll explore left-hand grooves, right-hand licks and tricks, turnarounds and different rhythms. We’ll examine accompanying, playing well with others and soloing. For my class you REALLY need to bring a tape recorder. I neither read nor write music so the emphasis will be on playing by ear.
Phil Wiggins – harmonica
Phil will teach 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.
Arthur Migliazza – piano
Piano (intermediate and advanced classes):
I will teach my 7 basic keys to playing Blues and Boogie Woogie piano licks, as well as several left hand patterns in the Blues, Boogie Woogie, and New Orleans R&B style. We will also practice improvising, talk about various kinds of chords and chord progressions, and learn some basics of technique and posture when playing the piano. For more advanced players, we will look at elaborations on the above mentioned. PLEASE BRING A RECORDING DEVICE, some good jokes, and let’s have a great time!
Billy Citrin – mandolin/fiddle
Students will be learning the basic 12 bar blues progression from me on Mandolin and Violin.
Since the Mandolin and Violin are similar in fingering positions I will be doing different with bowing and strumming to make a blues sound on both. All beginners will have to learn in the Key of G using the GCD chords. Advanced will learn in the Key of A using the ADE cords. All basic blues will use the basic 12 bar blues with the 4-2-2-1-1-1-1.
Advanced song writing around the 12 bar blues improv will be welcomed too. Advanced students can also learn some Mandolin Leads. Being self trained on Mandolin and classically trained on Violin will give methods of playing not found elsewhere. I hope to be effective in giving basic principles of blues that beginner students can use to play right away using only 2 finger chords.
Elan Chalford – fiddle
The blues violin workshop focuses on practical technique, musical expression and effective tone. Each session features a well known blues song or tune demonstrating a concept useful in playing the blues on violin. Some examples include Milk Cow Blues, St. Louis Blues, and Hesitating Blues. We will try musical ideas from pentatonic and blues scales, sequences and patterns, repetition with variation, ostinato effects and rhythmic emphasis to develop creativity.
Elijah Wald – guitar/blues history
The guitar of Mississippi John Hurt (intermediate):
John Hurt was the greatest recorded player in the rural African-American guitar tradition that preceded blues, and as a result his style can be seen as the foundation for most blues fingerpicking. However, many of his admirers play simplified or reworked versions of his arrangements, which do not suggest either the brilliance of his playing or the way it relates to later Mississippi blues styles. Hurt was an extraordinary arranger, using quirky rhythmic tricks and unique chord positions to add interesting flavors to his playing. This class will explore his approaches to various keys and examine the breadth of his song repertoire.
Blues History, Music and Culture
A mix of history and listening sessions, these classes are open to players and non-players alike, 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 background, stories about performers, and lots of music drawn from 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.
Ari Eisinger – guitar
This year I’ll be teaching classes for both intermediate and advanced students. For the intermediate students, I’ll be teaching tunes from Mississippi John Hurt’s 1928 sessions all week. These classes will progress from easier to more difficult pieces. They’re intended for people who are already doing some simple fingerpicking but want to firm up their alternating bass and start doing some more complicated playing. For the advanced students, I’ll be focusing on three different players. I’ll be teaching one or two classes apiece on: 1) Rev. Gary Davis’s early recordings; 2) Scrapper Blackwell’s solo recordings; 3) Charlie Patton (for the Charlie Patton class people should bring their slides aswe’ll be playing with the guitar on our lap.) For anyone taking my classes, I strongly recommend bringing recording equipment to every class, as well as listening to the original recordings a lot.
Angela Hill – gospel choir/vocals
Today’s gospel music has many diverse sounds and styles. It ranges from the Negro spirituals born out of a time passed, to the more contemporary sounds of popular gospel artists and choirs noted today. Gospel music originated as a religious form of praise and spiritual worship through song. We will experience the joy of singing this soulful art form while learning musical selections from both traditional and contemporary styles. Vocal techniques and performance skills will also be a part of this fun and exciting workshop!
Tim Sparks – guitar
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.
Jenny Peterson – piano
Beginning blues piano
Working on developing a solid left hand, riffs and licks in the right hand, and work towards learning specific tunes.Whether you are new to piano or grew up taking lessons but never strayed from sheet music, this beginning blues piano class will help you start to develop your own blues sound. We will learn the basic structure and elements of the blues, through different bass lines and riffs. Focusing on at least one new song every day, by the end of the week you will have a basic repertoire to work with as you continue on your blues journey.
Robert Belfour – guitar
Belfour’s guitar playing is mature and highly accomplished; his voice, clear and powerful, and the sound is pure country blues. Robert left the hills of North Mississippi forty years ago but his music never did.
Jimmi Mayes – drums
Jimmi will be working with Sunpie Barnes providing rhythms beneath his blues and zydeco accordion. Jimmi will also be available for one on one instruction in playing blues drum kit.
Daryl Davis – piano
Known globally for his burnin’ Boogie-Woogie piano, Centrum’s Artistic Director for the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, Daryl Davis, will teach a master class during the week on accompaniment styles and support Miss Angela Davis’ (no relation) vocal class each morning. Daryl will also be available for one on one instruction.
Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes – 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.
Lauren will be on site tutoring on finger and flat picking guitar, voice, beginning mandolin and banjo, and helping students sing while playing, and vice versa!
Gary Copeland Lilley and Ahmad Baabahar
Blues and The Word – blues poetry to music.
Photo: Participants work it out at PT Acoustic Blues. Photo by Roz Powell