Essentially Blues: Acoustic Guitar Intensive

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October 16-20, 2013
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend WA

Spend three full days in residence with master acoustic guitarists Mike Dowling and John Miller. This workshop is limited to 20 individuals. Students should be able to play a simple alternating bass fingerpicking pattern.

Mike Dowling will be offering in-depth sessions on:

  • Bottleneck Blues and Beyond–Explorations in slide guitar for open D and G tunings. The emphasis will be on tone and technique as Mike teaches strategies for creating slide ideas based on time-honored songs from artists such as Mississippi Fred McDowell and Tampa Red. Students will learn how to use the slide to add expression to their playing, making even the simplest lines sound musical. Mike will teach fretted chord forms, turnarounds, and crisp right-hand techniques, as well as a tune or two from his own original repertoire that will demonstrate ways to create arrangements so that students will leave with a toolbox full of slide techniques. Students should be able to play a simple alternating bass fingerpicking pattern. Handouts will be provided and audio recorders are welcome. No video cameras please.
  • Syncopating the Blues–What does it mean when a player is said to have “good time” (in addition to having a good time playing)? What’s the difference between a “shuffle” and “straight eights” or a “two-beat bounce” and a “four-to-the-bar” swing beat? What makes jump-blues “jump” and more importantly, “How can I get some of that myself?” Just take this class and Mike will show you. From the infectious boogies of the Delmore Brothers to the jump blues stylings of Louis Jordan or the smooth melancholy ballads of Leroy Carr there’s more than one way to play the blues and the field will be wide open in this class. Beginning with the 12 bar form as a template, Mike’s emphasis will be on syncopation and rhythm techniques such as playing on the “ands” for that all important off-beat groove so crucial to swing, ragtime, bounce and jump rhythms. With the foundation under your fingers and new tunes percolating in your head, Mike will tie it all together, teaching strategies for improvisation, arranging, and adding vocals to the mix. Lots of playing in class. Suitable for both plectrum and fingerpickers. Handouts provided and audio recorders welcome. No video cameras please.

John Miller is offering six different classes over the three days:

  • Bo Carter in DGDBGE Tuning– Bo Carter’s playing in this tuning set a very high standard for bluesy sophistication and brilliant ideas. We’ll learn Bo’s language in this tuning and discover some new possibilities, too.
  • Play What You Hear– We’ll work on firming up the link between hearing ideas in your head and finding them on your guitar. Learn how to generate your own ideas. Lots of playing in class.
  • Accompanying Singing– Learn how to back up singing and “play time”. We’ll work on grooving and providing a solid accompaniment that supports and does not distract from the singing.
  • Putting the Vocal with the Guitar Part– Almost everyone experiences some difficulties when first trying to sing and play simultaneously. We’ll work on strategies for keeping singing and playing both strong and finding where the vocal sits relative to its accompaniment.
  • Freeing up the Picking Hand– Working from the playing of people like Barbecue Bob and Big Joe Williams, we’ll strive to utilize the picking hand in more varied and dynamic ways, with strumming, thumb lead and string snapping. Make your playing more exciting and rhythmically emphatic.
  • EAEGBE Tuning– Working from the playing of Clifford Gibson and Ed Bell, we’ll explore this “mystery tuning” and learn some of the possibilities that it makes available.

Maximum 20 participants. Two classes/day with evening jamming and a faculty concert Saturday evening.

  • Tuition $300.00 (includes Wednesday night welcome party, classes Thursday – Saturday, concert Saturday night)
  • All Meals $150.00 (includes 3 meals/day Thursday – Saturday; breakfast on Sunday)
  • Housing $350.00 (13 rooms available)

Housing for this intensive is on Fort Worden State Parks’ historic Non-Commissioned Officers’ row. Meals together are not mandatory but encouraged as they are a large part of the community element. After dinner, faculty and participants gather in the living room and jam to their hearts content.

Packages include: tuition, all meals and housing; tuition and meals only; or tuition only. Tuition includes admission to a public concert in the Wheeler Theater Saturday evening.


Mike-DowlingMike Dowling

Mike Dowling has been teaching guitar for almost as long as he’s been playing, and during a professional career that has spanned four decades he’s received international acclaim for his tasty and unique interpretations of old blues, swing, ragtime and original tunes.

A guitarist of amazing versatility, Mike worked and recorded with such musical legends as jazz great Joe Venuti, mandolinist Jethro Burns and master fiddler Vassar Clements before embarking on a solo career. Clements calls him simply, “One of the finest guitar players there is, anywhere.”

After ten years in Nashville, Mike moved to northwestern Wyoming where he’s opened Wind River Guitar, a unique live-in guitar school he operates from his mountain home.

John MillerJohn Miller

John Miller is one of the most highly-regarded guitarists around. In addition to his work as a composing and performing musician, he has close to forty years experience as a music teacher, having begun teaching privately while still in high school.  John has extensive experience teaching groups, with many years service teaching at such music camps as Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Georgia Strait Workshop, BC Swing Camp, the California Coast Music Camp, the Port Townsend Country Blues Workshop, Augusta National Heritage’s Bluesweek and the European Blues Association’s Bluesweek.

John has also done a series of instructional DVDs for Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop, as part of the 800 series focusing on Country Blues guitar greats, as well as many artist-focused DVDs.