Just Announced: 2017 Country Blues Intensive

Ready to build your Country Blues skills?

Join us October 18-22, 2017 for a Country Blues Intensive.  Blues masters John Miller and Michael Roach will be working to develop your abilities as an all-around musician in the style,  becoming comfortable singing, playing, and singing while playing, working in a lead or accompanist capacity, and feeling confident joining in and playing on songs you’ve never heard before, learning them as you play.

This workshop is limited to thirty people and will focus on guitar and singing while accompanying on guitar. This workshop is intended for people who have a reasonable degree of skill on their instrument. You should be able to play several songs at a snappy tempo, without pausing to contemplate finger placement.

Each instructor will offer two solo classes per day, one morning session apiece which will meet at different times, early afternoon classes that will meet simultaneously, and a late afternoon team-taught session.  Evening time will be available for small jams, discussions of the music and visiting, as the participants see fit.

John Miller’s Classes

John Miller’s solo classes will be drawn from the following list of topics:

  • Where does the vocal go? – We’ll look at how to place the vocal with the accompaniment to get you singing and playing at the same time and come up with a method that will enable you to figure this out for yourself for songs you’d like to perform.
  • Use of a flatpick for Country Blues accompaniment – Quite often, a flatpick is the best tool for the job in Country Blues back-up.  We’ll work on building skills with the pick, starting with simple “boom-chang” accompaniment and working towards playing fluid single-string runs, a la Dan Sane.
  • Thumb lead playing – Such Country Blues players as Leadbelly and Blind Willie Johnson excelled at thumb lead playing, in which the thumb rather than the fingers plays the melody in the right hand.  We’ll work on building those skills as well as using the thumb like a drum, with big brush strokes, and using it to play runs in the treble.
  • Creating your own arrangements – Consider the possibility of creating your own arrangement of a song rather than copying a pre-existing one.  We’ll examine strategies for doing this including playing the song in a different tuning or key, and changing the rhythmic feel of the song.  Persons in class will come up with their own arrangements in and after class, and present them to the group.
  • Other classes may be added to address participants’ particular interests.

Michael Roach’s Classes

  • The Roots of Michael Roach: After spending several years learning directly from such well-known figures as John Jackson, John Cephas and Jerry Ricks, Michael has developed his own style. He recorded 6 albums containing over 40 original songs and developed arrangements for over 40 country blues songs in the public domain. In addition to Michael’s mentors, he will demonstrate songs that were inspired by the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Mississippi John Hurt, Frank Stokes and Furry Lewis among others.
  • Michael will focus on his approach to accompanying a song. He will demonstrate using the guitar as a second voice by picking out the melody while playing an alternating bass with his thumb. He will also discuss arrangements and focus on playing rhythm (which is essential to the foundation of a song).
  • For the past 10 years, Michael has been the leader of the successful blues vocals class at the annual Blues Week program held in the UK. He has helped countless students find their true voice by focusing on breathing and phrasing. With John Miller, they will jointly conduct a class that will encourage singing while playing the guitar.
  • Additionally, Michael will conduct a class with John Miller called ‘Playing Together’ – how to play back up and second guitar. The class will give tips on how to accompany another guitarist.

The Team-Taught Sessions

  • The first team-taught session will focus on singing, and the second will focus on duet-playing strategies.  We’ll leave the third session open for now, and decide at the event where the greatest needs and interests are, and go there.

Learn more and register today at our Country Blues Intensive page.

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