Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop Class Descriptions


Piedmont Style Fingerpicking Basics: In this workshop, participants will focus on strengthening thumb/finger independence in the Piedmont style of fingerpicking through daily right hand exercises reinforced by easy arrangements of blues songs in a variety of keys. This workshop will move at an easy pace with a goal of covering one new song each day, and material will be taught by ear. Audio recordings of these lessons are encouraged with the caveat that such recordings are made for personal use and do not appear on social media such as YouTube.

Songs from the Repertoire of Mississippi John Hurt: The Piedmont style of fingerpicking is characterized by an alternating bass which is played by the thumb, while other fingers on the picking hand simultaneously play a syncopated melody. The result is a full sound that often feels like two guitars are being played at once. This style was beautifully executed by Mississippi John Hurt and this workshop will explore intermediate arrangements of songs from his vast repertoire. In the context of these arrangements, we will focus on strengthening thumb/finger independence in the Piedmont style of fingerpicking across a variety of keys. Master this technique and you’ll be an entire band all by yourself! This workshop will move at a medium pace with a goal of covering one new song each day, and material will be taught by ear.


Washboard Basics: Washboards come in a variety of styles and sizes and are made of many different materials. Invented in the 1800s, the washboard was primarily used to do laundry but was later used as a percussion instrument. You’ll find washboards in many different genres of music including string bands, jug bands, blues, zydeco, skiffle, jazz, and classical. In this workshop, we will explore basic techniques and rhythms that can be applied to playing the washboard in an upright position. Participants do not need any prior experience, but will need a washboard and a set of thimbles – at least three for each hand.

Bones Basics: Evidence of bones being used as a percussion instrument stretches back to ancient times in Egypt, China, and Greece. In more recent times, bones have appeared in the United States in string bands, minstrel shows, jug bands, and of course in blues. Traditionally, this instrument was made from a rib or leg bone of a large animal such as a cow, bison, whale, pig or horse. These days, bones are also made of wood, slate and different types of metal. In this workshop, we will explore basic techniques and rhythms that can be applied to playing bones. Participants do not need any prior experience, but will need a set of bones (a few sets of bones will be available for sale).


Country Blues Licks and Tricks: Don’t worry folks. My classes at Port Townsend will be right for you! Some pickers have been shy to sign up for my class in the past, but when they finally did sign up, they were amazed at what they learned. They went home with a lot more than they arrived with! The students had fun, met new friends and shared their love of “finger picking the blues’” with like minded folks. I have never considered myself a “guitar wizard”, or one of the greats. I cannot teach you to become either. But I can help you along on your journey and as we go along, together, help you create that allusion that you are a pretty amazing player.

When you learn 3 or 4 ways to make a chord and learn to ‘connect the dots”, the simplest song can appear to be a masterpiece. It does not take long to feel like you are improvising and making your own new arrangement to songs you have played for years. I have plenty of tricks & licks, learned from the Old Blues Masters that I gladly will pass on to you. You’ll hear plenty of stories & songs of how my style developed over the years & I’m sure that I will learn plenty from you as well. After our classes, I will always be around to help you out, answer questions and just hang out….. If you need a private session “after school’, just ask, I am there for you.


Lonnie’s Blues: Born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1899, guitarist, violinist and vocalist Lonnie Johnson grew up in a musical family and went on to become one of the most popular recording artists of the 1920’s. He toured and recorded with countless early blues and jazz legends, like Bessie Smith and Duke Ellington, and pioneered the guitar solo, influencing countless others who came after. In this class we’ll be learning a few of Lonnie’s blues solos direct from the recordings that brought him worldwide acclaim, and changed the role of the guitar forever.

How to Be Your Own Best Accompanist: Over the last several years I’ve been performing more often solo, and have been exploring the ways in which to accompany my singing in musically sparse settings (solo, or duo) with my guitar. In this class we’ll try singing a few simple blues tunes, and work on supporting our voices in ways that make things interesting, keep the momentum going, but don’t distract from the story of the song. Be your own best side-person!


Mainland Uke – Songs and Tunes from the Ukulele Age (int. – adv.)
Lightnin’ Wells is back for more Blues week ukulele fun! During the covid blight I worked hard to pull together nearly 100 old tunes mainly from the Roaring ’20s arranged by myself for the uke in a presentable form to teach. Hand outs will include song lyrics, basic melody and chord charts so we can all learn and play together. Ukes will be tuned in the now standard C tuning (G-C-E-A) which is appropriate for the soprano, concert an tenor sized ukes but not the baritone. There will be plenty of new (old) tunes different from previous uke classes for all you repeat offenders.

Mainland Uke – Techniques and Songs (int. – adv.)
This uke class will be more of the same except we will concentrate more on tricks and techniques for actually playing the uke. We will perform some musical exercises and learn some strumming techniques such as the the fan and the triplet strum to add some variety to your strumming. Some intros. and endings for songs will be explored as well as applying some of these techniques to more songs from the golden age of the ukulele. We may even attempt to learn a strummed melody on the uke as well as some fingerpick stylings. Participants should be familiar with your uke chords. A recommended book is Treasury of Ukulele Chords by Roy Sakuma, not an easy book to find but one which is in valuable to the ukulele student.


Best of Mandolin Blues (int/ adv). In my search through the 100 yr. old catalog of recorded mandolin blues I have found a few musicians who have distinguished themselves by their unique styles and approach to the music. Each day we will explore my favorite arrangements from the music of Carl Martin, Yank Rachell, Johnny Young, Howard Armstrong and Mathew Prater. Music in standard and TAB will be provided.

Blues Mando All by Myself (int/ adv). Playing music with others is fun but playing solo is a good way to go. I like to create arrangements with a strong mandolin sound, both for instrumentals or when backing my voice. This week I am going to give you 5 (five) of my favorite arrangements that demo this approach. They are inspired by the music of great mandolinists and guitarists in the blues. * Each of the lessons is designed for learning by example and by ear. We will work them together to make the music ready to play! Music in Standard and TAB will be provided at the end of each lesson for your future reference.