The Boston Bluegrass Union sponsors and supports instrument and vocal classes for beginners to advanced, taught by our region’s best bluegrass musicians.

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Classes by Tony Watt

Tony Watt is offering two classes starting in March 2017 in Cambridge, MA:

Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar: Basics and Beyond

–  for those who want to improve their bluegrass rhythm playing
–  five 90-minute classes held on Thursdays from 7 until 8:30 pm
–  class meets on Mar. 16, 23 & 30, Apr. 6 & 20
–  classes held in N. Cambridge, on the Cambridge/Arlington border
–  includes handouts and corresponding mp3’s
–  $135 for BBU members ($145 for non-members)

This class is intended for those who want to improve their bluegrass rhythm playing and have played at least a little guitar before (you should be able to switch between common open chords such as G, C, and D). In this course, we’ll learn a wide variety bluegrass rhythm guitar skills: basic and complex, as well as traditional and modern. We’ll cover bluegrass-specific chords, runs between chords, various G runs, and much more. The primary goal is to provide you with the skills needed to play solid bluegrass rhythm and participate in bluegrass jams. You don’t need to have previous experience playing (or even listening to) bluegrass, or playing with a pick, and you don’t need to be able to read music. Students should bring a playable acoustic guitar (ideally with steel strings), a pick, and an electronic tuner. Students are welcome to bring a recording device, however, it’s not necessary as I will be recording each class and sharing the recordings between classes.

Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory

–  for those who want to develop a deeper understanding of music
–  five 90-minute classes held on Thursdays from 8:30 until 10 pm
–  class meets on Mar. 16, 23 & 30, Apr. 6 & 20
–  classes held in N. Cambridge, on the Cambridge/Arlington border
–  includes handouts and possibly corresponding MP3s
–  $135 for BBU members ($145 for non-members)

The Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory class is intended for those who want to develop a deeper understanding of the music they are listening to. Have you marveled at those musicians who can just “pick up a tune” on the fly, and play a melody-based solo seemingly instantaneously? Have you ever wondered what some people are talking about when they say things like “it goes to the flat seven”, “that’s a modal song”, or “that’s a secondary dominant”? In my opinion, having a great ear for melodies or a thorough understanding of music theory is actually not essential to becoming a talented bluegrass musician, but it certainly can help speed you along the journey. While some people may be born with a strong ear for melodies, fortunately for the rest of us, ear training includes a set of skills that you can learn and practice just like learning chords or leads. And music theory can help you recognize the patterns common in music (and therefore hear them easier), and allow you to communicate better with other musicians.

The Fundamentals of Ear Training and Music Theory class is open to all instruments, both rhythm players (backup) and lead players (soloing). The class is open to all levels, but is geared towards those who have trouble finding a melody either on their instrument or with their voice. We will start by focusing on the basics of ear training, including hearing chord changes, hearing intervals, hearing melodies in real time, and transcribing solos by slowing down recordings. We will also focus on the fundamentals of music theory and how to apply them directly to bluegrass jams. We will discuss keys, chords, and notes, including the “Nashville Number System”, and review some of the most useful scales and modes which help us play songs that are major, minor, bluesy, or modal. We will also examine common features of melody and harmony that should help you out in your next jam.

Students should bring a playable instrument as well as pick(s), capo (where applicable), and electronic tuner. There are no prerequisite songs, and you don’t need to be able to play leads on your instrument, read music, or sing. Some prior experience with bluegrass jamming will be helpful but definitely is not necessary. Students are welcome to record the class, however, it’s not necessary as I will be recording each class and sharing the recordings between classes.

These classes are all being held in north Cambridge, a half mile from where Rt. 2 hits Cambridge at the Alewife T station. This location is one block from the intersection of Rt. 16 and Mass. Ave., near the Cambridge/Arlington border. There is plenty of meter-free, permit-free parking on Mass. Ave., and it is also only a 10-minute walk from Alewife and 15 minutes from Davis Sq., but if you are going to take public transportation, please contact Tony (at email hidden; JavaScript is required) so he can recommend how best to get there.

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Banjo Classes by Rich Stillman

Richard Stillman has been playing banjo for nearly thirty years, including stints with a number of influential Northeast bluegrass bands, including the Jersey Travelers (four years, one album), Southern Rail (four years, two albums), WayStation (seven years, one CD) and his current band, Adam Dewey and Crazy Creek (three years, two CDs). He has additional studio recording credits with New England folk artists John Burrows and John Michaels. Mr. Stillman was New Jersey banjo champion in 1983 and the 2002 and 2003 New England banjo champion. He is a six-time winner of the annual banjo contest held at Lowell, Massachusetts (1985-1995), where he has given the bluegrass banjo workshop every year since 1996.

For info on banjo lessons, please contact Rich Stillman <stillman@waystation.net>

Bluegrass Academy Objectives

Bluegrass Academy Objectives

 

With today’s resurgence of interest in bluegrass and traditional music, there is more call than ever for instruction. To meet this need, the Boston Bluegrass Union offers educational programs for children and adults.

BBU’s Bluegrass Academy offers group and individual instruction by some of the best instrumental teachers in the greater Boston area. Beginning classes are designed to give students a common repertoire and understanding of the roles of the respective bluegrass instruments, and to further their musical enjoyment and participation. Instruction is designed to deepen the musician’s understanding of the music, and to help the musician along the creative path, whether contemporary or traditional. Classes will help players to connect with their natural voice.

All classes will offer technical instruction as well as historical background. As the Bluegrass Academy concept evolves, the offerings will branch out to cover diverse areas of interest.

The Bluegrass Academy uses original materials and a variety of teaching techniques, including handouts, video, CDs, and internet support. All classes focus on the most practical techniques, with an eye toward the big picture: not just playing the instrument, but understanding its role in the bluegrass band, to build the ensemble playing skills which can enhance musical enjoyment.

The Bluegrass Academy is committed to unlocking bluegrass in all of its forms: traditional, contemporary, progressive, and everything in between! Together we will have fun and share music in the jamming tradition that has nurtured bluegrass from its earliest beginnings. Please join us!