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Guitar - Bluegrass Rhythm & Lead

Instructor:   Matt Tata

Course Description:

Level: 2 – 3  (see Playing Experience Level descriptions at the bottom of the page)

Bluegrass music is a traditional style that originated in the south-east United States in the first half of the 20th century.  Although the musical structure is usually very simple, the music is known for its virtuosity and variety within that structure.  Bluegrass bands can take different forms, often with banjos, mandolins, and fiddles front and centre, but there is always a guitar in there gluing everything together and filling up the musical gaps.

In this course we will cover the fundamental skills and aspects of bluegrass rhythm and lead guitar:  from strumming patterns to playing solos.  We’ll work on incorporating lead fills into rhythm playing, understanding the role of the guitar in the ensemble, and how to incorporate the spice of other styles into bluegrass, without straying far from the tradition.  We’ll even learn to flatpick a fiddle tune or two.  The course is aimed at intermediate/advanced guitarists from other genres who want to sample bluegrass, or intermediate bluegrass players who want to jump to the next level.  You should be comfortable moving (sometimes quickly) between the I, IV and V chords of G and C (that’s G-C-D and C-F-G), and you’ll need to play with a pick (yes, a pick).  Other than those simple requirements, the course is meant to be accessible to a wide range of players, so consider yourself warmly invited to try bluegrass guitar.

Matt Tata

Matt was born in Boston and grew up in New York. He started studying classical guitar at age 8 and continued through high school, then switched to playing rock and blues in university. He spent some time studying jazz at Berklee College of Music before setting music aside for even more school, which he realizes was a silly thing to do. A few years later Matt was captured back into acoustic music, but this time it was to take a deep dive into the strange and addictive world of Bluegrass. Over the past years he’s played in several local bands, including a few years playing electric guitar loudly with the Jan Jelli band in Lethbridge. In his spare time when not playing music, Matt is a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge where he studies how the brain processes and understands the visual and auditory world.

Playing Experience Levels

These guidelines aim to ensure that all camp participants have an enjoyable experience. They represent what your playing capability should be before you take the class (prerequisites).

Classes are generally designed to pace themselves to match the participants' abilities. Level 1 classes aim to proceed at the pace of the slower students in the class. Level 2 and 3 classes aim to move at the pace of the majority of students in the class. Level 4 classes are designed to push the capabilities of all students and will target the pace of the more capable students  Class descriptions that show a range (Levels 2-3) means the material presented is broadly applicable across that range.

LEVEL 1: You are new or relatively new to your instrument. You may be able to play basic chords or scales slowly. You want to learn the basics of the instrument. You have very little experience playing with others.

LEVEL 2: You are competent with basic chords and/or basic scales. You can keep rhythm and/or play basic melodies and/or sing and play at the same time if the song is familiar. You generally need the chords or melody to be written out in order to play along. You have some experience playing with others.

LEVEL 3: You are reasonably comfortable with most chords, basic major and minor scales, and can play at an appropriate tempo for songs. You are aware of time signatures, song keys, and know that there are chords called 6th, 7th, 11th, etc even if you can’t play them all. You are comfortable maintaining good rhythm and are willing to taking breaks while jamming with others, even if the breaks don't always turn out the way you planned. You may be hoping to take your playing up to the next level of performing with a group or band (beyond jamming) and you want to further improve your technique and speed.

LEVEL 4: You are skilled on your instrument and have a good understanding of musical concepts including scales, arrangements, harmonies and some improvisation. You play lead and back-up with a steady rhythm and can play skillfully with others. You know there is life further up the neck on your instrument and have some capability in that world. You have performing experience, can hold a tune, and can harmonize.