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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.

Build A Band


Level: 2–4

Whether you’re looking for arrangement tips and tricks, tightening up your band’s sound, finding a role for yourself in a new band, standing out as a player (without sticking out,) or just getting the most out of your instrument, this class may be for you!

Using some folk, bluegrass and country sensibilities I’ve learned over the years as both a professional multi-instrumentalist and producer, we’ll talk, write out, and of course, play our way through all of this and more as we deep-dive a few songs of the group’s choosing. As usual, I’d love to see some fellow fiddlers take a stab at this (since it’s the only way to weasle your way into bands and recording sessions!) but of course all instruments are welcome and encouraged! Some intermediate-to-advanced fundamental backup and lead playing would be an asset but certainly not a requisite.

Come and learn how to take your entire musical approach to the next level!



Level: 1–3

Ever wonder why the person next to you at the campfire is flailing on their instrument with reckless abandon and you barely have time to strum your next chord once? Why does it look so complicated but sound so good?

Armed with my ukulele and drumming skills, I will deconstruct some classics, breaking them down into basic strum patterns you can see and feel, and then build them back up with strumming patterns, different finger picking techniques, and feels. We will explore the pocket, setting a backbeat, and staying in the groove through the changes. Build rhythm patterns that fit a tune, and work on harmonies and arranging to make your music breathe, lift, and better entertain.

We’re going to have a lot of fun first, and then maybe learn some cool things too.  This ensemble class will include lots of rhythm-focused playing.

Bring ANY acoustic instrument along to this class. Students should have reasonable proficiency with their instrument as NO instruction on how to play their instruments will be given.



Level: 2–3

Taught in the aural tradition, this mixed intermediate level class will learn tunes from a mix of styles, focusing on multi-layers, harmonies, back-up groove parts and overall arranging for groups/ensembles.

Sheet music for tunes will be provided at the end of the last class so come with your ears and your audio recorders charged!

The overall goals of the class are:

  • to create a supportive, encouraging learning space;
  • to introduce tools to help learn better and faster in the aural tradition (by ear):
  • to explore techniques to improve overall sound and grow playing ability’
  • Have the students leave as more confident and competent musicians:
  • to have fun.

Prerequisites: students who are competent on their instrument and can play at least a couple of simple tunes by memory and by ear.

Guitar: Essential Skills for the Campfire Sing-a-long


Level: 1–2

Are you ready to learn how to play the guitar or build on your basic skills? In this level 1-2 guitar class, the emphasis is on strumming, singing along and having fun! We will focus on playing basic chord patterns in different keys, using 1,4,5 progressions and eventually adding a fourth chord and minor progressions. We will try some different strumming patterns as well as some basic finger pickingtechniques. By the time you are finished this class, you will be comfortable to participate in a jam around a campfire.

Bring some of your favourite songs and we will explore how to play with others using dynamics, different voicings and maybe a few simple licks to enhance the song. Please bring your acoustic guitar, strap, capo, picks, tuner and prepare to build up your calluses over the course of the weekend!

Guitar: Flatpicking 301 - Filling in the blank spaces in Me & Bobby McGee


Level: 3–4

Flatpicking is a basic, standard method of accompanying oneself on a stringed instrument. But… it can become much more interesting and involving with a little effort and the understanding and application of a few simple principles.

Most songs feature multiples of ‘blank spaces’ – cycles of stumming between singing lines. While strumming these cycles is easy and comfortable, the ‘blank spaces’ also provide an opportunity for a musician to add quality notes, ‘filling in’ some, or all of those blank spaces, and enriching the overall musical experience.

This course will teach a few basic principles and build flatpicking skills, beginning with songs of limited difficulty, and ending with “Me and Bobby McGee” – a song that is deceptively simple until you realize that it presents specific challenges.

Come and enjoy learning about a different aspect of guitar playing, and take the opportunity to enhance your playing with an oft-used, but rarely discussed skill.



Level: 1–2

The Ultimate Portable Instrument

In this class we will introduce and work on basic techniques, styles and approaches to the use of the harmonica in folk, rock, country and blues music. We will learn how to play single notes and chords, melodies and rhythm backup / accompaniment. In doing so, we will learn the basics of reading and playing harmonica TAB as well as playing by ear. Once we have that under our belts, and if we have time (!), we will look at other techniques including playing the harmonica in different “positions” (e.g., 2nd position or “blues harp”), beginning to “bend” notes, do trills and tremolo, playing in a harmonica rack, etc.

Prerequisites: There is no experience necessary but the ability to play notes cleanly will help you get more from this course and will allow you to play more of the Level 2 material (that is a hint to practice ahead of time …).

What to bring: Enthusiasm and a love of music! Also, please bring a diatonic (10-hole) harmonica in the key of C at a minimum. If you have other harmonicas, feel free to bring them as well. If you play guitar and harmonica on a rack, bring them both and we will spend some time on that skill, time allowing.



Level: 2–3

Finding Your Mandolin Voice

This mandolin class is for learners who can successfully play a tune in time with a metronome, with good tone and taste.

The goal is to go ‘Forward with the Fundamentals’, connecting good picking and left hand technique to music that resonates with our heart.

I will extend your experience with a variety of genres, chord shapes and popular jammable melodies. We will explore the role of the mandolin as a rhythm, percussion, and solo instrument.

You will receive handouts to guide our way through the classes and so you can practice at home following the sessions.

Mostly, I hope you will have fun learning and meeting other folks!

Old Time Ensemble


Level: 2–4

Old Time music, originating in Appalachia and surrounding areas, has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in recent years.  This string band music rooted in Anglo-Irish fiddle melodies supported by banjo and other rhythm instruments is traditionally dance music, now enjoyed in performances, festivals and jam sessions around the world. Everyone plays the melody together and tunes are learned by ear, creating a fun, safe environment to jump in at any level.  In this class we will learn what makes old time unique, the jamming tradition, regional styles as well as how to accompany tunes rhythmically with strumming patterns and walking bass lines. The class will also focus on methods to learn tunes by ear, how to hear chord changes, and playing in an ensemble, all skills that are great for musicians in any genre and at any level. Fiddlers can explore some new bowing patterns, and as a group we will work on maintaining rhythm and a driving dance tempo. We will learn some fun, easy tunes and even some hollers- you’ll be hooked on old time. Learning will be supported by videos and written materials.



Level: 1–4

Everyone has a story to tell, and a unique voice to share. Songwriting is storytelling that helps us connect with our community, and with ourselves through our creativity.

Through group collaboration and individual writing exercises, we’ll learn about what makes a song memorable, and how to shape words into emotion. We’ll explore inspiring song starts and strategies for finishing, as well as how to write melodies that bring out your unique sound.

Ukulele - Fingerstyle


Level: 2-3

Are you wanting to move from strumming your Ukulele to Fingerstyle Picking? Are you feeling you need a change from the DDuDuDu strum pattern and wish to explore other techniques? If you know your basic open chords, this workshop is for you!

Various Ukulele Picking styles will be illustrated:

  • PIMA (Thumb, Index, Middle, Ring fingers)
  • Travis Style
  • Carter Style
  • BONUS! – Open C tuning (Slide)

Applying your newly learned skills we will play classic songs such as Dust in the Wind, Banks of Ohio, Shady Grove, Blues Stay Away from Me, and some newer options such as You are My Sunshine in a minor key (Yes, a minor key!), The Water Let’s You In, and The Redtail Hawk.

No previous fingerpicking experience necessary. Tabs will be provided to learn new techniques, with a quick primer in Tab reading. For more experienced players, chords in alternate positions will be explored.

Come prepared to elevate your Ukulele skills and most of all, have UKEFUN!



Level: 1–4

Singing is a fundamental to being human. I believe that everyone can (and should!) sing, and that to use our own bodies as resonant chambers in music-making is one of life’s great joys. And when we do it together – well, that’s a whole other level.

In this class, we’ll run the gamut from the basics of healthy sound production, to exploring and expanding the full range of vocal expression, to addressing challenges and how easily we can get in our own way, to different approaches to harmony singing.

I’ll make time in this class to work with students individually and as a group.

And we’ll do plenty of singing together as well.