Acoustic Rock Ensemble


Level: 2-4

A funny thing happened on the way to a F.A.M.I student concert a few years back, we started as an acoustic rock guitar class and a band broke out. Beginning with the end in mind, this year we’ll jump right into it, using acoustic rock as a vehicle for developing ensemble skills. In keeping with the ensemble tradition all instruments are welcome and singing is highly encouraged.

While there is often talk of “chemistry”, good bands never happen by accident; there is a craft and protocol underneath it all, even if the musicians are unaware of it at the time. This class will spend a good deal of time working on a number of different elements that can go into making song performances unique, memorable and entertaining.

Changing out electric instruments and assorted gear for acoustic instruments requires a bit of rework to recapture the original energy of a full rock band. Developing new arrangements for familiar songs, dynamics, alternate parts, fills, harmonies, solos and more will all get thrown into the melting pot we call arranging. Since rock was originally never intended to be serious music we’ll have plenty of creative latitude. We’ll learn by doing, using some well-known rock songs from different eras as a starting place for deconstructing the essential elements and reassembling something new with an acoustic rock vibe.

For musicians who primarily perform solo a new experience awaits. For those with lots of group experience this will be a chance to enjoy everything that is great about being in a band. This class will involve lots of playing and every effort will be made to keep things light with enough time to work out more complex parts if needed. That said, to get the most out of this class, proficiency with your instrument of choice is recommended.



Level: 3-4

The bass. The root, the foundation. The first note (ohm) had to be a bass note otherwise the other parts of the universe wouldn’t know what to play.

Let’s take this instrument out of the ensemble and take a deeper look. We’ll start with a quick review of the basics and see if we missed anything. We’ll talk about gear. We’ll talk about the roles and functions and styles for all kinds of musical genres, including Folk, Roots, Celtic, Country, Rock, Jazz, Latin, and more if we want to dig deeper.

We’ll talk about transcribing bass lines or and how to get new ideas for bass lines. We can cover soloing. Even if we’re only playing to our family or pets at home when we practice. Who says we can’t play lead bass?

We’ll talk about when and how to use a bow and playing in thumb position with the upright bass.

We’ll talk about the relationship between the bassist and the drummer, and how to add percussive pops and slaps in the absence of a drummer.

Singing and playing the bass at the same time. Does it require two brains or are there some patterns and tricks to help? What about adding a harmony line?

How do we jump into a jam situation without knowing the tune? We’ll cover how to predict chord changes and how to make an extremely quick chord chart hearing a song just once.

Let’s geek out. Bass players unite!



Level: 2-4

Open to singers and players of any and all instruments. Using well-known songs from folk, blues, swing, and Caribbean styles, we’ll develop unique ensemble arrangements by changing up rhythm, groove, timing, and tempo.

In the process, we’ll learn how to collaborate musically, proving that the sum is greater than its parts. Bring your skills and talents, and be prepared to participate in the creative process.



Level: 1-2

Whether you are an absolute beginner, or just newly finding your way around a violin, this introductory class will help you find your inner musician.

The focus of the weekend classes will be on the basics – how to hold the instrument, technique, some preliminary theory and learning a couple of traditional fiddle tunes. The number of tunes learned by the class will be determined after assessing the skills of the participants.

While it may seem economical to purchase a new low cost violin, the student will gain more from their this experience with a quality instrument.



Level: 3-4

In this class, we will break down and analyze a couple of popular fiddle tunes and find new and exciting things to do with them!

We’ll delve into feel, theory, harmony, accompaniment, and by the end of the camp a couple new arrangements will have been born!

A basic theoretical knowledge of notes on the fiddle neck in first position would be an asset, but not a requisite.



Level: 1

This course is intended for people who have little or no previous music background.  It will not be necessary to read music notation to participate in this course.

Open position chords will be introduced using chord diagrams and then used in progressions of chords enabling the student to provide rhythm accompaniment to basic songs.  A variety of strumming patterns will be learned in order to play popular rhythm styles.

In addition to chording, the course will introduce the technique of picking single notes.  This will be accomplished by playing exercises, the pentatonic scale and then melodies or ‘riffs’.  Tablature (TAB) will be explained and used to notate this.

Topics will include:

  • How to hold the guitar and the use of a pick
  • Tuning the guitar
  • Common open position chords in typical keys for the guitar
  • Strumming a variety of rhythms
  • Chord progressions in different keys and transposition
  • Use of the capo
  • Introduction to fingerpicking



Level: 2-4

We will be learning one or two of the classic finger picking pieces which lay the foundation for finger style, including The Buck Dancer’s Choice. Fairly advanced stuff, supported by tablature and a video on my YouTube channel.

PREREQUISITES:  Those at level 2 may have difficulty with some concepts.



Level: 2-3

You’ve been playing guitar for a little while now. You know your basic chords, you know how to play a couple spicy licks, and maybe you know some basic theory. You’re proud of yourself for making it this far, you should be!

However, you know you can still go further. That’s where this class comes in. We’ll be learning some slightly more advanced chords (plus how and when to use them), some cool techniques like fingerpicking, and how to play musically within a group setting. We’ll also be covering some fun riffs and songs to expand your guitar vocabulary.

By the end of this class, you won’t just be a beginner guitarist. You won’t turn slightly red and make excuses about a vicious hangnail when the guitar comes to you around the campfire. You’ll be a solid rhythm guitarist that everybody wants to jam with! And if jamming’s not your thing, you’ll have more tools in your tool kit for your own personal enjoyment on the instrument.



Level: 2-3

This class will build your critical harmonica skills in order to play blues, country, folk, roots , rock, and gospel music. To do that, we will focus on technique and play a range of songs. While having a whole lot of fun, the goal is for everybody to “fill their tool box” with skills and experience so each person can grow further with this tiny amazing instrument.

We will play by ear and use harmonica “tab” – we won’t read standard music notation. The class will work on nailing the clean note using the lip pursing / pucker style, focus on your improving tone, develop basic bending skills, add to repertoire and playing styles, and develop familiarity with basic harmonica positions (e.g., 1st and 2nd positions; others if time allows). We will also work single note and melody exercises, finding and playing scales, basic comping over blues progressions, beginning improvisation, and jamming. Finally, we will discuss using a harmonica rack to allow hands-free playing.

Prerequisites / Instruction Level:

The class is targeted at both newer players who are developing their skills beyond playing single notes as well as those who have played the instrument for some time. This means musicians from Level 2 to Level 3 (as per the FAMI guidelines ( – a description that does not really speak to harmonica playing. Translating those descriptions to harmonica, let’s say L2 means playing single notes cleanly and L3 means you can play a major scale cleanly and have a good understanding of how to play chords. You don’t need to know how to bend notes.

That’s the starting point for what we will be working on over the weekend. We won’t be spending time learning the basics of playing single notes, how to hold the harmonica etc.

What To Bring:

Please bring a 10-hole harmonica in the key of C. If you have other harmonicas, feel free bring them but, for this course, all materials will be put into the key of C. If you are going to buy a harmonica, please buy one that is of a reasonable quality (i.e., not a toy). Good quality brands available at Long & McQuade and other music stores are Hohner and Lee Oskar. Some of the better Suzuki models are also suitable. Expect to pay $40-60 for a reasonable quality harmonica. Cheap harmonicas make it difficult to play single notes cleanly and have a limited lifespan. We will not be playing chromatic harmonica (the one with button on the side) in the course. If you have a harmonica rack and want to learn how to use it, please bring it as well. I also recommend bringing a notebook, pen or pencil, and music stand.



Level: 1-2

This class is intended for those who:

  • have never played a Mandolin before, but play another stringed instrument (Guitar, Banjo, Ukulele at least to the level of knowing and moving between basic chords);
  • already know a few chords, want to gain more skill and confidence in playing with others and want to learn the accompaniment to some new songs.

You won’t need to know how to read music. Lyric & chord sheets will be provided and by the end of the weekend students should be able to move fairly easily between chords in the keys of C, D & G; accompany songs with strumming and simple melody runs; read Mandolin chord charts and to have a repertoire of a few songs.

We will also learn about Mandolin history and family connections (Mandola, Mandocello, Mandobass and other cousins!). A selection of these close relatives will be available for participants to try their hand at some of these 8- (and more!) string variants.

A good – and enjoyable – way to become a better player is to play with others. The class also provides an opportunity to play with like-minded folks in a comfortable, supportive setting where we can listen to and learn from each other in:

  • playing and singing (and harmonizing) in a band
  • how to arrange songs, interact and support each other
  • how and when to solo and to “make space” for soloing

Don’t forget to bring your smiles, enthusiasm and sense of humour!



Level: 2-4

Instead of cringing at the thought of music theory, learn to love it! Make it a tool to expand your playing.

We’ll learn where chords come from and different ways to use them. The Nashville Numbering System will be introduced and students will learn to think of chord function, rather than just the letter name.

We’ll develop the practical skills required when playing with other instruments, when you (or someone else) is using a capo, or when you have to move to a new key on the spot.

The class will consist of discussion of the important elements of theory, plenty of playing, and ear training, where students will learn to recognize chords by hearing them.

The ability to read music is not a pre-requisite! (Nor is it a handicap.)



Level: 1-4

Like doing anything creative, it takes courage, a fair chunk of effort and a decent sprinkle of luck to write great songs. But it also takes craft – skill that’s developed through understanding and employing tools and rules of the trade.

In this session, we’ll take a look at a number of those tools and rules and how they’re applied to melody, chord structures and lyrics. We’ll listen to and discuss a few truly great songs and will roll up our sleeves and put some of these tactics to use. Together we’ll work through a few writing exercises that will help get the creative juices flowing and independently you’ll get a chance to work towards sculpting your own ideas into songs.

Regardless of your experience, confidence, or sense of innate “talent”, you can come to this session knowing you’ll be developing your skills in a highly supportive environment.



Level: 1-2

This class is intended for those who have never played a `ukulele (or perhaps any stringed instrument) before and would love to learn how to hold, tune, and play the `ukulele for sing-alongs, and for those who already know a few chords and just want to gain more skill and confidence in playing. You won’t need any previous musical experience, and don’t need to know how to read music! By the end of the weekend students should be able to move fairly easily between chords in the keys of C, D, G, A and to play various strum styles, read ukulele chord charts tab and to have a repertoire of a few songs.



Level: 1-4

Experience the simple yet immense pleasure of harmonizing with others in this fun, uplifting class that teaches multi-part harmony arrangements. In this interactive class you will learn how to sing harmony naturally and intuitively, gaining skills and techniques to find beautiful harmonies. We will start out with the essentials and by the end of the weekend you will know how to harmonize above and below the melody. Prepare to do lots of singing and to challenge yourself to use your ear in new ways as we will go through practice activities, work to blend our voices in small and larger groups, sing songs we love and learn new songs!

Some things we will cover:

  • most commonly used harmony techniques
  • how to create a great vocal blend
  • building harmonies by ear
  • tricks to practice singing in harmony on your own
  • tips for maintaining great vocal health