Roots Music Theory

Instructor:   Jim McLennan

Roots Music Theory

Instructor:   Jim McLennan

Course Description:

Level: 2 – 4  (see Playing Experience Level descriptions at the bottom of the page)

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.)

NOTE:  This class is open to amplified acoustic basses.  You will need to supply your own small portable bass amp. Please see our Amplifier Policy for further information.

Jim McLennan
Jim McLennan

Jim McLennan has been a serious musician for over 40 years. He was part of the acoustic music scene that flourished in Edmonton in the ‘70s and ‘80s, producing artists like Connie Kaldor and Bill Bourne. His reputation as a finger-style guitarist, composer and arranger has led to features in Guitar Player magazineand an enduring reputation as one of Alberta’s finest guitarists.

Through his interest in arranging the ragtime music of Scott Joplin for guitar, McLennan met American guitar guru, Stefan Grossman and subsequently recorded several of his arrangements for Grossman’s iconic Kicking Mule Record Company in the 1970s.

Jim's first solo CD, Six-String Gumbo, was released in 2011 and was a Western Canadian Music Award finalist for Instrumental Recording of the Year.

Jim has appeared on recordings or in performance with Tom Cole, Ryan Fritz, Eli Barsi, John Fraser, Steve Fisher, Amos Garrett, Dianne Quinton, Paul Rumbolt, Tanya Ryan, Trevor Warke, David Wilkie and Cowboy Celtic, and Denise Withnell. Jim can also be heard with his brother Hugh McLennan in the Western Spirit Band at Western Music and Cowboy Poetry gatherings throughout the West, and on Hugh’s CD, The Creak of the Leather.

Website: McLennan Music

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.