Instructor:   Christie Simmons


Instructor:   Christie Simmons

Course Description:

Level: Not Applicable  (see Playing Experience Level descriptions at the bottom of the page)

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.

Christie Simmons

Christie Simmons is a Calgary-based singer/songwriter, teacher and freelance writer. In June she released Learn You by Heart, her second full-length recording of original songs (following on Winnie’s Song). She comes to the craft of song writing as a performing musician who has dabbled heartily in a variety of musical genres and instruments (classical training in flute, competitive highland bagpipes, guitar, banjo…).

She has been raised among colourful characters, visual artists and writers who inspire and support her in her effort to write music that speaks to the joys of the mundane and the magical and to the soft underbelly of life.

She performs as a solo artist and plays guitar, whistles, ukulele and sings backup and lead with the high-energy, folk/roots group My Son Ted.

Website: Christie Simmons

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.