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Tracks and Classes
ABC currently offers eight banjo tracks (eight or more classes in every class period), a fiddle track (at least one class in every class period), and a smattering of classes in other instruments (e.g. guitar, bass, uke, mandolin) as well as classes in general topics not tied to any single instrument type (e.g. jam etiquette, songwriting).
We offer banjo classes in tracks at four levels from beginner through lower and upper intermediate to advanced. While some classes have a broad topical focus and a very specific level ("Basic Fiddle Tune Back-up" or "Advanced Chromatic Soloing") other classes address a specific aspect of banjo playing useful at all levels of play ("Tuning the Banjo -- Theory & Practice" or "Learning Tunes by Ear"). The attendee's answers to the questions on the registration form about playing level, jamming experience, and so forth, are used to help plan the number and levels of classes. This means that the earlier you register the more the program will be tweaked to suit your needs. Your responses on the registration form assist us in planning the event. At Camp you are free to study at any level and to take any combination of classes that you wish. The specific banjo track levels are described here.
The Fiddle Track
ABC offers a full-time fiddle program. We have a principal fiddle instructor who teaches most of the classes, but classes are also taught by other members of our faculty. For 2017, our principal fiddle instructor is James Leva. Additional classes in the program will be taught by bluegrass fiddler Paul Elliott and old-time fiddler Greg Canote. For the specific classes offered this year check our online class schedule when it comes out. Fiddlers are also warmly welcomed in our jams and jamming classes.
Note: please be aware that with only one fiddle class per class period, fiddle instruction will almost certainly be conducted at an intermediate level. This is a great opportunity for intermediate fiddlers or for classical players who seek an introduction to traditional music and playing styles. We do NOT have a program at ABC to teach basic violin skills, however, and students will be most comfortable in our fiddle classes if they have at least a year or two of experience on the instrument before coming to camp.
ABC now offers a full-time guitar program. We have a principal guitar instructor who teaches most of the classes, but classes are also taught by other members of our faculty. Our principal guitar instructor for 2017 is TBA. Other guitar classes will be taught by Peter Langston and Jere Canote. For the specific classes offered this year check our online class schedule when it comes out. Guitarists are also warmly welcomed in our jams and jamming classes.
Note: please be aware that with only one guitar class per class period, guitar instruction will almost certainly be conducted at an intermediate level. We do NOT have a program at ABC to teach novice-level guitar skills, and students will be most comfortable in our guitar classes if they already know a few basic skills, such as how to strum in rhythm how to change comfortably among the most common major and minor open-position chord shapes.
ABC now offers bass classes. Recent bass classes were taught by renowned bluegrass and jazz bassist Mick Nicholson. Bass players are also warmly welcomed in our jams and jamming classes.
You’ll never know what you might find in any given year in our “special class” track. Among the special classes we’ve offered in recent years are mandolin, banjo set-up & repair, ukulele, and jam etiquette.
Class types, Hands-On vs. Demos
Most classes at the American Banjo Camp are "hands-on" classes that involve active participation of the student. ABC also offers "demonstration" classes that range from panel discussions to round-robin performances.
Here are examples of a few hands-on classes that have been taught over the years at American Banjo Camp:
• Intro to Round Peak clawhammer
• Triplets and grace notes in clawhammer style
• The thumb lead two-finger style of Carroll Co., Virginia
• Kentucky fiddle tunes for old-time banjo
• Playing Blues on Old-time Banjo
• How to Play With a Fiddler
• Top Ten Scruggs Licks
• How to Have Fun at Jams & Get Asked Back
• The styles of J.D. Crowe & Sonny Osborne
• Getting Rolling – an intensive introduction to 3-finger rolls
• Mapping the Fingerboard
• Intro to Improvisation, 3-finger Style
Levels: Banjo classes are taught at four levels: beginner, lower intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced. The levels page gives more detail about the banjo levels.
• Controlling the Bow – Slurring & "the Dip"
• Using Alternative Tunings
• Old-Time Fiddle Tunes, Longbow Style
• Ragtime Fiddle Tunes
• Old-Time Waltzes
• Bluegrass Guitar - 3 Kinds of Boom-Chang!
• Old-Time Guitar - All the Bass Runs You'll Ever Need
• Intro to Cross-Picking
• Flatpicking Simple Fiddle Tunes
• Demystifying the Fingerboard with Triads
• Carter Family-Style Picking
Bass, Uke, Mandolin, Singing, & Others
• Bass Picking and Damping Techniques for Both Hands
• Intro to Clawhammer Uke
• Bluegrass Mandolin
• Singing with the Banjo
• Banjo Set-Up and Repair
Demos are scheduled during the regular program. Demonstrations are round-robin events akin to folk and bluegrass festival workshops, where several artists offer samples of their playing and address a common theme. Here are some examples:
• Old-time finger picking styles
• Traditional tunings
• Scruggs style Singing with the Banjo
• Fretless banjo
• Banjo-fiddle duets
• Bluegrass Back-up
• Three-finger Single-string style
• Fiddle Tunes on Banjo