Major: The Most Mysterious of Instruments
Level: Beginner to Advanced
This workshop will touch on the bigger chromatic harmonica, but mostly it will focus on the diatonic harmonica aka the blues harp. Surely it must be the most mysterious of musical instruments, as it’s the only one with no strings, no buttons or valves, no keys or surfaces that one can see when playing. The tiny instrument was designed to play simply, but innovators eventually discovered that sounds not designed into the instrument could be created, making for much more complex and colourful music. These “hidden” sounds, once accessed by an intermediate to advanced harp player, offer the blues harp bends, moans, and semi-tones that can make it such a great add to the sound of a song and a blues band. This workshop will demystify the harp and provide insight to playing styles and techniques of some “greats”. We’ll introduce concepts of semi-tones, modal playing, playing with other musicians, “rack harp” and “electric harp”, and related topics. Throughout, we’ll blow some harp together.
Monday Minor: The Blues Harp and Modes of Expression
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
An introduction to modal scales on the blues harp that allow for fuller expression not only in blues music, but in funk, soul, country, rock and world music. We’ll focus on two major scales and two minor scales, and we’ll touch on special tunings and chromatic harmonicas. Along the way we’ll do some listening to Little Walter, Jimmy Reed, Stevie Wonder, Carlos del Junco, Lee Oskar, Will Wilde and others.
Tuesday Minor: Takin’ it To the Street
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
This workshop will build on the fundamentals to offer insights into creating your own sound. Three main elements of this workshop are: 1) Creating solo acoustic music with just harp, hands, mouth and breath; 2) Contributing to a duo or band by playing lead solos and fills, and accompanying others as a supportive player; and 3) Adding pedals and/or amplification to achieve your own Chicago-style or modern electric blues sound. This session will be illustrated with some listening and participants will have opportunities to play through a few vintage and modern amplifiers and pedals.
Wednesday Minor: Let’s Jam
Level: Beginner to Intermediate
This workshop will involve playing and improvising within a group setting for hands-on experience in how blues musicians come together to create sounds and experiences that are more than the sum of parts. We’ll stick to the 12-bar blues for starters, and make sure all participants understand how the chord changes work and then explore the ways in which your harmonica playing can fit into different song arrangements and rhythms. We’ll listen hard and play soft!
Major: The Swingin' Guitar of Hollywood Fats
Michael Mann a.k.a 'Hollywood Fats' was given his stage name by Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. In the world of blues guitar, he sits high up among the greats. His mastery of phrasing, impeccable swing feel, and bold comping style are just a few qualities that make his guitar playing iconic. In this course, we will analyze his playing style, and pull important lessons from his solos and rhythm work. Hollywood Fats died at a young age and released just one album under his own name: 'Hollywood Fats Band'. As countless studied blues musicians have done since its release in 1979, we will use this album as a guide and resource to top-tier blues playing.
Monday Minor: The Last 4
The last 4 bars of a 12-bar blues present you with the V chord, IV chord, and a turnaround - there's a lot going on! In this minor class, you will learn soloing ideas that serve to outline the harmonic activity of the last 4 bars. When you highlight key notes over a chord, it adds dimension to your solo!
Tuesday Minor: Guitar Conversation
When you are having a conversation, you can hear in your head what you are about to say. This class is an introduction to that same idea on the guitar, only you can hear in your head what you are about to PLAY. We will play simple ideas back and forth and work to establish aural memory of key blues phrases. Once you have a lick established in your ears, it becomes more accessible on the fingerboard.
Wednesday Minor: Chuck Berry Guitar Style
Known as ‘The Father of Rock and Roll’, Chuck Berry has spanned generations and is of key historical importance in music today. His iconic style of guitar playing has many components, and the focus of this workshop will be to explore the intricacies of his lead and rhythm guitar work. A good understanding of Chuck’s music will give any guitar player many of the tools necessary to play in an abundance of styles, including blues, rock ‘n roll, and folk. Whether you’re a huge fan, or know nothing of his music, it is undeniable that Chuck Berry created a wealth of musical information that is essential for any guitarist to tap into.
Major: Magic Sam
We will learn the heads, rhythms and key licks to as many of these great Magic Sam (Maghett) songs that we can fit in through the week. We will take a deep dive into West Side Soul, considered one of the greatest blues albums of all time. Lots of jamming and improvising over classic Sam songs such as Sweet Home Chicago, Easy Baby, Looking Good, All of Your Love, I Need You So Bad, My Love Will Never Die, and the amazing (I Feel so Good) I Wanna Boogie! .
Monday Minor: 2 Bones and a Pick -T Bone Walker
Learn 2 or maybe 3 classic T Bone Walker songs. Stormy Monday Blues and T Bone Shuffle. We will learn the heads and explore T Bone’s jazzy/blues runs and 9th and 6th chords and how to improvise over these grooves in the classic T Bone Walker west coast style that influenced everyone from BB King to Chuck Berry.
Tuesday Minor: Play like a King BB
We will learn and improvise over some of BB King’s greatest songs. The intros, signature licks and neck positions that made BB the King: Sweet Little Angel, Please Love Me, Rock Me Baby, Thrill Is Gone.
Wednesday Minor: Wednesday G that slides sounds good
Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Major: An Overview of the History and Techniques of Blues Piano
One wouldn’t have expected the piano to become a blues instrument. While itinerant blues harmonica players and guitarists could carry their instruments with them and were able to play in a large variety of settings, it was much harder for blues piano players to hop a freight train or busk on a street corner with their instrument. However, this doesn’t mean they didn’t get around. They often hopped the train (or paid for a ticket, I’ll have you know) and traveled from town to town, confident in the knowledge that, in the days before juke boxes and satellite radio, every respectable bar room, tavern, speakeasy, booze can, barrel house and brothel, and some not so respectable ones, had a piano. Not always a good piano; in fact, hardly ever a good piano. But a piano. Now, you can bend notes on a harmonica or a guitar, but it’s very awkward to do this on a piano, especially in the middle of a solo. But the, shall we say, slightly over-tempered condition of most of these pianos made up for some of this, and if sticky or broken keys, out of tune strings, stripped hammers and knocked-out action didn’t give you the jangling sound you were looking for, well, you could always stick thumb tacks into whatever was left of the felt. But perhaps the jangling sound wasn’t what the blues piano players were after; perhaps it was just an unexpected side-effect of having to play on those pianos. It did have one benefit, though: In the days before amplifiers, which eventually enabled harmonica players and guitarists to drown out their piano players, the piano was one of the few instruments out there that could cut through the noise in a bar room, tavern, speakeasy, booze can, barrel house and brothel (yes, the waiting rooms there had pianos, too, and that’s how Sunnyland Slim and Little Brother Montgomery met when they were kids, too young to participate in the establishments’ core mission, but old enough to play all day and all night for the waiting johns and the temporarily unoccupied ladies of the evening). The thumb tacks helped, but piano players also developed a thumping style that emphasized left-hand bass lines and driving rhythms, but also included treble parts that could range from intricate runs to insistent staccato counterpoints. All the while, they drew on a history of piano styles they had learned in school or church, which some still attended if they could fumigate their clothes in time for Sunday morning (Georgia Tom, for example, before he hung up the blues and became full-time renowned gospel artist Thomas A. Dorsey. Although many churches had a habit of kicking out blues players, on account of blues being rumored to be the Devil’s music). They tried using glissandi, blue notes and other tricks to do what harmonica players and guitarists could do with bends, to imitate animal cries, field hollers and trains, especially trains, which, with their rhythmic propulsion and their built-in aura of migration, heartbreak and starting over, lent themselves especially well to piano-driven blues. Major Class: An Overview of the History and Techniques of Blues Piano In the 2024 Hornby Island Blues piano major workshop, we will go through the history of piano blues, from the beginnings to about the 1960s. We will take a look at the roots of blues piano in sinful ragtime and saintly gospel, move on to boogie woogie and the lilting, Latin-inflected rhythms of New Orleans, but also dwell lovingly on the sensitive, soulful slow blues which the greatest blues pianists never neglected. Just listen to Leroy Carr, Little Brother, the Slims Sunnyland and Memphis, Roosevelt Sykes, Walter Roland, Big Maceo, Otis Spann, Mercy Walton or even the early Ray Charles and Fats Domino; I dare say most of what they did was slow and soulful. The idea that piano players have to kick out the chair and set the piano on fire didn’t appear until they had to find some way to get attention from underneath all those newly amplified harmonicas and guitars. We will look at some of the more popular left-hand patterns and right-hand riffs, try our hand at inventing new ones (because you really needed your own signature licks in the day), and check out useful chord progressions, harmonic patterns, rhythms and time signatures. In the interest of getting along with those harmonica and guitar players, we will also learn about the piano’s role in a blues band, and tips on how to play well with other people.
Monday Minor: Blues Piano and Rhythm
We will focus on the three elements needed to build a house: the foundation, the walls and the roof. The first minor class will focus on rhythm. This involves both hands, and it can also involve the foot. A well-placed foot can add important percussive dynamics, especially to a solo performance, but I warn you against stomping your feet on somebody else’s gig, until you have absolutely internalized the rhythm. As an added bonus, strong rhythmic awareness helps you play with others. You can speed up and slow down and wobble all over the place when you’re by yourself, although that doesn’t necessarily sound good either; but if you do it in a band you will create chaos and make enemies. So, rhythm is the foundation.
Tuesday Minor: Blues Piano and Harmony
The walls are the harmonies. In most blues these are straight-forward; three chords and twelve or eight bar cycles. But not all blues are most blues. To make life interesting, yourself more versatile and your performances less repetitious, there are a number of harmonic progressions, passing chords, inversions and other hoojits you can use. Mostly, harmony is the purview of the left hand, but by no means exclusively. Sometimes, it’s interesting to reverse the hands’ usual roles, to invent melodic bass lines with your left and produce the harmonic environment with your right.
Wednesday Minor: Blues Piano and Melody
And then your house could use a roof. I mean, the foundation and walls can stand without a roof, although the roof can’t stay up without the foundation and the walls. In the same way, a meat-andpiano player can lay it down while the aforementioned harmonica and guitar players do the melodic stuff. But if you play solo, that gets tedious quickly, so having a melodic roof on your blues piano house is useful. It’s not just useful; melody is actually what most people focus on in a song, and a good melody is essential if you ever plan to write an earwig. A solo, even in a band, is nothing without melody. But melody requires imagination, especially if you’re improvising, which, as a blues player, you almost always are; and for piano players, it poses the added challenge of not losing track of the rhythm and harmony parts your left hand has to continue to accomplish while your right hand goes off into its flights of fancy. Some novice players find melody the first thing they gravitate toward; you can sound one out and play it with two fingers, and not worry about rhythm or chords. But that sounds awful. A good melodic performance in context is much harder, which is why we will reserve this topic for the last of the three minor classes. A Song Above all, though, I hope we have fun, build fellowship and get some synapses firing. Did you know that musical memories are the last to go, because so many different parts of the brain participate in our musical experiences? Since the piano, in particular, is a band in miniature, encompassing all the elements of music, this should be especially true for piano players’ brains. Since the Hornby Island Workshop will conclude with us showing off our chops, I suggest we set aside a little time in each of our major lessons to come up with our own blues piano song, so we can really get them rolling in the isles. I mean, rocking.
Major: Gateway to Texas
This class will focus on the Texas sound both electric and acoustic. We'll look at the T-Bone Walker approach of playing, some Lightning Hopkins tips and tricks as well as some Albert Collins sounds and ideas.
Monday Minor: Let It Slide
Open tuning slide guitar for all levels. We'll check out a few different tunings and some fretting behind the slide to make different chords as well as lots of different ideas to make you sound fabulous.
Tuesday Minor: Pen & Paper
We’ll look at writing blues lyrics, how to approach them, how to add music and the process of creating a great blues song. Keeping it simple and the process of writing great lyrics.
Wednesday Minor: Shades Of the Blues
This class will look at different styles of the blues and how to play them. From Chicago, to Texas to Mississippi to swing and country blues.
All Classes are for Beginners to Advanced players.
Major Class: TERMINOLOGY (LUMP, BUMP, SWING, QUICK 4s etc.
Bass players to listen to
How to shuffle
Monday minor: Different Forms (8 bars, 12 bars, 24 bars etc.
Major and Minor
Slap Bass Blues
Tuesday minor: Stand-up Bass Style (1hour)
How to control rhythm sections
Wednesday minor: Playing in a band
How to promote your self
Major Class: FUN-dementals
It's always best to start at the beginning, and that is understanding the physical mechanics of the voice and how it all works. We will start each class with vocal warm ups and end with cool downs. From there we will be learning our vocal range and the difference between your head voice, chest voice and how to mix the two. We are going to work on individual vocal issues that many singers contend with. This is a chance to let me know what exactly you are struggling with (Do you lose your voice a lot, do you find your voice too thin, does it hurt when you sing, do you want to expand your vocal range in either direction?).
We will also be assessing your individual strengths as a vocalist and working on bringing out the best in your vocal performances both as an individual and in a group! We will be taking turns with lead vocals, harmonies and backups!
Monday minor: Singers as Band Leaders
This is for the singers who lead (or want to lead) bands, we are going to discuss healthy practices to keep stress down (which is a major factor in keeping a voice healthy), ways to be an effective band leader, how to cue a band, how to drive the dynamics of the band when performing live, and how to curate a great set list that not only keeps the party rockin’ but give your voice a rest within the set.
Tuesday minor: One More Time but With Feeling
In this class we are going to take a classic blues song and practice lyric delivery to make the most impact on the listener, and learn how to express emotion with your voice.
Wednesday minor: Uniquely You
We are going to get to work on being an original and unique vocalist. It’s great that you can sound just like your favourite singer, but it is important to find YOUR voice. Bring a song that you want to work on!
Level: All levels welcome
Major: Chicago Bound, Swinging, Shuffling, and Funkiní†out
Monday Minor: The New Orleans Thang (Second Line and R&B)
Tuesday Minor: Finding the Pocket
What to play and what not to play
Wednesday Minor: Becoming an equal voice in the mix, Soloing, Trading Fours, Having Fun!
Major: Fingerstyle Bootcamp
Level: Beginner to Advanced
This year my main course will be a combination of workouts and tunes to help you get over the roadblocks all guitarists encounter along the musical journey
from the delicate finger picking of blind lemon Jefferson to the more bombastic approach of Tommy McClennan we will try and touch it all and build your technique and your musical bag of tricks!!
Monday Minor - Up-tempo Flatpicking
With the resurgence of the more rockin’ side of the blues the need for speed has become popular again. Wanna shread like Joe Bonamassa? Well, that takes time but we can get some exercises in wheelhouse that will help you on the way!
Tuesday Minor - Cool jump blues chord voicings
I've always loved jump blues. The guitar is used almost like a horn section. Small chords with small movements have a big impact! Let’s explore!
Wednesday Minor - Uptown blues improv
When I was young, I was always interested in what I term as uptown blues (probably not the right terminology but what the heck) it’s the stuff where the guitar is laying out the changes in there single lines and not just roaming through the pentatonic. Let’s explore some ideas that will take you out of the pentatonic deadlock!
Major: Slide on over to the Blues
Level: Basic to Advanced. The study of open D and G and how they are interconnected to each other with chord shapes slide positions and all the tricks I know.
We will focus on proper slide technique muting with the right and left hand, with palm and finger. A basic understanding of Nashville Number system will allow us communicate better
I got the blues - D Trad
We will use my arrangements of by Robert Johnson Come on in my kitchen in D And kind-hearted woman in G
We will also look at Iko Iko from New Orleans in D
If time permits maybe a 5th song.
Monday Minor: Travis Picking Technique (Part 1)
Level: Intermediate to Advanced. The core concept of Travis picking is simple: you keep a steady beat with alternating bass notes using your thumb. At the same time, you use your index and/or middle fingers to play treble notes, often in a syncopated rhythm. This technique is a great gateway to fingerstyles.
I will use Elizabeth Cotton’s Fright train and the traditional bluegrass Walking Cane arranged into a minor blues
Tuesday Minor: Dead Thumb Style and Opposable Thumbs (Part 2)
Level: Intermediate. You know from the very beginning when something is called “dead thumb” it’s going to be cool!
Humans not only have opposable thumbs, but we can do things such as touch the thumb to the pinky finger. In dead thumb technique it is all in the thumb. This technique is very old and many of the oldest blues and roots recordings feature it fully or in some variant form. People interested in older blues styles will know the sound of this technique right away.
Catfish Blues by Muddy Waters will serve our purpose here.
Wednesday Minor: Bringing traditional Blues into modern context through songwriting
Level: Everyone. We can workshop some of your songs and ill show you some of mine
Major: The Blues of Big Bill Broonzy
Monday Minor: Slide guitar in standard tuning
Tuesday Minor: Blues Mandolin
Wednesday Minor: Trading Fours
A cornerstone of stage etiquette for jams, soloing, and making a musical conversation with others onstage. All are welcome!
Major Class: Sing the Blues & Gospel with Suz
Hey there! Join me at the Sing the Blues & Gospel with Suz workshop where we'll dive into the world of singing the blues and gospel (and likely a little soul and funk, too!). The workshop will include tips on taking care of your voice by exploring vocal care essentials like warm-ups, proper breathing techniques, stretches, and other factors that can impact our voices. Then, we’ll take a little journey back in time to explore the roots of blues and gospel music, immersing ourselves in the incredible sounds of original and contemporary artists in these genres.
We'll also get hands-on with practical tips for delivering a powerful performance. From mic techniques to choosing the perfect key, and even preparing a basic chart, we'll cover all the bases for your next show or jam session. And of course, the highlight of the workshop will be putting all this newfound knowledge into action through some soulful singing of blues, gospel, funk, and soul. Get ready to make those vocal cords groove!
Monday Minor: Mentoring Sessions
Over the years students have asked for advice on different musical subjects in their private lessons so, I thought it might be helpful to offer some group mentoring as a minor class. Whether or not the topics discussed directly apply to you, I've always found there's a nugget of knowledge that sticks. So, please come and hang out and bring your music question(s!) to the session and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Here are a few things that I could help you with:
- finding the best key for you for a song/arranging the song
- charting a song/music theory
- figuring out a guitar or bass part for a song
Tuesday Minor: Songwriting Tools
In this songwriting minor I’ll share some songwriting tools you can use to help with your song writing, including object writing, sense-based writing, and brainstorming. I’ll walk you through a song path i.e., where a song started and how it got to ‘finish’. We’ll also take some time for you to share a song and get some feedback if you wish.
Wednesday Minor: Mini-Sing the Blues & Gospel with Suz
This will be like my major class but condensed into an afternoon. We’ll do a little warmup, talk about blues and gospel music and our favorite singers, and sing a bunch of blues and gospel tunes with one another. Bring your voice and your other instruments along with you if you wish.
Hornby Island Blues Society
3500 C Shingle Spit Rd
Hornby Island BC
Canada V0R 1Z0