Pre-College Programs
Summer Pre-College Courses

« Return to Course Catalog

Up the Neck with Fingers in Play: Learning and Creating on Acoustic Guitar

This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

This is an intensive immersion-style course that will focus on skillbuilding for aspiring fingerstyle acoustic guitarists. By employing a set of logical chord shapes alongside traditional picking hand techniques typical of the historic Piedmont country- blues genre, the acoustic guitar is turned into a one-person band reminiscent of ragtime pianistic style. For those interested in gaining control over this art form, using it for developing original music or arrangements, this course will provide the tools for advancement.

We will develop a set of musical tools including partial chords up the neck, lead runs, double stops, turnarounds and fills. This toolkit will then be put to use giving color and personality to your guitar playing, guaranteed to turn your own songs (or covers) from ho-hum to wow! Specific songs and etudes will be taught that demonstrate these principles, and will serve as laboratories for variations and embellishments. Your musical cupboard will be turned into a spicy warehouse of lickdom, and you will be propelled to a more exciting garden of acoustic guitar delights. We will also address the development of a song from a poem or original lyric set, considering how lyrics "speak " in various keys, along with creating mood and feeling with refrains, wordplay and defining riffs.

The learning goals of the course are: utilize chord shapes "up the neck"; picking hand embellishments; partials, licks and riffs that create color; establishing a steady bassline with thumb (alternating bass); picking a complex melody line against the bass line; perform several picking patterns and strum patterns that can be adapted arrangements of traditional, folk and original songs.

On the acoustic steel string guitar in standard tuning, students should have prior familiarity with basic chord positions in first position, and basic knowledge of and ability with basic strumming or minimal fingerpicking.

Marjorie Thompson is a guitarist, songwriter and performer whose original songs evoke the time- honored genres of country blues, rags and roots music. She is an accomplished songwriter, with 7 published CDs, and a recognized guitar educator (with 6 instructional guitar DVDs, and a faculty position at Jorma Kaukonen's FurPeace Ranch Guitar Camp.

She has also served for 30 years as dean of undergraduate biology education at Brown University, where she oversees programming and curriculum, and teaches Histology, Embryology and Biological Illustration.