Lessons & Workshops

What makes a good teacher?

My answer would be someone who is skillful and
mindful and who likes to teach.

Someone who has taken the time to analyze the details
and nuances of the styles he plays and can explain them
in an orderly and effective way.

He is also aware of his students: their goals and tastes;
their trust in him as their guide; and what level they are
at as players. He neither bores nor overloads but tries to
challenge and excite.

I offer guitar, banjo and mandolin lessons at my home
in Cheverly, Maryland.

[Guitar styles taught include both flatpicking and fingerpicking;
banjo styles include bluegrass, clawhammer & Irish tenor. And I
play and teach mandola as well as mandolin.]

My teaching style is based on the oral tradition that folk
and bluegrass music developed from: patiently showing
you what to do, and then having you do it then and there.
At the end of each lesson I record what we've covered onto
a cassette, so you have a sonic reference to work with
and can learn to rely on your ears to recall the music.

Most students are surprised at how much they can absorb
in this way (aka the Starzuki Method) and how much better
they can recall tunes as compared with one's initially learned
from tablature (aka the Evil Crutch).

I usually try to cover one tune per lesson, choosing the song
based on your interests and my assessment of what would
be a good fit for you.

(Lessons range from $40 to $65 depending on length and regularity;
most hour lessons are $60; email me for the particulars.)

(FYI: Flatpicking Guitar Magazine has a nationwide directory of
of flatpicking teachers listed by region. And for NYC folks looking for
guitar or mandolin lessons, I recommend Michael Daves.)

The term ‘workshop’ is used so freely nowadays that it en-
compasses everything from brief show & tell sessions to detailed teaching encounters. My workshops are of the latter variety: participants bring their instruments (and audio recorders if they wish), we sit in a semi-circle, and I leave
my seat and walk around the circle to go one-on-one with
folks a few times during the session. Most workshops
are 2 to 2.5 hours long, limited to a maximum of 12,
and include a tab hand-out.

These are the workshops that I most regularly offer:

Some of the coolest rhythm moves of any guitar style have
come from bluegrass players. This workshop takes a hands-
on, detailed and entertaining look at them. Topics covered include G and other bass runs, rest strokes, playing in 3/4 time and backing up simple country songs. If you like to strum bluegrass, folk or country music on an acoustic guitar this workshop is for you.
3/08 update: I have tweaked this workshop, with the addition of some new material on chord forms as well a slightly different order of presenting things; if you've taken it before and were thinking of repeating it won't be just the same.

LEAD FLATPICKING: Norman Blake's Style
By enhancing Carter-picking with syncopated strums and
bursts of crosspicking, Norman Blake created a dazzling
guitar language that combines lead and rhythm into a
memorable whole. This workshop explores his approach.

'What the Tab Won't Tell You'
(both Guitar and Mandolin versions)
You’ve got the books and tabs, play some fiddle tunes and
song leads—now what? How about an intimate workshop
with a master teacher devoted to diagnosing your playing
and offering detailed feedback? Using both group and
individual exercises we will zero in on the things that you
indeed cannot get from tablature: soloing on the fly,
subtleties of technique and tone, rhythm playing, and using vocal accents to enhance solos.

MAKING YOUR MANDO SING: Adding Rhythm to Your Leads
One of the hurdles facing mandolinists on the road from
memorizing solos to making music is learning how to
incorporate rhythm moves into their lead playing. This
workshop zeroes in on the subtle strums and extra notes
that really glue a solo together.

Rhythm is a vital yet seldom focused-on element of mandolin
playing. This workshop covers a spectrum of mando rhythms, from 'chopping' on bluegrass tunes to playing a country shuffle, using open chords on folk songs to playing reggae.

MANDOLIN: Deciphering the Fretboard
In order to play songs in various keys and positions, you need to create your own mental map of the neck. Using two string mini-chords (double-stops) and the tune Silent Night this workshop will jump-start your understanding of the neck and introduce you to the essential technique of tremolo.

MANDOLIN: Ashokan Farewell
Ashokan Farewell is a sublime waltz whose haunting melody is a perfect tremolo vehicle and whose interesting yet acces-sible chord structure is very gratifying to play. We'll focus on both of these.

For lessons online see
the Skype Info Page.
For details on any upcoming workshops see the Schedule Page .
A few times a year we have student jams and
recitals. Since 'playing with others' is among the goals of most people who play an instrument, these offer good occasions to practice interacting

To help folks prepare for the jams, we provide a
list of tunes (and keys) that we're going to cover.

Here's the current list:

In the Pines (E)

Old Joe Clark (A)

Worried Man Blues (G)

Coleman's March (A)

You Ain't Going Nowhere (G)

Angelina Baker (D)

Tombigbee Waltz (G)

Midnight on the Water (D)

Waltz of the Little Girls (D)

Rakish Paddy (D)

Haapavesi Waltz (D)

Wagon Wheel (A)

Year of Jubilo (G)

Corrinna Corrinna (G)

St Anne's Reel (D)

Take Me Back To Tulsa (G)