Instrument Workshops: fiddle, guitar, banjo, tinwhistle, mandolin; Square Dance Session, Songwriters' Workshops; Luthier Workshop

All workshops are offered as 90 minute sessions during Saturday, at different venues around town. All are located within a few minutes walk or drive to the Bras d’Or Lakes Inn where camp meals, jam sessions, on-site luthier and our information desk will be situated.


Guitar Workshop 1 – JP’s A-Z (with JP Cormier)

In this session, JP Cormier covers a broad range of topics of interest to guitarists at all levels. From selecting and purchasing an instrument and everything you wanted to know about picks – to how to practice and learn a tune. With colourful first-person stories about historic players and, incredible live demonstrations by JP, you’ll experience a wide range of contemporary and traditional guitar styles and techniques up-close and personal – and then you will learn a tune from the Maestro. Bring your guitar, your audio recorder or notebook, and enjoy.


Guitar Workshop 2 – Finger style and flat picking techniques (with JP Cormier)

The title of this one pretty well sums it up: JP will demonstrate and explain the techniques and use notable examples and styles from his select group guitar heroes. With time for addressing individual questions and concerns from participants, JP will also teach you, in a play-and-response lesson, a complete tune so you can get started using some of these techniques in your practice and performance.


Mandolin Workshop 1 – Beginner basic tunes (with Darren MacMullen)

This workshop will focus on Jigs and Reels, the two basic types of tunes for Celtic and folk music. Participants will learn one of each type of tune, and Darren will share some tips and tricks for making any tune easier to learn and play. There will also be time allotted for a Q&A session.


Mandolin Workshop 2 – Intermediate chording session (with Darren MacMullen)

In this workshop Darren will compare the differences in chording for Bluegrass and Celtic styles. Students will learn about the important Bluegrass "chop", and how to take a creative approach to Celtic song accompaniment. The class will learn chording techniques for a melody from each style, along with helpful hints to apply to other tunes and genres. There will also be time allotted for a Q&A session.


Fiddle Workshop 1 - Left Hand Techniques (with Anthony Rissesco)

Anthony will concentrate on techniques and tips for the fingerboard – shifting and double stops, when to leave fingers on and when not to. Students will come away from this class with a selection of exercises and tunes to continue home practice for these techniques. The workshop will allow time for participants to ask questions and Anthony will address any arising issues of interest to the class.


Fiddle Workshop 2 – Right Hand Techniques (with Anthony Rissesco)

Amazing things can be accomplished with the bow, and all styles of fiddle depend on a variety of right hand techniques used in varying combinations. In this workshop participants will learn basic techniques for making a strong tone, and how to lift and land the bow on the strings; and fancier techniques called for in tunes like the Bank’s Hornpipe. Time will be allocated to address any other concerns and questions of interest to the class participants.


Banjo Workshop 1: Intro to Scruggs (Bluegrass) (with Roger Stone)

In this workshop, participants will learn the history and technique of one of only two original North American instruments. The Banjo originally brought here by African people was called the mbanza, or banja in the Southern States. This style will be of great interest to the beginner or the person who now plays finger style guitar. The style is based on “arpeggiated” or broken down chords, played with picks or the fingers.

Participants will learn basic rolls, chords and tunes to get started on a journey in the style of the late Earl Scruggs.


Banjo Workshop 2: Intro to Clawhammer Style (with Roger Stone)

In this workshop participants will be taught the basics of Frailing and drop thumb Clawhammer style. This style is mostly associated with old time music that has its roots in early American and Celtic music. Students will learn the essential right hand movements, as well as a few basic tunes to get them started. This style of Banjo is well suited for the person who simply wants to learn to back up a song while performing.


Tinwhistle Workshop 1 – For absolute beginners (with Paul Davis)

This is an excellent workshop for anyone who wants to start, or has just started playing tinwhistle. Paul will introduce and explain the whistle and its traditions, explain fingering charts and demonstrate scales, and show you how to read basic sheet music. You’ll learn how to continue learning with simple exercises to practice; and you’ll receive a package of resources for song and tune collections, and tips and on-line links for free software such as ABC Navigator and Best Practice – a slow down program which allows you to learn tunes at your own comfortable speed. You must bring your own D whistle to this session.


Tinwhistle Workshop 2 – Jigs and Reels (with Paul Davis)

Participants for this workshop should be familiar with and able to play the D Scale in two octaves. Paul will introduce some simple jigs and reels, and will deconstruct example tunes into play-and-repeat sections for quick learning. You’ll learn about cuts, taps, slurs and basic rolls. As in Workshop 1, participants will be provided with a package of resources for whistle music collections, and free-on line software to help you with ongoing learning at home. You must bring your own D whistle to this session.


Songwriters' workshops (with Hank Middleton)

In session #1  inspiration, purpose and motivation for song writing. This session will focus on melody construction; use of verse, chorus and bridge, utilisation of a variety of musical forms and development of musical “hooks”, as well as ways to improve or increase musicality.


Session #2  writing lyrics and ways to connect the lyrics to an audience. Steps in the writing process will be described and discussed.


Session # 3 participants write a song of their choice and a song with a prescribed topic. Each participant may perform their draft work in the last session.


This workshop will include opportunities for listening, offering observations, posing questions, sharing ideas and creativity. The workshop leader will be a support to individuals during the song writing process. Participants in this workshop will finish these sessions with enhanced song writings skills and one or more new products of their work.

Band Lab (all instructors)

This class will appeal to those of you who are thinking of forming a band. Based on resumés requested at registration, you’ll be assigned to a band, select a name, a leader, and learn a tune or song or two to perform at our Sunday luncheon showcase. Each band will be critiqued and assisted by a roving team of workshop leaders during your formation and practice sessions.


Square Dancing Session (with Roddie's Square Dance Society, called by Colette Sampson MacLean)

Veteran dancers from Roddie’s Square Dance Society, and a caller, will show new dancers how to form the traditional local sets and keep them square. Roles for lead and side couples and the steps (Grand Chain, Chasay, Turns and Promenades) will be demonstrated, and all participants will have ample time to practice and enjoy this energetic session. Live music provided by local players on fiddle, keyboards and guitar. To test everybody’s new abilities, the last set of the session will be done without a caller.


Luthier workshop (with Johannes Sturm)

Master luthier Johannes Sturm will discuss the construction, maintenance and repair of violins and other stringed instruments, and will introduce the components of the fiddle and bow; and the tools and methods of the luthier. Participants are invited to bring their instruments for evaluations and minor adjustments. For those who are too busy with other workshops to attend this one – Johannes will be on site Saturday and Sunday for individual consultations, minor instrument repairs and adjustments.

Meet the Workshop Instructors

Download the Registration Form