As many of you are aware, last weekend I was at a guitar workshop for the entire time. Even though I have only been playing for about 3 1/2 years, I wanted to see what the experience of focusing on guitar playing for an entire weekend would bring. It was truly enjoyable, as well as educational!
The weekend started on Friday, as the five students gathered at a wonderful location near the coast of Massachusetts in Essex; after a wonderful dinner (the chef did a great job all weekend), we gathered for some informal jamming, playing an assortment of classics ranging from Tom Petty (what a loss) to the Beatles. This was a great way to start and Janet, our teacher, talked about her plans for the weekend.
On Saturday, after a jog and breakfast, we started on songwriting skills with an excellent variety of exercises to get our minds engaged and open to writing lyrics. With a bit of time spent on song structure and the narrative of songs, we created some rather interesting songs by writing a line at a time and passing the task on to the next person in line; this underscored the benefit of clarity in getting the idea across in each line.
The second part of the morning, included an exercise in co-writing, which was highly enjoyable. In this exercise we first wrote the lyrics, after which we worked on the melody; melody is best worked on without the guitar by singing the song in an effort to find what sounds good. Once we had the basic melody, we worked on the chords that would support the melody. A great exercise, and even though our song is not likely to be a hit, I felt pretty good about my first song, and really excellent about the process and interaction.
In the afternoon, we focused on performance skills, which was in preparation for open mike in the evening. Set structure, audience interaction, how to start that first song in your set and others were the topics of this session. The level of this session was likely to be a bit too advanced for where I am in my guitar development, but still had a lot of valuable learning in it.
On Sunday, after another light jog and breakfast, we started on voice maintenance and development; as I’m one of those people who were told that they couldn’t sing as a kid (and told to mouth the words), this was very interesting and probably most useful of all sessions. This led us to singing harmonies and playing together as an ensemble, in which we played different voicings on our guitar to create a more interesting palette within a song. After a number of exercises, and lunch, we took what we learned to play and sing a number of songs together. My favorite among these is Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Helplessly Hoping, in which our harmonies came together pretty nicely!
All in all, this was a great weekend! If anything, I would have liked to have worked more on guitar playing skills, which is something that I will look at more closely with any future workshops.