Americana Program

Americana music resulted from the explorations of many inquisitive and adventurous musicians. They sought to blend all forms of American roots music together without regard to boundaries, styles, conventions, or commercial considerations.

Blues, country, swing, rock-a-billy, bluegrass & old-time, are the ingredients of this exciting sound. Learn to play the instruments at the core of this musical movement: Traditional Fiddle, Ukulele, Mandolin, 5-string banjo, various forms of guitar from fingerpicking to slide to electric.

Americana Instruments


Traditional Fiddle

The fiddle is part of many traditional folk styles of music which are aural traditions, taught by ear rather than via written music.  Students enrolled in this program can explore many different styles of fiddling: Appalachian, Scottish, Irish, Bluegrass, and Old-Time.


The ukulele has recently become one of the most popular stringed instruments.  Originally associated with Hawaiian music, today you’ll hear musicians playing it in virtually every style.  This is an ideal instrument for beginners--small children in particular--due to its compact size and ease of left hand fretting.  We’ll explore basic rhythms executed by the right hand, and the chord forms required to play along with any song, in any style. 


The mandolin is a very versatile instrument.  It can state melody like a violin, chord like a guitar, and is a key component in a string band rhythm section.  We’ll learn about flatpicking and acquire skills required for smooth right hand technique.  Scales and arpeggio studies will coordinate your left and right hand and set you up to be able to play the songs we’ll explore.


The 5-string banjo, America’s instrument.  Invented here, the style evolved here, learn it’s quirky secrets here.  A central sound in bluegrass and old-time music, we’ll explore the basic skills required for picking (3-finger style), left-hand skills for chording and melody, and learn songs that employ these techniques.

Slide Guitar

This style of playing comes in a few flavors: lap and traditional. To sound the notes, a device like a bottleneck or metal tube is held in the left hand. Instead of pressing the fingers against the strings on to the frets to sound the notes, as in the traditional, “Spanish” style of playing, the device slides up-and-down the strings. 

The term “Resophonic Guitar” describes an instrument that has a resonator device embedded in its body. It acts like an amplifier and was initially designed so that the guitar could be heard over the brass and drums of a big band.

It is employed in both styles of slide playing, and also comes in 2 flavors:

1. The square-neck/raised-nut models (also referred to as a “Dobro”, which was the brand name of a popular 20th-century manufacturer of this model of guitar) were initially popular with Hawaiian musicians and was quickly adopted by country players. Today it is mainly associated with bluegrass musicians, Jerry Douglas being the superstar picker. Check him out--it is quite astonishing!

2. The round-neck/standard-nut models are played in the manner of a traditional, “Spanish” guitar posture. This instrument and style of playing was adopted by blues musicians. You will hear the term “National Guitar” used to describe it. That also was the brand name of a popular 20th century manufacturer and is used interchangeably with terms like “reso” or “slide” guitar.
Of course you can play slide-style on any standard model guitar, acoustic or electric, as well.

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