DAY 1 – Targhee Bluegrass Camp

I just spent a week in the gorgeous Teton Mountains up at Grand Targhee Resort. This bluegrass camp leads up to the Grand Targhee Bluegrass festival.  If you ever get out here in the summer, be sure to hike or take the chairlift to the summit. The view is ridiculous.


My class was composed of seven students of varying experience and age. I did my best to find material that all could benefit from, regardless of ability.

• 12 Bar Blues (in A): This is the foundation of much of our western music. We’ve heard these sounds before, but learning to recognize its chord changes by name can help the student to hear those patterns within Bluegrass. After playing the blues line and turning our “letter” chart into a “number” chart, we explored a couple other fiddle friendly keys.

• Blues Scale (in A): Choosing from these notes can help you solo over the blues. I played 2bar and then 4bar phrases for them to repeat back to me, call & response. This was to familiarize ourselves with the sound of the blues scale and give some ideas for improvising.

• Scale Spelling: By this, I mean each letters of the scale is represented by the numbers 1-7. We learned to spell the A Major scale (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,1) first since all other scales we Westerners use are based on the Major sequence. Then we translated the blues scale (1,b3,4,b5,5,b7,1). We tried this with a few different keys.

• Blue Ridge Cabin Home (in A): This is the official camp song that will be performed on the main stage of the festival at the culmination of the camp (and one of the reasons we played in A so much today). I taught a single note version of the melody and then a doublestop version.


Split between two days, I was able to spend 20 concentrated minutes with each student. The others were welcome to sit in on the sessions. Here are the points covered with various students.

• Keep your fingers over fingerboard so they are ready to use at any time…economy of motion.

•Positioning your violin on your shoulder at a 45deg angle from your center with your left elbow directly underneath can help hand placement and allow for longer bows.

• Moving your left thumb so the pad is facing you will turn hand towards fiddle neck and assist pinky placement.

• Long, straight, full bow. Pay attention to the right elbow: on a full bow, it will be in, then out, then in again. Try looking in a mirror to see your bow’s position. I gave a long bow & string coordination exercise.

• Play melodies slowly with a metronome to coordinate the notes with the bow changes. Only when they are in sync does the metronome get quicker.

• Bb is your friend. Spend some time together. Get to know each other. You’ll both feel better afterwards.

Here’s a picture from my flight the day before.


Day 2 on it’s way….


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