Want to take your guitar playing, songwriting, or storytelling to the next level? Join a workshop with Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, the founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine; author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, Beyond Strumming, and the video series Learn Seven Grateful Dead Classics for Acoustic Guitar; and a teacher of courses on songwriting and creative nonfiction writing in the Honors program at Syracuse University. Workshop descriptions and video samples are below.
Click here for information on private lessons in person or online. In addition to music stores, music schools, colleges, and other venues, JPR has taught many group workshops in people’s homes while on tour. Interested in hosting? Drop a line.
July 22–26, Ashokan Acoustic Guitar Camp, Olivebridge, NY. JPR teaches Beyond Strumming and Flatpicking Lead Guitar classes and more. Also on the faculty: Mary Flower, Mike Dowling, Happy Traum, Jefferson Hamer, Sylvia Herold, Larry Baione, David Surette, and Peter Davis.
Read/watch a Boston Globe feature on JPR’s Grateful Dead workshops.
Your ideas were inspirational for all who attended. Accessible, fun, and pretty darn exciting things to do on acoustic guitar.
—Chris Broadwell, Ithaca Guitar Works
More about the workshops:
When you’re playing guitar behind vocals, you can do so much more than simply strum the chords and keep the time. In this workshop based on Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ new Acoustic Guitar book/video series Beyond Strumming, you’ll learn how to add variety and power to your accompaniment with such techniques as partial chords, chord embellishments, bass lines, muting, string percussion, and cross-picking. The workshop is oriented toward flatpick playing but applicable to fingerstyle too. Level: beginning to early intermediate. Need to know basic chords and be able to accompany songs.
A great resource for people looking to play songs in new ways, Beyond Strumming provides guitarists with a useful toolbox of accompaniment techniques in a methodical and clear format.—Chris Eldridge
Flatpicking Lead Guitar
Want to take flight improvising guitar solos? In this class, you’ll learn an approach to soloing based not on generic scales but on chord progressions—and on the chord shapes you already know. The shapes approach will help you navigate confidently up and down the neck and play solos that are truly in sync with the songs, in any style. Level: intermediate and up.
Want to explore the enticing sounds of alternate tunings without getting totally lost on the fingerboard? In this workshop, you’ll explore tunings that drop the bass strings while leaving the others in standard tuning. These tunings—as heard in songs by players like Chet Atkins and Richard Thompson—give you access to sounds that are off the beaten track yet still easy to wrap your fingers and head around. Level: intermediate and up.
Unlock the I–IV–V
The chord trinity known as I–IV–V is one of the most useful theoretical concepts for any musician—a skeleton key for countless songs in folk, country, rock, blues, and beyond. In this workshop you’ll discover how I–IV–V progressions work—and how they can help you jam along with songs you’ve never played before, change a song’s key without using a capo, and even get started writing your own songs. Level: beginner and up. Need to know basic chords.
Intro to Partial Capoing
Partial capos, which cover some strings and leave the others open, are a great way to access alternate-tuning-like sounds without retuning. In this workshop, you’ll learn the basics about how to use five- and three-string capos to open up new creative possibilities on your guitar. Level: early intermediate and up.
Grateful Dead for Acoustic Guitar
Bring the music of the Grateful Dead to life on your guitar in this workshop based on the best-selling Homespun video series Learn Seven Classic Grateful Dead Songs for Acoustic Guitar. Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers shows you not only how to play the chords and create powerful grooves behind your singing on songs like “Friend of the Devil,” “New Speedway Boogie,” “Althea,” and “Casey Jones,” but also how to add cool embellishments and lead breaks inspired by the Dead’s live and studio performances.
Jeffrey interviewed both Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir in depth about their guitar and songwriting styles, and draws on insights from those conversations to capture the soul of their timeless songs. The workshop is designed for intermediate players but is also accessible for beginners with knowledge of basic chords.
The specific songs covered vary according to the interests of the group. If you would like to request a song or have any other questions, email Jeffrey.
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers sure can play the music—listen to his “Stella Blue” and you’ll know what I mean. Better still, he can teach it.—Dennis McNally, author, A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History of the Grateful Dead
“Jeffrey has breathed new life into some of my favorite songs with his creative arrangements for solo acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed learning some new tricks in alternate tunings.”—D. Brett
Acoustic Grateful Dead video samples
Take Your Songs to the Next Level
Once in a while, you may write a song that arrives fast and whole and feels just right. But most of the time, songs need editing and rewriting to reach their full potential. In this workshop led by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, grand prize winner of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest and author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, you’ll learn tools and strategies for being a more effective song editor—sharpening your lyrics, strengthening the melody and chord progression, cutting whatever is not needed, developing the story, and bringing out the heart of a song.
This workshop is offered in a shorter format (90 minutes to two hours) as well as an extended small-group session of three to four hours in which each participant shares a new or in-progress song, and Jeffrey leads a discussion about the songs’ strengths and weaknesses and how to make the most of your idea. You’ll learn as much from giving constructive feedback about others’ songs as you will from comments and suggestions about your own work. Bring a song that you’d like feedback on and are open to changing (not one you feel is exactly how you want it!), and enough lyric sheets for the group.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, I’m convinced you’ll find Jeffrey’s songwriting workshop to be informative and highly inspirational—excellent for recharging your creative songwriting batteries!
Writing Songs with Guitar
For a songwriter, the guitar can do more than accompany your voice and fill in the chords—it can be a great writing partner, sparking song ideas and helping to guide you throughout the process. In this workshop, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine and author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter, shares tips and techniques for using the guitar in songwriting. Learn how to turn riffs and grooves into songs, steal ideas (legally!) from other songs, develop chord progressions, build contrast between sections of a song, and more.
Jeffrey is a patient, calm instructor with a wealth of knowledge and experience to impart. You walk out of his workshop with a definite reboot.
—Bill “the Kid” Claiborne
The Beatles’ Chord Magic
Among their many talents, the Beatles were real magicians with chord progressions, mixing traditional changes with brilliant harmonic surprises. In this workshop, designed for songwriters as well as Beatles fans wanting to dig deeper into the music, you’ll explore the chordal side of the Beatles’ song craft, looking under the hood of classic songs by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison to understand the harmonic choices they made.
Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, a John Lennon Songwriting Contest winner, has written in depth about chord progressions in his books The Complete Singer-Songwriter and Songwriting Basics for Guitarists and performed Beatles music extensively (for a sample, see these posts about “Get Back” and “Within You Without You“). The workshop will not only deepen your appreciation for great songs, but you’ll come away with a clearer understanding of chord progressions and a satchel of ideas you can apply to your own writing.
Getting Started (or Unstuck!) in Songwriting
Songwriting inspiration may be impossible to define or control or predict, but that doesn’t mean that you have to just sit around idly waiting for it. In this workshop, you’ll explore the many ways in which you can make yourself more receptive to inspiration and stir up ideas when you feel stuck or blocked. Topics include free-writing games, using prompts, finding ideas in mistakes and accidents, writing in character, rewriting other songs, using a song template, and more.
Tell Your Story Walking
We all have the urge to tell our stories—as a way of preserving the past and illuminating the present, making sense of experiences and emotions, and connecting with others. Fiction can deliver vividly imagined scenes and plotlines, but there is a special power to a story that is not only well told but has the clear ring of personal truth. The writer is laying him- or herself on the line.
This is the kind of story we will explore in this workshop, based on a popular, long-running course created by author/musician Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers for Syracuse University’s Honors program. Through creative exercises and roundtable discussions, you will learn about tools and techniques for using sense memories, setting a scene, sketching a character, developing a story arc, and more that will help you tell your stories with more power and precision.
The workshop is offered in a single-session format and as well a multi-day retreat that includes opportunities to get—and give—constructive feedback on a work in progress.
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