Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers, the founding editor of Acoustic Guitar magazine and author of The Complete Singer-Songwriter and the video series Learn Seven Grateful Dead Classics for Acoustic Guitar, leads workshops on guitar and songwriting. Workshop descriptions and video samples are below.
Saturday, March 11: Wood Bros. Music, Pittsfield, MA
1-3 pm, Grateful Dead for Acoustic Guitar
Monday, March 13: Passim School of Music, Cambridge, MA
7-9 pm, Writing Songs with Guitar
Saturday, May 6: House of Musical Traditions, Takoma Park, MD
12:30-2 pm, Grateful Dead for Acoustic Guitar
3-4:30 pm, Writing Songs with Guitar
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
“As a two-year guitar player at the beginner’s level, I found Jeffrey’s workshop to be most helpful. Jeffrey’s excellence in both teaching and performance made the method clear, comprehensible, and playable.”—Dave Bollinger
“Jeffrey comes armed with tons of insider information and informed insights on a wide spectrum of the music world.”—Dick Ward, Guitar League
“My grandmother bought me a copy of The Complete Singer-Songwriter when I was just beginning to play music. I’ve read and reread the book a million times. It has such sound advice for a young musician trying to get started. The interviews with other artists put a lot of things into perspective for me. I was so thrilled to finally meet Jeffrey in person after I moved in New York state. He gave a great workshop at my house to a group of aspiring and working songwriters. Highly recommended.”—Anna Coogan
More about the workshops:
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.
Take Your Songs to the Next Level
Most song ideas do not arrive fully and perfectly formed; they’ll have some cool aspects and others that need work. That’s why every songwriter needs to be an effective song editor, who can zero in on a song’s weaknesses and figure out how to address them.
In this workshop based on the book The Complete Singer-Songwriter, Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers shares strategies for editing songs in progress, drawing from his own experiences as a songwriter/guitarist well as his first-hand interviews with artists such as Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Richard Thompson, Ani DiFranco, and many more. Learn how to sharpen your lyrics, strengthen the melody and chord progression, cut whatever is not needed, develop the story, and bring out the heart of a song. The workshop is designed for anyone who has written at least a few songs and wants to bring them to their full potential.
Songwriting Feedback Session
In this interactive workshop, designed for smaller groups of up to eight songwriters, each participant shares a new or in-progress song, and Jeffrey leads a discussion about how to improve the lyrics, melody, chord progression, structure, accompaniment, and more. You’ll learn as much from giving constructive feedback about others’ songs as you will from comments and suggestions about your own work.
Starting Points for 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 based on the book The Complete Singer-Songwriter, you’ll explore the many ways in which you can make yourself more receptive to inspiration and quicker to recognize it when it comes. 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. The workshop is open to songwriters with any level of experience.
Songwriting by Number
Every songwriter needs to be fluent with chord progressions, but the process of figuring out which chords to use and how to sequence them can be mystifying. You can create progressions by randomly trying chords, but with a basic theoretical understanding of chords and keys, you can zero in much more quickly on good options to try in a progression—and become a more productive and versatile songwriter overall. The secret is identifying chords in a progression by number—not by their letter names. In this workshop, you’ll learn the basics of the number system, which allows you to quickly change a song’s key (without a capo), pinpoint what’s happening in a cool chord sequence, make connections between songs, and create stronger and more distinctive progressions.
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 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
For more on the workshop, see this Boston Globe feature (with video).
Acoustic Grateful Dead video samples
Beyond Strumming: Creative Guitar Accompaniment
When you’re playing guitar behind your singing, you can do so much more than simply strum the chords and keep the time. In this workshop based on Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers’ popular lessons for Acoustic Guitar magazine, 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, cross-picking, alternate tunings, and partial capos.
Gryphon Stringed Instruments, Palo Alto, CA
Marin Community Music School, San Anselmo, CA
George’s Music, Jacksonville, FL
The Music Emporium, Lexington, MA
Passim School of Music, Cambridge, MA
Union Music, Worcester, MA
Wood Bros. Music, Pittsfield, MA
House of Musical Traditions, Takoma Park, MD
Jalopy Theatre and School of Music, Brooklyn, NY
Ithaca Guitar Works, Ithaca, NY
Bernunzio Uptown Music, Rochester, NY
Jake’s Main Street Music, Beacon, NY
Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase, Woodstock, NY
Audio Classics, Binghamton, NY
Guitar League, Syracuse, NY
The Whammy Bar, Calais, VT
Advance Music, Burlington, VT
Chincoteague Island, VA