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Acoustic Blues Guitar Basics

A Group Course for Intermediate Students

Next course starts 18 April 2018.

‘If I was a catfish, swimmin’ in the deep blue sea,
If I was a catfish, oh, swimmin’ in the deep blue sea,
I’d have all you women fishin’ after me’

– Lightning Hopkins, ‘Catfish Blues’

‘I’m not good enough to be playin’ much acoustic guitar onstage. Man, you gotta get so right; I mean, the tones, the feel, the sound. Plus, acoustic blues guitar is just that much harder on the fingers. I really appreciate when someone can blow me away with live acoustic blues.’
– Johnny Winter

‘I learned more from this 10-week course than from trying to teach myself acoustic blues for over 10 years!’
– D. Farrelly

While there are many different styles of acoustic blues, the New School’s Acoustic Blues Guitar Basics course provides an extensive introduction to three distinct acoustic blues guitar techniques:

  1. Monotonic Bass, where the thumb maintains a steady bass line on a single string while the fingers pick out a melody on the treble strings.
  2. Alternating Bass, where the thumb alternates between two or more bass notes on the bottom strings as the fingers pick the treble strings.
  3. Delta Strumming, where the thumb and fingers sweep or brush across several strings simultaneously, creating a full lush accompaniment.

Students will be introduced to these techniques initially through basic study songs but will also get the opportunity to tackle some classics of the genre, including:

  • ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ – Robert Johnson
  • ‘Dust My Broom’ – Freddie King
  • ‘Key to the Highway’ – Big Bill Broonzy
  • ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ – Lightnin’ Hopkins
  • ‘Hey Hey’ – Big Bill Broonzy
  • ‘Stack O’ Lee’ – Mississippi John Hurt
  • ‘Candy Man Blues’ – Mississippi John Hurt
  • ‘Kind Hearted Woman Blues’ – Robert Johnson

Please note that this isn’t a soloing course; acoustic blues is primarily an accompaniment style. Solos and lead playing are encountered less frequently and are usually presented as variations on the accompaniment.

Although this course is an introduction to acoustic blues guitar, it is not a course for guitar beginners. (See Introducing Guitar for Adults or Introducing Guitar for Teens for information on our beginners’ courses.) Participants should be familiar with guitar tablature and basic chord forms, including barre chords.

A video demonstration of some techniques covered in the course:

Michael McInerney

Michael McInerneyMichael began playing the guitar in his late teens, initially as a way of trying to make sense of the musical jargon that confounded him as he tried to teach himself the harmonica, his first instrument. It didn’t work. And so, for the next 20 years or so he meandered from one style to the next in search of that ever elusive piece by which he could finally say, ‘Now I can really play!’ The search continues. In the meantime he has, at one time or another, played blues, jazz, flamenco, slide-guitar, Irish traditional, some classical and a little ragtime – though his main interests remain blues, slide and fingerstyle guitar. He also has a keen interest in the use of alternate tunings and has built up a large resource on the subject. Although he sees himself as primarily an acoustic player, he also plays electric and is equally at home with pick or fingers. His experiences trying to figure out what was going on either from books or recordings has given him an insight into the difficulties faced by anyone trying to learn the guitar, and he remains committed to the idea that in order to teach you must first know what it’s like not to know. As a result, his guitar courses are the some of the most popular and successful in the history of the New School. Michael has written and performed solo guitar music for theatre and film and performed as a flamenco guitarist; he can also be heard with his band Master Blaster. He holds an LGSM (P), DipJazz from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, a BA in English and Philosophy from NUI Maynooth, and a Diploma in Drama Studies and an MA in Modern Drama from UCD.

‘Really enjoyed the course and Michael’s teaching. I feel that I’ve really got to grips with the style.’
– D. Harris

‘The perfect introduction to acoustic blues playing. Highly recommended.’
– P. Murphy

‘Michael is a fantastic teacher who combines huge enthusiasm for his subject with huge knowledge (and patience!). An excellent course.’
– G. Walsh


Have you taken – or are you taking – this course? We would appreciate it if you could take a few moments to give us your feedback in a brief online questionnaire about it.

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2017-2018 Third Term Course Schedule & Fee

10 weeks, 18 April – 20 June 2018
Wednesdays 8.30 – 9.30 pm

Tuition Fee: €170

Enrolment for this course requires a completed Enrolment Form and full payment of the course fee. Places are limited to eight, and are available on a first-come, first-served basis, based on the date of enrolment. A number of our group courses fill in advance of their start dates, and early enrolment is recommended.

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