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Our workshop listing for 2017 will not be available until the spring of 2017. I'm leaving the 2016 workshop listing up until we have the 2017 listing ready to publish.

Our 2016 MLAG workshop program will do it all – get you started, help you along the way, and add to your more advanced skills. ALL of our performers and workshop leaders at MLAG are accessible and ready to answer questions, help you with problems, or just jam! Here is a listing of your instructors and descriptions of all the wonderful things they plan to teach you!



“Boot Camp for Beginners” (beg):  Come for an introduction to playing the autoharp.  This 3-hour workshop, held on Wednesday afternoon, is for new players and for those who play a little and might want to brush up on the basics. Cathy will cover many topics to get you started playing our great instrument, as well as some simple maintenance tips.  Come with any questions.  Hope to see you there!

“Autoharp Color Chord-inates” (beg & up): Cathy will teach a simple color coding system to help learn the Nashville numbering system and the circle of fifths. The system will help folks understand how to build chords – i.e., why a 7th chord is called a 7th, or how a sus4 gets its name.


“Beyond Boot Camp – Staying on Track” (beg and up): These workshops, held every morning at 9:00, are a perennial favorite with attendees and are student-directed with handouts included. With Boot Camp being for beginners and not all of the MLAG workshops being beginner level, this workshop is for those of all levels who have any questions in general or regarding anything not understood in other workshops. Your questions dictate the direction of these workshops, which will explore a variety of topics of your choice.


“Kids’ Workshops – Get Started Off Right!”
An introduction to the autoharp for children. Loaner 'harps will be available, including smaller ones for younger children. Adult beginners (and observers) also are welcome, but the tunes will be nursery rhymes and familiar children's songs.



“Carter Songs 101” (beg/int; G, C, D): We’ll learn some Carter Family songs together, with a special emphasis on the songs they recorded during the historic Bristol Sessions of August 1927. This will be a fully participatory workshop, the focus simply being to learn the basic chords for the melodies so we can play and sing together.


“Tuning Your Ear” (beg & up; G): Designed for those who are just beginning to play or just beginning to play by ear. We will talk about some chord patterns that are often repeated and cover song examples that demonstrate them. And we’ll touch on the Nashville Numbering System and how it can help you anticipate chord changes.



“An Hour with Tom Chapin” (all):  We’re very please to welcome the legendary Tom Chapin to the Gathering this year! In a career that spans five decades, 23 albums, and three Grammy awards, the multi-talented Chapin has covered an incredible amount of creative ground. As a music-maker, he has maintained two long and productive parallel careers, both as a highly respected contemporary folk artist and as a pioneer in the field of children's music. In this workshop hour, Tom will give us some highlights of his musical career and let us get to know him better.



“Shade Tree Autoharp Mechanics” (all): What to do when you break a string or have a dangling felt threaten an evening jam? Learn the basics of the anatomy of your autoharp; understand a bit more of what makes the sound good or bad. Don’t let a buzzing string or a bad harmonic ruin your day! What we cover here will simply depend on who comes and what you will want to learn about the mechanics of your ‘harp.



“Crooked Carter Family Tunes” (int, G):  The Carter Family did a number of songs that have “extended” or “added” measures, or odd phrasing. These “quirks” add charm and character to the pieces, but they can sometimes be a challenge to learn. Kim will guide you through counting the beats and measures for three well-known “crooked” Carter songs.


“Yodeling 101” (beg & up; D and more): Kim will teach the basic mechanics of yodeling, do a simple one-line yodeling exercise, then go on from there to teach two great yodeling songs. Since it is crucial to select the proper key for your own yodeling voice, Kim will show you how to find the key that works best for you.



“Meet our Recording Endowment Winner!” (all): Cory is our Cohen-Grappel Recording Endowment Winner for 2015, and her CD is ready for release! Cory is also a professional actress and has had a lead role in the play “Ring of Fire” (The story of Johnny and June Carter Cash) in Chicago for the past year. She will share some of her music and experiences as an actress and performer and whet our appetites for her recording!



“Diminished 7th Chords” (int/adv; C, G, F chromatic): Diminished 7th chords are the cornerstone of Lindsay’s chromatic ‘harp playing style and a lot more autoharpers are using them these days. This workshop will concentrate on their use to take advantage of the full range of the chromatic autoharp. Also you will learn a bit about making your own special chords from scratch.


“Improvisation” (int/adv): This workshop gives students an opportunity to improvise on a few simple themes, providing a safe and fun environment in which “there are no mistakes, only unexpected results.” Some basic attitudes and skills about improvisation will be presented, such as the skill of relying on feelings and emotions rather than on one's thinking process. Solid skills and practice which enable creative improvisation are presented, while laughter and musical playfulness in class are encouraged!


“Miking and Recording the Autoharp” (all): This somewhat specialized workshop is for people who want to play on stage or record their autoharps, and the skills taught are technical rather than musical. We'll demonstrate and try out a variety of microphone and pickup types, and discuss each one. We'll deal with concepts such as compression/limiting, equalization, microphone types, and hopefully be able to demonstrate as much as possible.



“Rhythm Options” (beg/int, D, G) - Tired of just strumming back and forth? Learn some fun, different and challenging licks to spruce up your rhythm back-up playing. We'll also learn the valuable skill and action of stopping the strings and how to incorporate that into the rhythm strums.

“Repertoire Builder” (int, D) From the hundreds of tunes in Mike's repertoire come three fun old-time tunes to build your repertoire. We'll work on John Brown's March, Sandy River Belle and Dusty Grey till we can play them at a lively and engaging pace.

“Harmony Playing” (int/adv, G) Learn two new tunes AND the harmony part to accompany them. Munster Cloak and Bill Malley's Barndance are a waltz and a dance tune which are only mildly challenging to learn and are well within many players' capabilities. The harmony parts just seem to flow out of them effortlessly.



“Sight Singing” (all): Have you ever wished you could read music a little better when given a handout at a workshop? Even excellent players may struggle with reading standard notation. Linda will present an introduction to sight reading (and singing) so you can get the idea of a tune quicker if you want to do it by reading written music.



“Choosing ‘Plain’ Chords that are Colorful” (int/adv, G): I have often been asked, “How do you get all those beautiful sounds from your ‘harp?” or “How do you know which chord to use for those arrangements?” Well, that's what this workshop is about. We will be re-arranging “Home on the Range” into something that sounds more orchestral. You can use these principles to work up arrangements for tunes you love. We will be using these chords: G, D, A, B (or their 7ths) + Am,  Em, and Bm. Of course, if your harp has the three diminished 7ths on it, then all the better!.


“Hot Licks for the Autoharp” (all): Like spices in your cabinet, these “licks” grab the attention of your audience and tweak the ear. I’ll show you some examples of using each of these tools to make “ear candy” in your arrangements.


“Dynamo Dynamics” (int/adv): In this workshop you will learn how to control your volume by graded amounts of pressure to add feeling and expression to your playing. Hopefully, you will learn to “sing” the words to a tune with your ‘harp instead of your mouth.



“Strummmm!” (beg & up; F, G): The basics of strumming simple to syncopated patterns, applied to two familiar songs.  Includes set-up details for easy, fun strumming.


That Blooming V7 Chord” (adv beg & up; G, D):  We love V7 for its resonance, but it loses impact when played all the time.  Get more out of your harmony by playing V7 less! Bring three fingerpicks and one thumbpick.


“Painting With Brushes (int & up; G): The brush is more than a time-keeper. We’ll apply its less obvious magical, musical elements to a familiar, slow tune. Bring three fingerpicks and a sturdy thumbpick (no “flicker” thumbpicks, please).



“Meet the Mixolydians!” (int; chromatic): Expand your horizons from playing just the normal I, IV, V chords, and add one more chord to get a sound that makes a big difference. Mixolydian chords tend to give an extra little lift to a tune, and I’ll show you how to do it with a most simple foolproof formula.


“Songs that Charlie Poole Sang” (int; chromatic): Charlie Poole was a most popular banjo player in the early days of recordings. Songs he performed have influenced many of today’s players, and are sung in many old-time circles. He lived a hard, rowdy life and passed away in 1931 at the age of 39. But songs he sang still live on. Come learn some!



“From Doo-Wop through Folk to Rock” (beg/int):  This workshop will explore the I-IV-V-vi chord progression in popular music. Harvey will start with the Doo-Wop sound, continue through the “teen tragedy” songs of the early 60s, through classics and into the whole folk-rock era, past John Denver, and out to the Beatles. Also, quick views of how close these tunes get to many other favorites like Rocky Top, Maggie, and even the classics!


“Playing Lap Style” (all):  Playing the harp from the lap has been with us as long as the autoharp has been. While the vertical playing style is most common today, there are advantages to playing lapstyle. Playing the harp from the lap can reduce stress and strain while opening up new picking and playing styles for you, or perhaps one of your students who struggles with upright playing. We'll learn how it can help reduce injuries while making you a better sounding player. Along the way, maybe we can learn a song or two as well. Played lap style, of course.