Cyd Smith Workshop & Swing Jam - March 2, 2019

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Cyd Smith Workshop & Swing Jam

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019 

10:00 am - 12:00 pm - Swinging the Melody: An Approach to Swing Guitar Improvisation

Often we guitar players tend to ignore the melody. After all, unlike horn players or violinists, we’re a part of the rhythm section and have chords as well as melody to deal with. 

And why is melody important anyway? For you skeptics, here’s a couple of thoughts:

  • Have you ever wanted to “play what’s in your head” instead of being tied to what your fingers can automatically grab? 
  • Do all of your solos sound somewhat alike, because you’re playing the same thing you always play over a certain set of chord changes, as opposed to playing what distinguishes the song? (That would be the melody.)

Learning the melody is a good way to start to learn to hit the notes that you’re hearing rather than the notes that are simply convenient. Playing the melody keeps you honest and hones your ear. When you learn a melody, you’re building a connection between your fingers and what you hear in your head. It also helps develop your own melodic sense in improvisation.

In this workshop we’ll focus on building the connection between what we can play on our instrument with what we hear in our heads. Working on simple melodies is a great way to do that. We’ll look at strategies for finding the melody on your instrument, such as ear training, scales, and sheer muscle memory. And of course, since it don’t mean a thing without the swing, we’ll focus on infusing swing feel into even the simplest melody. The most important thing is to start where you are, find your strengths, and build on them—and have fun while you’re doing it!

This workshop is oriented towards guitarists, although other instrumentalists are also welcome. 


1:00 - 3:00 pm - Swing Jam for Beginners (Suggested donation)

Are you curious about swing? Is it different than mainstream jazz? From gypsy jazz? If you have ever listened to the Count Basie big band, the Nat King Cole Trio, the early recordings of Ella Fitzgerald, or Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, then you know the answer. Swing's infectious dance rhythms, vast repertoire of songs written by such masters as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and George and Ira Gershwin, and its adaptability to many kinds of instruments and vocalists give it its own distinct flavor and appeal.

 It’s great music to play with others, and in this jam we’ll make it easy. We’ll choose songs with no more than 4 or 5 chords, keep the tempos slow, and focus on good jam etiquette and listening-while-you-play skills. Not only is swing great music for horns, it works beautifully with all kinds of stringed instruments, so bring not only your clarinet but your guitar, ukulele, fiddle, or mandolin! And bring your voice—I’ll provide lyrics to some simple songs. 


About Cyd Smith

Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Cyd Smith began studying classical guitar in her early teens and majored in music at Stanford University. Early on in her musical explorations she discovered the rich treasury of American vintage popular and folk music, especially  the jazz and swing music of the 20’s, 30's, and 40’s. Ever since she has delved deeply into the guitarists, vocalists, and songwriters of those eras. All these influences feed into her own genre-blending/bending songwriting.

Over the years she has performed with many luminaries of the national acoustic music scene, including Rebecca Kilgore, Casey MacGill, Russ Barenberg, Mary Flower, and Laurie Lewis. Her passion for teaching swing—and in particular making it accessible to beginning students-- has made Cyd a favorite teacher at music camps through the US. The long list of camps she has taught at include the Puget Sound Workshop, Augusta Heritage Blues and Swing Workshop, Centrum Vintage Jazz Workshop, Colorado Roots Music Camp, Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Workshop, Alaska Acoustic Guitar Camp, Georgia Strait Guitar Workshop, California Coast Music Camp, and many more.