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2016 Midwest Banjo Camp flyer

MBC Flyer

Next Camp: June 1-4, 2017

Our Thirteenth Year!

Our 2017 Website Should Be Up by the Beginning of October
Meanwhile, Learn About MBC by Checking Out Our 2016 Site

Midwest Banjo Camp XIII will take place on June 1-4, 2017 at the Olivet College Campus in Olivet, Michigan. Come study old-time or bluegrass banjo with some of today's best players and teachers in both styles. Our program features hands-on classes, demonstrations, two faculty concerts, and still leaves lots of time for jamming with your fellow banjo enthusiasts.

MBC 2016 group photo
Click on the image for download page

New Format! MBC inaugurates a new format this year, and runs straight through from Thursday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. We now offer nine class sessions -- three on Friday, four on Saturday and two on Sunday. Each session is one hour and fifteen minutes long. There are staff concerts on both Friday and Saturday evenings; over the course of the weekend you'll have the opportunity to hear our entire staff in concert. Rounding out the program are “demonstrations”, presentations, and staff-led bluegrass and old-time jams conducted at a variety of skill levels.

MBC still offers a Weekend-Only Option (Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon). Click on the link for more details.



Midwest Banjo Camp is committed to offering highly specialized classes with subjects tailored to the expertise of our faculty. Most of our classes are "hands-on," meaning that teachers have a set of skills or a tune or two in mind to impart, and that students should have their instruments in hand during class. Following is a list of popular banjo classes from previous years. To give you an even better idea, check out our 2016 MBC schedule.

Old Time
  • Intro to Round Peak Clawhammer
  • How to Play with Fiddlers: Concepts & Strategies
  • Wade Ward's 3-Finger Chording Style
  • The Clawhammer Styles of Fields & Wade Ward
  • Intro to Syncopation, Clawhammer Style
  • The Fundamentals of Drop and Double Thumbing
  • Grandpa Jones Songs & Tunes
  • Mastering the Mechanics of Good Tone
  • Western North Carolina Fiddle Tunes for Clawhammer
  • That Old-Time Rhythm
  • The "Chuck"and Other Rhythmic Space Fillers
  • Exploring Cumberland Gap Tuning
  • Banjo Pickin' Girls: Songs from the Coon Creek Girls & Cousin Emmy
  • Round-Peak Retrospective: Contrasting Creed, Jarrell, & Cockerham
  • Can That Tuner: Learn to Tune & Change Tunings by Ear
  • Fitting in at a Jam: Hearing & Following Chord Changes
  • Intro to Melodic Bluegrass
  • Essentials of Single String
  • The Essential Earl: Licks & Techniques
  • Tone Color & Acoustic Special Effects
  • The Banjo Style of JD Crowe
  • Don Reno Techniques & Tunes
  • Blues Banjo: Improvising Over a Three Chord Harmony
  • Roll Logic: How the Rolls Work
  • Rock 'n' Roll, TV Themes & Other Stuff You Ain't Supposed to Play on Banjo
  • Scruggs-Style Picking in the key of C
  • Up the Neck Scruggs-Style Backup
  • Intro to Jazz Improvisation
  • 3rds & 6ths: Playing Melody & Harmony Together
  • Walking Basslines, Texas-Swing & "Stride" Bass as Approaches to Backup
  • Picking it Solid: Achieving Clarity, Punch, & Timing:
  • From Bluegrass to Western swing: A New Slant on Bluegrass Chord Progressions


Note: Once you've registered for MBC, you may attend any class you wish at any time throughout our program. You do NOT have to pre-register for any track, class, or teacher. The questions on the registration form regarding interests and levels are only there to help us plan our program. They do NOT commit you to pursue any particular level, style, or instrument.

Levels and Tracks for Bluegrass & Old-time Banjo

All students at MBC are free to take any class at any time. You canmove among levels, move freely between old-time and bluegrass, take classes in different instruments, and generally create a program that works best for you. We now offer four levels or "tracks" for both bluegrass and old-time banjo: Novice, lower intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced. Here is how we define our levels:

Novice track:

The novice program is designed primarily for true beginners: banjoists who have been playing a few months or less, or who have not yet learned even the most basic mechanics of either fingerpicking or the clawhammer stroke. If you already know these basics, we recommend diving into either the lower intermediate or even the upper intermediate programs. Even if they are a little over your head, you'll still be taking home vital advice and mental images that will guide your growth on banjo for years to come.

Lower Intermediate Track:

Our lower intermediate track is for students who are beyond the novice stage but still need a lot of technical help on a variety of fronts -- such as efficient left hand and right hand techniques, building up speed and power, achieving good timing, basic song and tune arranging, and so on. Estimated minimum playing experience required: 6 months to 2 years.

Upper Intermediate Track:

The upper intermediate track is for students who can play pretty well at a basic level, but are looking to increase their repertoires and playing efficiency, and expand their horizons. It is also designed to help your playing sound more authentic and professional. Estimated minimum playing experience required: 18 months to 3 years.

Advanced Track:

The advanced track is for those who can already play up to (or close to) speed, but who are looking to grow further as musicians through learning from some of the world's best players. Estimated minimum playing experience required: 3-4 years and up.

Full-Time “Tracks” in Bass, Fiddle, Guitar & Mandolin.

MBC is not only for banjoists. You can study these other instruments full-time, half-time, or take a class or two. For details, click here.

Our Special Classes Track

These are our "miscellaneous" offerings. Our special classes are different each year, depending on the talents and interests of our instructors. In the past, we have had classes in uke, dobro, rhythm instruments, instrument set-up and repair, harmony singing, clogging, and music theory. For our special offerings for this year, check out the 2016 MBC Schedule.

Introducing the Banjo: a Crash Course for Absolute Beginners

On Thursday evening, MBC will run a special class for people who want to get started on banjo (or for those who have already gotten started and figure they need a quick review before diving into our novice program). The class covers the following topics: getting acquainted with the instrument, holding it, getting in tune, how to finger the strings and play a few basic chords, how to keep time by simple strumming, etc. For those who are undecided about which banjo path to pursue, our instructors will also demonstrate both bluegrass and old time styles on the banjo and explain some of the pluses and minuses about trying to learn each genre. "Introducing the Banjo" is open to all MBC Registrants.

MBC’s New Format

Starting this year, Midwest Banjo Camp starts mid-afternoon on Thursday and runs through lunchtime on Sunday. Instead of dividing things up into a “regular camp” with classes and an optional “Pre-camp” MBC is now a single event. The new format allows us to use our time more efficiently and gives us an opportunity for a bit more breathing room. Here are just some of the advantages:

  • A single, streamlined student orientation covers the entire event. This will be held right after dinner on Thursday evening.
  • We can get started with hands-on classes first thing Friday morning; as a result we can offer one additional hands-on class relative to previous years.
  • There will be more staff-led jamming opportunities; this means that even our early-to-bedders will have at least one opportunity to jam in the afternoon with their favorite instructors.
  • All attendees will now have a chance to experience our entertaining and informative “demonstrations” and “presentations”
  • The extra free time means that you’ll have more of an opportunity to get to know your fellow attendees and jam on your own.

Can I Still Attend MBC Just from Friday to Sunday? (The Weekend-Only Option)

Yes, you can. You can still enjoy MBC even if you can’t take an extra day off. Our “Weekend-Only Option” begins with the first class Friday afternoon. Included are seven hands-on classes and all meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch. Also included are the two faculty concerts, staff-led jams on Friday and Saturday evenings, and staff-led jams and demonstrations on Friday afternoon. Rates for the weekend-only option appear on the “Registration & Fees” page.

Starting and Ending Times

Full Camp. Check-in for the full camp is from 2PM to 5PM on Thursday, June 2. Student Orientation takes place at 7:00PM, and activities begin at about 8:00PM. Check the schedule when it appears (probably mid-to-late January) for details. Camp ends on Sunday, June 5 at 2:00PM.

Weekend-Only Option. If you choose this option, check-in is on Friday between 10AM and noon. Pick up your schedule and orientation materials at the front desk; your first activity is 1:30 PM on Friday at the start of the afternoon class sessions. Check the 2016 MBC Schedule for details. Camp ends on Sunday, June 5 at 2:00PM.


Demonstrations now take place at MBC on Thursday evening and Friday afternoon. “Demos” are round-robin presentations or mini-performances featuring members of our faculty that address a theme, combined with explication and Q&A sessions. Somewhere in between hands-on classes and demos are those classes labeled "demo-instructional." Following are a few examples of the kinds of demos we might offer:

  • Progressive Approaches to Bluegrass
  • All "Earl" all the time
  • Banjo-Fiddle Duets
  • Singing with the Banjo
  • Black Banjo Styles & Influences
  • Old-time Fingerpicking
  • Blues on the Banjo
  • Tunes you Don't Expect to Hear on Banjo
  • Playing in a Band: Concepts & Techniques
  • Fiddle Tunes on Banjo
  • Vocal Harmonies
  • Bill Monroe Tunes on Banjo

What’s so Special about Demos?

Although demonstrations do not feature hands on instruction, they do offer a valuable learning experience. By watching instructors play and listening to their explanatory remarks and verbal interchanges, you get a strong sense not only of the state of the field, but also of the history of bluegrass and old-time music. What’s more, observing the instructors in action is a great way to discover whose styles you are most attracted to, and whose methods of presentation suit you best.

Use of Recording Devices at MBC

Many of our instructors prefer to teach by ear and example rather than by tab or other notation. Consequently, we encourage students to bring along compact recording devices, so that recordings made in class will be available after camp to serve as memory aids. As a courtesy, however, please ask each instructor at the start of class whether he or she permits the use of such recording devices.

"A Passion for the Banjo" slide show on the MBC scene
prepared by photographer William Henry.