Bluegrass Banjo Improvisation with Ira Gitlin

Mondays, October 25, November 1, 8, 15, 7:00 – 8:00 PM

Whether we’re playing professionally on stage or socially in a jam session, as banjo players we often have to play solos on the spur of the moment. In this four-session class  aimed at students who have a basic grasp of Scruggs-style playing, we’ll discuss how improvisation works, and we’ll look at several approaches to “faking” a bluegrass banjo solo, using standard licks, chord positions, and rolls. These skills will help you feel more at home on your instrument, and in any playing situation you find yourself in.


Online: Class will be held on the free Zoom video conferencing app. You will need a laptop with a webcam, or a smartphone or tablet (please have Zoom installed and tested before you join the session). SMT will send instructions via email for joining the Zoom event 1-2 days before the session. If you do not see the instructions, please check your spam folder. You may also email us. Please note that we do not provide refunds for students who cannot find the link.

IRA GITLIN – Ira Gitlin is widely known and respected in Washington-Baltimore music circles as a versatile multi-instrumentalist, teacher, and writer. A former National Bluegrass Banjo Champion, he has backed up such nationally known performers as Bill Harrell, the Johnson Mountain Boys, Laurie Lewis, Peter Rowan, and Peter “P.D.Q. Bach” Schickele.

In addition to numerous festival workshops, Ira has taught at the Maryland Banjo Academy, the Swannanoa Gathering, the Augusta Heritage Center, Banjo Camp North, Folk College, and the Midwest Banjo Camp. He has lectured on bluegrass for the Smithsonian Associates, and delivered papers at the 2005 and 2017 Bluegrass Music Symposiums.

In 1993 Ira was a one-day winner on Jeopardy.

$150 for 4 sessions

Event Details
  • Start Date
    October 25, 2021 7:00 pm
  • End Date
    November 15, 2021 8:00 pm
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