June 1-7, 2014

 

 

 

What's Your Playing Level?

This guide will help you assess your current level of playing, and that will help both you and us tailor your instruction. 

There are classes for you regardless of your level; even if you've never touched your instrument before.

If you wind up rating yourself lower than you really feel you play, don’t worry.  These levels are our definitions, and you might rate yourself higher or lower using someone else’s definitions. 

Our goal here is to have a consistent set of criteria, both for you and for the classes being offered.  Each class is rated using these same guidelines so that you can match yourself up with the classes you feel are appropriate to your level.

For each level, there’s a list of skills, and you might meet one, two, or all of them.  If you can meet the number suggested (“three or more of the following are true”), you should consider yourself at or above that level. 

 
 

Guitar and Mandolin

Fiddle

Banjo

Bass

Level 1

Brand New Player

You've never played before, or you’re just learning your first chords. You pause to relocate your fingers for the next chord.

You've never played before, or you’re just learning your first melodies. You’re concentrating on bow hold, posture, and finger placement.

You've never played before, or you’re just learning your first chords and rolls.  You pause to relocate your fingers, and your rolls aren’t even or smooth yet.

You've never played before, or you’re just getting used to holding the instrument and making a good sound.

Level 2

Beginner

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You can play some of the standard first-position chords like C, G, D, and possibly A, E, Em and Am.

·          You can strum along with a song using the above chords and generally get to them in time if you know the song. 

·          You can kinda play an F chord but you’re not comfortable with it yet.

·          You can play some easy melodies using single notes.

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You can play 1 octave scales such as  A and D

·          You know some songs and fiddle tunes at a slow to moderate tempo.

·          You are concentrating primarily on playing in tune, getting good tone and controlling the bow.

·          You know the basic shuffle bowing  (Long short short, LSS)

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You can play two or three basic rolls (forward, backward, alternating thumb) pretty smoothly.

·          You can play the basic chords (G, C, D, A, F) and usually get there on time.

·          You can play the off-beat “chop” or “vamp” when backing up someone else.

·          You can play along with some bluegrass songs and start and stop on time.

·          You’re quite clear that banjo rolls are different than guitar fingerpicking.

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You can play an alternating bass line (root-fifth) on easy songs using mostly open strings.

·          You can hold a steady rhythm while playing the bass line.

·          You’re just starting to get a good solid bass sound.

·          You’re learning to damp the strings after hitting them.

Level 3

Intermediate

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You can sing and strum along with most songs. 

·          You can play the Level 2 chords plus play B7, C7 and Dm.

·          You can play seventh chords, or at least figure out how to play them.

·          You can play the F chord pretty comfortably

·          You can play a bar chord or two.

·          You can keep steady rhythm and have played with other folks some. 

·          You learn new songs fairly easily as long as the chords aren’t too weird. 

·          You can do some bass runs, and you might be able to play some fiddle tune melodies. 

·          You can do some fingerpicking, possibly the Travis pattern.

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You play (or could play) 2 octave major and minor scales in common keys A, D, G, C, F

·          You are comfortable using the full bow

·          You can play some double stops

·          You can play slurs and slides.

·          You can play harmony parts.

·          You use drone strings.

·          You are comfortable using your 4th finger.

·          You can play in 3rd position

·          You have good rhythm and have played with other folks some. 

 

 

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You can play banjo leads on some fiddle tunes (Cripple Creek, Salt Creek, Old Joe Clark, etc.)

·          You can play several rolls, and they’re smooth and in good rhythm.

·          You can do at least one kickoff and one tag for bluegrass songs.

·          You can take a break on a bluegrass song and keep good rhythm.

·          You can play some chords up the neck.

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You can play comfortably in the keys of C, G, D, A and E.

·          You’ve played with other folks a fair amount.

·          You can play at least three major scales.

·          You play with good rhythm.

·          You can do some runs between one chord and the next.

·          You can play other bass notes than the root and the fifth (such as the third) and know where to use them.

·          You can play other rhythmic patterns besides the standard 1st and 3rd beat.

Level 4

Advanced

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You can recognize I, IV and V chord patterns. 

·          You know minor seventh chord and diminished chord forms.

·          You can flatpick fairly well and know at least a dozen fiddle tunes.

·          You can fingerpick “Freight Train” or something equivalent, and can play the Travis pattern without any problem.

·          You can play some chords up the neck and understand what makes them up.

·          You can improvise some leads.

·          You play well with others and are used to jamming

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You learn new tunes quickly (by sight reading or by ear)

·          You are comfortable with 3rd position, and may also play in  2nd,  4th and 5th positions

·          You can back up others in a jam using double stops and chops

·          You can improvise some leads

·          You play well with others and are used to jamming at a pretty fast tempo

·          You play (or can play) double shuffle bowing and Georgia shuffle bowing

·          You can play a variety of stylistic ornaments like trills, rolls, slides, and drones with 4th finger slide.

 

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You’re comfortable in different keys.

·          You can play or improvise banjo leads on a good number of fiddle tunes.

·          You can play some leads up the neck.

·          You can play somewhat fast and cleanly.

·          You’re sensitive to what the other players are playing in your group or jam.

·          You can play several kickoffs and tags.

·          You’ve done some melodic (Keith-style) playing.

 

Four or more of the following are true:

·          You’re comfortable in nearly all keys.

·          You can play most major scales.

·          You can do a walking bass using open strings (that is, not all closed-position notes).

·          Your rhythm is quite solid, and you can add ornaments cleanly.

·          You can “drive” a group, rather than just playing along.

·          You have good dynamic control.

Level 5

Expert

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You can work out fingerpicking arrangements including bass lines and treble harmonies.

·          As a flatpicker, you can play lead and backup with strong, steady rhythm.

·          You can improvise well.

·          You’re an experienced jammer or performer.

·          You’re comfortable with many different styles of playing.

·          You know altered chords such as sixths, augmented, flat fives, etc.

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You are comfortable playing in most keys

·          You are comfortable playing all up and down the fingerboard

·          You can improvise well

·          You’re an experienced jammer or performer.

·          You’re comfortable with playing in many styles

·          You can play well at a fast tempo

 

Three or more of the following are true:

·          You are an experienced jammer or performer.

·          You play melodic leads comfortably and at a variety of speeds.

·          You can play with dynamic control.

·          Your rhythm is rock-solid.

·          You can improvise on most any tune or song.

Three or more of the following are true:

·          Your rhythm is rock-solid, and you really make a groove.

·          You’re an experienced jammer or performer.

·          You understand the theory of the chords you’re backing up.

·          You’re comfortable with many different styles of playing.

·          You can play a walking bass in all keys using closed-position notes.