I teach French Café Songs, Swing Guitar, and Bluegrass Jam online or in person. Scroll down to see the descriptions below or the FAQ at the bottom of the page.

(in case you're skeptical: yes online classes work fine: I, as well as many other teachers, have done that for a while. Different possibilities and mechanics than in person, but hey, these are special circumstances! And added bonus: if you're shy, nobody will hear you, other than your roommates...)

Swing Guitar class

Learn / improve your guitar skills to play Swing songs: the "swing" style and sound, chords, standard progressions, and soloing.

I teach this class in-person, as well as online:

        Click here to register through the Freight & Salvage.

             Send me an email oaklandolivier@gmail.com if you're interested.

             Send me an email oaklandolivier@gmail.com if you're interested.

Click here for details

This class is for guitar players who want to learn how to play Swing or improve your chords chops and rhythm playing.

If you play folk music, bluegrass, country, or rock, or even swing already, and are comfortable with the standard "campfire" or "cowboy" chords, you're ready for this class. We'll build on your knowledge and learn the chords and rhythms used in Western Swing, Classic Jazz like the Great American Songbook, and Gypsy Jazz. Very little theory, don't worry, no scales, solfège, or music notation.

Using common swing tunes as examples we'll learn the closed-position movable chords (you know, those not-so-intimidating-once-you-know-what-they-mean, 6s, 9s, diminished and augmented), and also look at chord substitutions, standard progressions and turn arounds. We may also take a standard Bluegrass or Country song and see how we can "swing-ify" it with these new chords.

Chords are only one aspect; we'll also see how to play with a "swing touch", so we'll talk about tone and feel, including the right-hand technique and rhythm patterns, and, most importantly, how to play with other musicians, in jams or bands. And if you're interested in soloing, we'll look at practical tips you can use right away. And if Gypsy Jazz is your thing, we'll learn La Pompe and 3-note chords.

And by the way, except for the chord diagrams, a lot of this class is applicable to other chordal instruments like the mandolin.

Class prerequisites: knowing how to finger the simple chords or even the basic Swing chords. That's it! We'll learn all the chord fingerings using simple diagrams. If you already know how to read a chord chart or grille, great, if not, we'll learn that too. 


From previous students:

"Valuable information about pick/strum technique, chord substitutions, and how to make your solos more interesting and effective. This class has a good balance between talking and playing!"

"I've enjoyed the class and your teaching style, which I describe as practical and laid back."

"What I find valuable is the go-a-round which forces us to practice playing rhythm properly and to improvise. You are also a kind and encouraging teacher. "


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a little video describing the class...

French Café Songs class

We'll learn to sing all those classic songs French songs you've heard before (La Vie En Rose, Les Feuilles Mortes, Ménilmontant, J'Attendrai, etc...) and a bunch you've never heard before.

   

Online (Zoom), Wednesdays from 6:30 pm  to 7:45 pm for 6 week, starting  March 6, 2024

        Click here to register through the Freight & Salvage.

Click here for details

Learn to sing songs from the classic French Café Music repertoire (Piaf, Trenet, Montand, Gainsbourg, Brassens, etc.) as well as some more modern songs. 

Every week we learn and sing together 2 new songs. Those can be famous or obscure songs, waltzes, foxtrots, tangos, political songs, romantic songs, happy songs, broken heart songs. 

For each song, I read, explain and translate the lyrics, then talk about where the song comes from, its social, political and historical context, and the references hidden in the lyrics. All stuff you won't find on Wikipedia. And then of course we'll sing. We'll learn the melody together and work on the pronunciation, so in the end you'll even improve your French!

You don't need to be fluent in French. Some basics of French would be helpful, but don’t worry, I'll help you with the pronunciation, in fact many people who have taken the class didn't speak French at all. Also, no prior experience required in singing, playing an instrument, or any music theory. 

I'll send the lyrics and chord charts of the song for each week, along with links so you can listen to the song ahead of time.

From previous students:

"The class was fun! Olivier is an excellent teacher, singer, and musician."

"It was well structured for both, more confident and less experienced French speakers ."

"Olivier was very responsive and engaging and a delightful musician who clearly knew his stuff."

Links to some songs we might do:


Scroll down a bit for a little video describing the class...

Bluegrass Jam class

Are you new to Bluegrass Jamming, or want to improve your skills, or learn new songs? This class will give you the confidence to play with others, enjoy doing so, and have other jammers appreciate you being part of the circle. We’ll play and sing together, learn how to follow a chord progression, kick off and end tunes, solo, accompany the singers, set the tempo, etc. and all the unspoken rules of jam “etiquette”.

   

In-person, Tuesdays from 8:30 pm to 9:45 pm for 6 weeks at the Freight And Salvage, in Berkeley, starting  March 5, 2024

        Click here to register through the Freight & Salvage.

Click here for details

The class covers everything from understanding the structure and form of bluegrass songs, how to follow a chord progression, kicking off and ending tunes, setting a tempo, using the capo (for those who use a capo!), playing along with 4/4 and waltz time songs, fiddle tunes and much more while becoming familiar with the unspoken rules of bluegrass jam etiquette.

Together we'll cover topics like understanding the structure and form of bluegrass songs, how to follow a chord progression, kicking off and ending tunes, setting a tempo, accompany yourself while singing, soloing and supporting the singer, using the capo (for those who use a capo!), playing along with 4/4 and waltz time songs, fiddle tunes and much more while becoming familiar with the unspoken rules of bluegrass jam etiquette.

By the end of the class, you'll know how to join a jam, how to prepare and call your own songs, how to play along with a song you're not familiar with (or familiar with but in a different key), how to start a song and describe it to those who don't know it, how to "guess" what the next chord is, what backup and fills to play, how to start a solo, etc.

We'll play fast and slow songs, waltzes, fiddle tunes, the whole gamut. We'll emphasize and practice how to play rhythm with, and listen to, the other players, because that's the single most important skill that'll get you invited back... or not! Anything is fair game, from what is "bluegrass rhythm", to how to chop, which chords and bass runs to play, etc.

And most important of all, the goal is to give you the confidence to play with others, enjoy doing so, and have the other jammers appreciate you being part of the circle.

The class is open to all bluegrass instrument players (guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, dobro, bass) and singers. From beginners to advanced, although you should know how to play the basic C, D, G, A, etc. chords (a.k.a. I/IV/V) in common bluegrass keys. And if you don't know what I/IV/V means don't worry, you'll see, it's very simple.

And, as a bonus, you'll see how the same principles apply when you join a band, so we'll talk about that.

I'll have songs and tunes ready for us to play, but the best would be for YOU to bring songs YOU want to share.

FAQ: A few Questions and Answers

Who are these classes for, when should I take them, etc...

Click here for details

- Are these classes in person?
The Swing Guitar and Bluegrass Jam classes are in person. The French Café Songs class is on Zoom, which means no parking hassle in Berkeley, and you can do it from your couch.

- Do I need to read music or have any music theory training for any of those classes?
No. We'll use a little theory in the Swing Guitar class, just to understand the chords, but nothing fancy. And none of that in the other 2 classes. And in any case, no music reading, not even tabs!

- I have already taken one of these classes, should I re-up?
Of course! For all those classes, I have a lot of topics and songs we can do, and it's up to you whether you want to learn new songs and skills or dig deeper in the ones you already have. 

- What level do I need to be for the Bluegrass Jam class?
from beginner to medium, i.e. from "I have never played in a Bluegrass jam", to "I have played in a jam but I'd like to improve and learn new songs". There are always new skills and songs to learn at any level :-). By the way, the class is open to instrumentalists (whether you play solos or just rhythm) and singers.

- Can I bring my trombone/harp/electric guitar to the Bluegrass Jam class?
Well of course traditional Bluegrass instruments are what first comes to mind (Banjo, Guitar, Mandolin, Fiddle, Bass, Dobro), but if you play another instrument, as long as it's acoustic, why not! I have played Bluegrass with clarinet, trumpet and accordion players and it works.

- I already/only play Bluegrass/Country/Folk/Blues/Rock, can I take the Swing Guitar Class?
Absolutely! As long as you know the basic chords you're good to go. And I promise you'll come out of the class being able to play more than the usual All Of Me and Lady Be Good.

- I already play Swing, should I take the Swing Guitar Class?
Yes! There are a lot of topics we can explore, from chords to frequently used patterns and turn arounds, soloing, etc. Each class is different based on what the students' level and interest are, and YOU get to influence what we learn.

- I don't speak French, can I take the French Café Songs class?
Yes! Several people who never spoke French have taken the class. I help with the pronunciation. Now, you won't be a fluent French speaker at the end of the class, but you'll be a little further than you were before, and you'll have had fun singing all those great songs, and remember one thing: it's on Zoom, so you can sing your heart out with whatever accent you want, no-one will be there to shame you :-)

- The French Café Songs class sounds interesting but I am only/not interested in Edith Piaf and the other classic French singers?
We will do of course some of the classic French repertoire, but we'll also do some (somewhat more) modern songs. Some sessions we've done 3 Piaf songs, some no Piaf at all. I always choose the songs based on students' interests, current events, songs returning students have or haven't done in previous sessions, etc.

- I don't play an instrument nor am I a trained singer, is the French Café Songs class for me?
You don't need either to participate in the class. Just be ready to learn new songs and sing your heart out.


Technical, Booking and Payments

For classes taught through the Freight And Salvage, registration and payment are all through their site

For classes I teach myself, Payments are possible via PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, Bill.com.

For online teaching, I usually use Zoom or Duo. For in-person lessons, we can do it inside, with a comfortable 6ft distance, or if the weather is good we can do it safely distanced in my backyard.

I am available during the day or evenings, weekdays or weekends.

Send me an email to oaklandolivier@mandosoft.com if you want to talk about taking lessons, or when you're ready to schedule one.