“Raise-the-Bar” (RTB) Classes

Treehouse clan

I’ve been teaching multi-level classes at Olympic College since 1978 and my RTB classes since 2012.  I really enjoy sharing things which I know will make your playing easier and more fun! I hold my RTB community classes in local restaurants, coffee shops and bars: Most recently at the Hare and Hounds and the Martini Cafe in Poulsbo and on Bainbridge Island at Pegasus Coffee, The Treehouse Lounge and Cups Espresso. These classes have been on hold since March of 2020.

So…When can we continue our classes post pandemic??…

I do have plans to re-start all my classes. Look for them on Bainbridge Island (location yet to be determined) and also back in Kitsap County – most likely at the Guitar Cafe in Silverdale. WHEN… is the question. Plans are in the making and we’re keeping fingers crossed that no stupid viral-variant will rise up to further postpone things!! I will keep you posted.

Two 1-hour weekly classes are back-to-back and on-going.
The goal is to have a great music group experience in a comfortable setting.
As with drop-in classes each week varies in attendance and levels.
Suggested donation for each hour class is $20.

With no commitment to attend weekly there is always a slight chance that you might be the only one to show up (it has happened) in which case you get a private lesson at the cost of a class admission!

1ST HOUR CLASS – Beginner-Mediates Unite

I call this my beginner-mediate class and it accommodates people who consider themselves beginners but also for those who can play some songs. If you’re wanting to learn to play and jam with others and have the patience and desire to work on your music in a group setting, this class is for you.

I assess the overall class each week and offer either a song – or just a chunk of a song (or melody) as a vehicle to use to play together.  We don’t use any form of written music, I just assign parts and teach them to each group member based on their skill level. I use typical  jamming language and etiquette which helps prepare for real-life jamming!

The fear of playing in front others can be very scary, so I highlight some of the psychology behind those fears and  help students overcome performance anxieties before they take root.

I am a “string” guy, however this class is open to all instruments. If you are a violin, viola, or cello player please have already learned basic bowing and fingering techniques.  Same for horn players – but also bring a mute.

What in the Music is going on??

The second hour is aimed at those who already play and are interested in refining their technique and figuring out the practical use of music theory. This class usually attracts more advanced players. As with the beginner-mediate class we select a tune or passage to use as our vehicle. Most of our material comes from songs with lots of chords (Swing, Jazz etc.) so we can analyze what the music is “doing”. In addition to ensemble playing, emphasis will be on using good technique, understanding the theory behind the music and learning style-appropriate licks and riffs. It’s loads of fun!

RTB classes provide musicians  in the community a chance to gather in a casual setting, play music and enjoy music instruction and spirits. The goal is to literally “Raise the Bar” for our understanding and enjoyment of music.


H&H logo

Offering music lessons in public establishments was originally proposed to me by the proprietors of the Hare & Hounds Pub in Poulsbo. Knowing the potential commotion in a public place can be distracting, I had doubts how well this would work. But to my surprise it works great!  Students hear and focus with no problem and above all, they play with less inhibitions because the overall vibe is so casual… and proved to be great fun for everybody!

In July of 2012 I started my first Raise-the-Bar classes with a fluctuating group of mostly guitar and mandolin students downtown Poulsbo.  The main focus of these classes has been pre-50s Swing music. I’ve developed a method to help students quickly identify the shorter swing chord progressions that ultimately string together, underpinning swing style harmony.

Raise the Bar pub Classes definitely raise the level of energy at the pub as well as our level of music understanding and overall musicianship. Students donate $20.00 per class and get access to the class Dropbox with videos, charts and play along tracks.