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Do your students know about finger picking master John Fahey? Probably not. Are they familiar with Fleet Foxes? Probably. Whether or not they’re conscious of it, they do know something about folk. And a great way to cover folk in class is to teach both old and new together. Here’s a look at one throwback who inspired generations of musicians and a band who’s topping the charts with folk today.The Throwback
John Fahey’s first guitar cost him $17, and he hoped it would impress the ladies. He weathered many ups and downs in his musical career, but his legacy is that of guitar legend and founder of American Primitive Guitar. American Primitive Guitar (meaning untutored guitar) was adopted by dozens of well-known guitarists, including Leo Kottke.Throwback Quick Lesson:
1. Have your students watch/listen to this Fahey (a.k.a. Blind Joe Death) classic, “Dance of Death”

2. Have your class try this finger picking exercise:

3. Next, ask your students to write short composition using the fingerpicking technique. (It was, after all, his own innovations that made Fahey unlike any other.)

The Chart-Toppers
Known for their calling-all-angels vocal harmonies, Fleet Foxes have brought folk back and trickled it into the mainstream. This Seattle-grown band had musical inspiration rooted in Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson and Neil Young. What they crafted, and what has made them a critical success, is something all their own.

Chart-Topper Quick Lesson
1. Have your students listen to this Fleet Foxes hit, “White Winter Hymnal”

2. Have your class try their hand at the song, using this video as a guide (don’t let the lefty guitar throw you)

3. Have your students split 50-50. Half of the class will play “White Winter Hymnal” on their guitars. Half of the class will bravely attempt the vocals (Get them here: Then switch it up so that all students can take a crack at both guitar and vocals. Though not all of your students will become singers, it’ll be great practice for those who are open to the possibility.