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Jon Shain is a veteran singer-songwriter who’s been turning heads for years with his words, his fiery acoustic guitar work, and his evolved musical style – combining improvised piedmont blues with bluegrass, swing, and ragtime. Jon has released twelve albums to date. Shain’s newest album, Never Found a Way to Tame the Blues, recorded with duo partner FJ Ventre, was released on July 9, 2021. Shain is also the author of the music book, Gettin’ Handy With the Blues – a Tribute to the Legacy of W.C. Handy and Jon Shain’s Fingerstyle Guitar Method, both published by Mel Bay Publications.
2019 International Blues Challenge Winner
Jon took first place in the solo/duo category of the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, besting over 260 competitors for the win. Watch video of Jon’s winning performance and read the News & Observer’s feature.
Jon won the 2018 Triangle Blues Society‘s Blues Challenge in the solo/duo category, sending him on to the International Challenge.
I specialize in getting adult students “unstuck” from their plateaus, introducing music theory and new techniques in a very hands-on manner. Some students come to work with me on songwriting, some on fingerstyle blues or flatpicking techniques, some on improvising, etc; the main thing is that I try to keep their original goals in mind, while still sneaking in a few ideas they might not have envisioned for themselves, yet.
I work with beginners all the way to fairly advanced professional musicians, both in my home studio and online via Skype. Over thirty years of teaching guitar, I’ve come to realize that no two students learn in exactly the same manner so I try to tailor my lessons to the individual, preferring personalized notebooks to pre-printed handouts and instructional books.
I’m also the co-founder of The Great Guitar Camp and a regular teacher at PicknBow Camp, both located in Durham, NC.
“Jon Shain is that rare musician who can walk the walk and talk the talk. A brilliant player, he is also an accomplished teacher who can unlock a student’s Rosetta Stone and give them the tools to be the musician they want to be. Whether it is blues guitar, songwriting, or music from the great American songbag, Jon is a singular voice.” – Joe Newberry, Raleigh, NC
“I met Jon at a music conference in 2014 and it changed my guitar-playing life! Jon is an encouraging, patient, energetic teacher who takes the fear and fuss out of learning everything from music theory and the fretboard to picking patterns and arrangement ideas. All of our lessons have been on Skype, which works very well. Jon has truly helped me take my music efforts — from songwriting to performance — to the next level.” — Sharon Goldman, Metuchen, NJ
“To begin, Jon Shain took me from a flailing, self-taught freak that only played in her room, with the door closed, to someone who thinks she can play just fine in public….I found Jon encompasses the right blend of instructor, comedian, and therapist, plus he’s very resourceful; there’s a reason, in short, why I call him “Coach.” Jon meets students halfway. Related issues of guitar playing—not injuring yourself, understanding how mics and amps work, why some chords jibe together and some don’t—were a major part of our lessons. If you’re serious about becoming a better guitar player, I wholeheartedly recommend Jon as your teacher.” — Penne Sandbeck, Warrenton, VA
One of my favorite things to do is work with people bringing their musical dreams to life. It’s a great honor to be included in that process, as almost a musical midwife! The way I see it, my job is to get the artist from starting point to finished project, whether they already know the exact way there or not. Navigator, interpreter, and planner, I try to bring their vision into being with as much or as little of my own stamp as they wish. I am willing to play on the project – acoustic, electric, slide, mandolin, etc., and also hire the best musicians in the area.
Most projects go like this:
- Pre-production: Choosing the material; working on each song’s arrangement, lyrics, and music; discussing the workflow plan; and booking studio times and supporting musicians.
- Recording: Being a guiding voice and sounding board in the studio; sometimes contributing guitar, etc. when needed; acting as a second engineer when needed; weighing in on mixes and masters.
I partner most often with FJ Ventre, engineer and owner of Good Luck Studio in Chapel Hill. We also have access to larger spaces and I am willing to travel to work where the artist may be.
“Thank you both so much for doing such great work. It was a joy to work with you, and I love having an album that I am not only going to be proud of, but also holds such positive memories.” –– Karyn Oliver, singer-songwriter, Greensboro, NC
“Jon Shain is much more than a producer. He acted as composer/arranger, coach, guitar teacher, guitar wizard, orchestrator, conductor, marshaller of fine musicians, all supporting a vision of a sound for my album that he had. Jon and FJ work in the studio as a team – like two guys who have been singing together since high school, FJ taking care of the technical details, Jon constantly making sure I was comfortable, and listening carefully to make sure he was getting the sound he needed, all with a gentle, positive attitude. He carefully chose and prepped the other musicians, who gave my songs new depth and color.” — Rick Drost, singer-songwriter, Cambridge, MA
“Jon Shain is an absolute pleasure to work with in the studio. His intuition for songwriting and arrangements is unparalleled, consistently providing productive input and insight into the music composition, arrangement, and recording process. He is undoubtedly one of the most innovative producers with whom I’ve worked, and I would highly recommend him to any singer-songwriter seeking a sharp and mindful contributor for their next project.” — Kaitlin Grady, cellist, Durham, NC