What’s different about Wernick classes compared to other jam classes?

Many things. One of the major differences is that every class session spends about half the time with the pickers in small circles, leading themselves in jams, each circle attended by an experienced, helpful coach. I think a student can get better help being coached while they’re jamming than in a one-on-one lesson or sitting in a class listening to a teacher.

We teach a lot of skills that are normally never taught in books or lessons, such as how to lead a song, how to learn a chord progression quickly, how to fake a solo on the fly, and so on. Many jam classes I’ve seen are more about following the teacher leading everyone. We teach jam skills and repertoire that way, but the best way to get good at jamming is to practice actual jamming… so we show them how it’s done and get them jamming!

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Do I have to know how to read tab or notation

Either way, tab or standard notation, is just fine as a way of learning solos that someone else has created. But in bluegrass jamming, people have to “think on their feet” and learn to come up with solos based on their ability to follow chord progressions with notes that fit in the chords, and put in melody notes or pre-learned “licks” where they can. So we actually don’t use written notation in our classes at all, but work on developing ear skills. 

We want students to cultivate (with help from a teacher) ear skills such as the ability to remember and anticipate chord changes, and eventually to correctly guess chord changes, and to find melodies by ear. Most students recognize if they lack ear skills and understandably wonder how they will ever learn them.

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What should I bring to class?

  • Songs to sing, whether memorized or in songbooks or any printed version. An iPad on a stand is a useful jam tool if you can get online to a lyrics website. A variety of good songs is the heart and soul of a good jam!
  • A clip-on electronic tuner – a “must”, $20 or less at music stores or online. Get comfortable using it. We recommend the D’Addario tuner, small enough to be left on your instrument full-time. Keep spare batteries. Tune early, tune often!
  • A recording device (can be your smart phone). Besides recording some of the teaching, it’s often useful to record songs as you jam – especially new ones you want to learn.
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Is singing required?

Singing is not required, but our classes have a lot of singing, much like typical bluegrass. Jams need singing, and singing helps develop musicianship — especially the ability to find melody notes on an instrument.

We understand some folks are shy to sing around others. Some can’t seem to carry a tune. Our teachers are trained to be gentle and helpful with these common obstacles. The Wernick Method includes a sure-fire way to show any person they are capable of singing in tune, by choosing a key that best fits their voice.

Even bluegrass newcomers will likely know familiar favorites like “This Land Is Your Land” and “When the Saints Go Marching In”, which make great bluegrass songs. You can start by singing along on the chorus with everyone else. Many reluctant singers find their voice at our camps and classes, and singing becomes truly fun.

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When are you doing this again? I don’t feel ready for it.

The sooner you start, the sooner it gets easier! It’s typical at first that students are a little out of their comfort zones, but our teachers understand and will gently help you expand that zone, getting you jamming with people at your level. Don’t let this rare chance pass by!

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I’m not that good yet and don’t want to hold the camp back!

Our only requirements: (1) you can tune your instrument, and (2) you can change smoothly between G, C, D, and A chords (fiddle and bass players need to know which notes work with which chords). Fast playing and soloing are not expected. If you can do the above, your teacher can guide you on how to participate in slow and easy jams. The camp will show you how to follow new songs, fake simple solos, learn standard repertoire, overcome timing problems, and fit in without stress.

“Last year was my first year at Jam Camp. I drove down from NY listening to bluegrass songs and trying to cram as many as I could into my poor brain. I was SO nervous. I was sure I wouldn’t play well enough or sing well enough for this group.
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I already go to a large jam, so I’m not sure I need this.

We offer a more user-friendly situation than most large jams. At Wernick Method camps, your teacher makes sure that:

  1. Everyone is in tune
  2. No one plays backup too loud
  3. Tempos are not too fast
  4. Everyone observes proper jam etiquette

Students jam in well-matched groups no larger than 8, tended by friendly experienced coaches, and are shown how to work together to make the best music possible… even if they’re new to jamming. At our jams, people can hear themselves, and feel encouraged!

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I have to admit, I’m concerned about safety when we’re all together.

Pandemic concerns have our full attention and when you visit this camp’s page you’ll see a notice of the precautions to be taken including distancing, checking temperatures, washing hands, etc. We aim for these measures to let everyone feel safe…and truly be safe.

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Is electric bass OK for jam class/camp?

Amplifying will probably be necessary as the smaller “guitar” type basses are pretty quiet for bluegrass needs. No problem whatsoever playing electric bass. It’s definitely an acceptable variation on the traditional standup, as long as it’s played appropriately. Naturally there are limitations to where you can play, as you need to plug in your amp. Though there are battery powered amps which let you play anywhere.”

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