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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Should I start with jam class versus lessons or a class specializing in my instrument?

A Wernick Method jam class or camp is the ideal first step for any new bluegrass musician, providing all that’s needed to play with others, including the presence of other learning pickers. With just a few chords, a new player can participate, playing real bluegrass in a slow-speed student jam. Learning to make music in a small circle is top priority — everything is built on playing real songs with correct timing and chords, at first keeping simple rhythm and building from there. We teach many of the main skills — rhythm technique on your instrument, finding melodies and learning new songs on the fly — vital skills instilled when playing in a small group, all monitored by your teacher or a coach.

These are all skills that can be taught to a roomful of people playing different instruments, so some instrumental skills are taught even with a mix of instruments present.

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How much individual instruction is there?

During “small group jam” time (about half of all class time), teachers and coaches give each of the players in a jam group pointers and feedback. We feel that a student can be helped the most when their playing under “real conditions” is observed by a teacher, who can offer guidance based on what they see and hear.

At a Wernick Method class the emphasis is not on individual skill but on the principles and skills of playing together. Individual skills such as finding melodies by ear (essential for soloing) pickup licks to use for kickoff solos can be and are taught to the full group.

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Are friends and family allowed at class or camp sessions?

Generally speaking, our classes and camps are really for paid participants only. However, each teacher has the discretion to allow others in some circumstances. For example, many classes and camps feature a “Jamboree” type event where students can choose to perform in groups for each other; friends and family might be welcome if space and other circumstances allow. When in doubt, contact the teacher for your class/camp to learn about those options.

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What’s covered at a Wernick Method jam class or camp?

At the first session, after a little orientation, the teacher leads the class on 2- and 3-chord songs, at easy tempos. If you’ve never jammed before, this first session will get you going. Everyone will be invited to sing, take solos, and show their stuff… or just work on following along. Keeping it together and keeping it fun will be the main goals.

The first part of every session is classroom-style, instructing on topics including: following new songs smoothly, jam etiquette and traditions, how to lead songs and avoid “train wrecks”, finding melodies, faking solos, kicking off and ending songs, picking keys, using capos, the chord number system, harmony singing, and a lot more!

After the classroom half of the session, the full group is divided into small jam groups, each coached by the teacher or an assistant.

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