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Do I have to play solos?

Most attendees come with no or limited ability to take solos. Many only know solos they have learned by rote from a teacher, a tab or video. It’s common that these folks may have some trouble doing those solos in a jam. The Wernick Method prefers to teach soloing with a combination of “keeping single notes going with the right hand while the left hand follows the chords…. along with separate teaching of “how to guess at the melody on the fly, with missed notes sounding OK”. Over time, these skills yield believable on-the-fly solos that may come out different each time — but include melody and follow the chords. Memorized solos are welcome though not always possible in jams, and the ability to *fake* a solo is what we consider the more useful focus.

We don’t exactly “require” folks to try solos but since we know that many students aspire to fake solos effectively at jams, we gently push them to try the easiest possible method described above, what we call the “here goes nothing” solo, often improvised while reading the guitar player’s chords. We encourage everyone to try a solo once in each song, even when the inclination is to pass. “Everyone” does not include bass players or guitarists who don’t aspire to ever take solos. But banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dobro players are generally assumed to have soloing as a goal, so it’s good for them to step up, just for practice in the safe context of our jams, as a way of building this skill.

“When I got back (home), I went to both my blue grass jams. I took breaks almost every song at both jams. I’m thrilled that I played more breaks than I ever had before.”
“It was a great intro into jamming. It was also fun to watch each other as we became more confident leading and taking breaks. I was just as proud of what others accomplished as I was about what I learned.”


Pete’s Bluegrass Jamming and Intermediate Jam videos give a player multiple opportunities to fake a solo over band accompaniment. Many Bluegrass Jamming Favorites are on the video. We strongly recommend working on this important skill, including coming in and out accurately and smoothly, as a good head start for your class.

Category: Qualifications
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