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How should I prepare for my jam class?

Any time someone goes to a jam (or a Wernick Method class), bringing a song or two or three to sing is a very welcome contribution. To prepare, choose a few songs you like, and practice them in the keys you will sing and play them comfortably in. Try to commit the words to memory if possible, so you can confidently lead the song without hesitating or blanking out! … though it’s OK to still keep the words in front of you, for backup. What songs to choose? Pick some relatively easy ones from any of Pete’s jam videos or songbooks, or any other songbook. The 10 songs in the PDF you’ll be sent prior to class are all good choices.

One of the best ways to prepare is to try to find the melody of a song (that you know well enough to hum, perhaps one you will lead in the jam) on the neck of your instrument, trial-and-error style… and then fashion a solo based on that melody. If you can do that, it’s more helpful than learning note-for-note solos that someone else figured out.

Once you can find a melody on your instrument, tabs, books, and videos can provide ideas for embellishments. Learning someone else’s exact solo for a particular song or two can be helpful, to pick up new ideas. And learning solos like that can have an extra payoff if you can lift a phrase from one solo to put in another. If you can do that fairly spontaneously, it helps greatly when faking a solo at a jam.

There is no specific set of songs we cover. The goal is for folks to learn to deal with typical material, that they have not played before. Being able to handle unfamiliar songs is a skill needed at all jam sessions in the “real world” of bluegrass jamming, and we teach it.Your fellow jammers will learn the songs you bring and you’ll learn theirs — or at least learn to follow along. That’s how bluegrass jamming works, everywhere. “Preparation” is not expected, other than bringing a few songs, practicing chord changes if necessary, etc.

Shy singers are welcome to bring song sheets with words, for songs they like and can follow along on… or even lead a song by *talking* the words instead of singing. (See our FAQ on singing.)

Category: Preparation
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