Get Rolling: Ultra-easy, No-fail Intro To Bluegrass Banjo
Bluegrass Unlimited, June 2001
by Alan Walton
Pete Wernick (aka Dr.Banjo, Waldo Otto) has released two videos on the Homespun label, both intended for the beginning end of the banjo instruction spectrum. “Get Rolling” is intended for the absolute beginner. Employing a very gentle learning curve, it starts with the basics of tuning and chord positions. Then, instead of a long stretch of learning rolls, Wernick has the student practice the chord positions by strumming along on a two-chord (G and D) medley of songs. After introducing the C chord and discussing the finer points of fretting, there is a three-chord medley for more practice on three-chord songs. The video uses split-screen viewing so the student can clearly see the chord changes, as well as the strumming. The second half of the video is devoted to rolls and chord changing, and includes a discussion of note selection and playing the melody. There is a small jam session with two beginning students, which should provide some reassurance for anyone who might be struggling. A booklet accompanying the tape shows chord positions, tablature for the rolls and “When The Saints Go Marching In,” and it gives the words and chords to the songs included on the video.
Overall, the instruction here is very clear and well-paced, and should be very helpful in getting the true beginner to a point where he or she can begin playing bluegrass music.
Bluegrass Now, January 2002
GET ROLLING! An Ultra-Easy, No Fall Introduction to Bluegrass Banjo
Playing time: 60 minutes
by Cary Virgin
Is there a banjo in your closet gathering dust despite all your good intentions to learn to play? Or have you always wanted to play the ol’ five-string, but for whatever reason you have not yet taken the plunge? Pete Wernick and the good folks at Homespun Tapes have put together an approach to getting started (or restarted!) that couldn’t be more elementary or fun! Mr. Wernick, aka. “Dr. Banjo,” has contributed as much to the health and vitality of Bluegrass music as one man can. Not only as a member of such high profile bands as the legendary Hot Rize and Pete Wernick and Flexigrass, or even President of the IBMA, but as one great instructor. His banjo camps and clinics, instructional videos and books have helped and inspired thousands.
Using a banjo priced in the $200 range, Pete starts the novice out by strumming two chords (one with open strings, the other just two fingers) to accompany ten familiar standards. This is a great approach to learning both timing and the “ear training” needed to recognize chord changes. The next ten-plus songs are used to introduce some basic banjo rolls and another chord or two, and I never have seen a teacher so effectively eliminate the intimidation factor. If you have the foundational tools provided here, it’ll be pretty near impossible to find yourself getting discouraged.
The rolls then covered, including the Foggy Mountain Breakdown roll, will have you well on your way to becoming a bona-fide bluegrass picker. The way this video is constructed will insure you get the highest possible return for the time and effort you invest. This is video instruction at its best!