Dr. Banjo » Videos » Make Up Your Own Banjo Solos – Vol. 1

Learn how to create convincing banjo solos, both “on the fly” in jam sessions and with more precision in your practice time. Here’s the alternative to total dependence on tab and memorizing other people’s arrangements.

“A tremendous amount of information — enough licks to satisfy people looking for those, and, more importantly, great direction on soloing.”
— Bluegrass Unlimited

Close-ups of both hands and printable tab booklets make every note clear!

Volume 2: Keys of D, C, F, and Up the Neck in G

Even novice pickers will easily follow Pete’s gradual approach to soloing. He starts with the basics – simple chords and rolls – showing you how to instantly play a “placeholder” solo, the simplest way to step out in a jam situation with only the chords to go by. He gradually builds in “filler” content – simple moves and phrases adding variety and believability.

On five bluegrass standards, Pete shows you how to hunt down a song’s melody notes and create a full-fledged arrangement featuring the recognizable melody. The addition of appealing licks, lead-ins, tags and other embellishments will give your solos polish and interest.

Solos for:

  • Handsome Molly
  • Wabash Cannonball
  • Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms
  • Will the Circle Be Unbroken
  • Man of Constant Sorrow

Players at all levels will benefit from the user-friendly information that Pete imparts in this groundbreaking video lesson. Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran picker, Pete gives you the tools you need to build your improvisational and composing skills.

Published Reviews

Comments from Satisfied Customers

Banjo Newsletter, by Scott Anderson

Make Up Your Own Banjo Solos, Vol. 1
Pete Wernick, 120 Min.
(DVD or download) www.homespun.com

When I started playing banjo years ago there wasn’t a lot of instructional material available. While these were great resources they left many unexplained gaps that a beginner had to struggle to fill. The lucky beginner could find a good teacher. But some, myself included, didn’t have a teacher available and rarely got to see other banjo players.

You kids nowadays have it so easy! You just turn on your computer, pop in a DVD, and have immediate instruction from a pro! In this case, you’ll receive two hours of instruction from Pete Wernick, a very experienced and accomplished player and teacher.

This DVD is geared toward players with some basic banjo knowledge – those who know some basic rolls and chords. Pete demonstrates some of those things but he does so pretty quickly. Because the plan here is for you to be able to jump into a jam session and play! Pete explains some easy to understand ways for you to start doing that, likely using some of what you may already have learned. There are accompanying written materials with roll patterns, chord diagrams, chord charts for the songs, and examples in tablature right on the disc (which you can print out if needed.) Pete also includes some ideas and instruction on how to play along with a recording and even how to make your own practice rhythm track.

Pete first stresses to play cleanly with good timing over chord changes, and uses a method he calls “placeholder” soloing. Here you’re just learning to play along over the chord changes (for Handsome Molly and Wabash Cannonball) without really worrying a lot about the actual melody of a song. This is a very important concept and will go a long way towards creating a functional player. Because really, this is exactly what a bluegrass banjo needs to do much of the time.

He then proceeds to “filler content solos” which utilize the idea of plugging in licks over specific chord changes in a song. These can make the song more interesting and provide a little more of that banjo sound you’re looking for, though still not necessarily sticking close to the melody. Pete demonstrates many common, useful bluegrass banjo licks that work over G, D, and C chords and fleshes out the previous song examples of Wabash Cannonball and Handsome Molly.

A large portion of the runtime is spent on “melody-based soloing.” Pete talks about playing the melody within your solos, and how to find those melody notes. He includes how to use specific licks to play melody notes, within examples of several songs, including new rolls and licks within those examples (Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms, Handsome Molly, Long Journey Home, Will the Circle Be Unbroken, and Man of Constant Sorrow.) Pete teaches using the blues scale (flatting the third and seventh notes of the scale) to create that mournful feel that so many songs require. He goes on to discuss and demonstrate pickup notes or lead-ins for beginning songs and solos.

The video production is top notch with excellent sound and picture. An added benefit of seeing these things on DVD is that with the slow examples, you can hit “fast forward” and hear what that sounds like when played up to speed. Very helpful. Also the right hand/left hand split screen videos can be really helpful for a beginner who’s trying to figure out “How’d he do that?”

The methods here are very similar to what I and a lot of others learned by trial and error. And they work! Throughout, Pete stresses learning to create your own solos rather than concentrating on recreating someone else’s solo. This is a difficult concept for many beginners, but once learned, sets them free from the prison of memorization and opens the door to having a lifetime of jamming fun. And here the concepts are explained simply, clearly, and effectively. I’d recommend this DVD for players looking to take that next step toward improvising and playing with others.

“The DVD Making Up your Own Solos has really opened a whole new world for me. I guess I was in a “rut” playing / practicing the same things everyday. I’m not nearly to the end of it yet but I’ve already learned some new rolls and various licks that fit into lots of different songs. For folks that haven’t discovered the value of DVDs, I’m sold and plan to use them steadily in the future. I enjoy playing along on songs which is fun & it forces me to stay in time.” — Paul M. on Banjo Hangout
“Thank you for your DVDs. They have opened up so much information on the banjo for me. your latest DVD said that you might know 6 or 7 song on tab and then get to a Session and then sit there not knowing what to do next. This has now changed my way of playing by making my own melodies up, it is just the hard practice now that you have shown me through the door. Many Thanks.” — Sean B., England