Bluegrass Banjo Backup, Basic Level

Published Reviews

Bluegrass Banjo Backup, Basic Level — Review in Banjo Newsletter April 2008
By Ben Freed

Pete Wernick has distinguished himself in the bluegrass music world in ways almost too numerous to mention. As a picker, songwriter, bandmember and author he has done as much for the promotion of this great music form as anyone. Not only is he a world-class musician, but as an educator, Pete has a rare gift for teaching a full spectrum of bluegrass musical skills in an organized and patient fashion through well received books, tapes, workshops and camps. In his new Homespun DVD, “Bluegrass Banjo Backup, Basic Level” Pete delivers a comprehensive 2 hours packed with basic skills for students who crave to know what to play on the banjo when not soloing.

Because the program develops concepts in a step-wise and gradual fashion, it is an appropriate product for both the absolute beginner and the intermediate picker who has learned some basic solos and wants to learn the standard back-up techniques that the pros use. He covers a variety of areas including, but not limited to basic right hand roll patterns and how to specifically fit them into songs, and left hand fingering and chord formations. All “required reading” for beginners. There are also plenty of split-screen segments(right hand and left hand)which help in clarifying technique. Perhaps most importantly, content is presented in an encouraging, non-intimidating style, which is needed for learning at any level.

Note to bluegrass banjo teachers: This DVD is an excellent resource for you to know about, as it is a reliable high-quality product to suggest to your students. It’s got lots of good ingredients for them to digest on their own, after which they can return to you for reinforcement of Pete’s suggestions. There’s a lot of ground covered here, really enough to last a serious student a few years. After all, isn’t backup considered by many pros to be a more elusive skill than soloing?

Along the way, he makes helpful reference to his other Homespun companion “Jamming” DVDs. These are particularly useful for students when time comes to play the back-up licks in the context of a real song.

It is clear from the quality of the content in this DVD that Pete has developed a technique for teaching banjo that can only be attained after decades of experience. It is also evident that he believes strongly in the power and beauty of this music and gets a lot of joy illuminating the way for newcomers. Recommended highly.