Bluegrass Unlimited
January 2010

HOW TO MAKE UP YOUR OWN BANJO SOLOS: WHAT TO PLAY WHEN IT’S YOUR TURN TO “TAKE IT” TAUGHT BY PETER WERNICK (Solos Vol. 2)

Pete Wernick presents a nice addition to his lineup of instructional DVDs with this gently graduated two hour exposition on creating your own banjo solos. The assumption is that the viewer knows the basics of elementary bluegrass rolls and chord positions and is ready to work on taking breaks. Pete starts out very gently with “placeholder solos” (using basic rolls and chord positions and changing chords as the tune dictates), then moves to “filler content” solos involving varied left-hand techniques including slides, hammers, and different fretting positions.

The next and final level is working out melody based solos, the subject of the last eighty minutes of the presentation. There is extensive discussion of how to identify the melody (check out the Adam’s apple technique), how to hit the melody notes, and then fill in around them in appropriate and interesting ways. The video uses split-screen technology to show closeups of fretting and picking hands as appropriate. Sound and video are very well done, and Pete presents the material in a very easytofollow manner. Songs include “Handsome Molly,” “Wabash Cannonball,” “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” and “Man Of Constant Sorrow.”

Breaking down the process of learning placeholder breaks, followed by filler content, and finally melody breaks is a nice progressive way to lead the student from the initial to relatively-advanced levels of creating solos. I especially like the emphasis on finding the melody, which often is a stumbling block for new players. For banjo players who have been hesitant to enter the jamming world for fear of the soloing aspect, this DVD should be a great resource in making this all important step. AW