Bluegrass Pride Announces New Education Initiative
Written by: Kara Kundert
It can be intimidating to be a beginner in bluegrass. Part of the joy of a folk tradition is that it is largely passed down through people rather than prose. We learn our songs by ear, we sit together around campfires and share tunes that we know, we teach each other the chords and the rhythms of this music that we all love.
But as someone just starting out? That can be straight up terrifying.
That’s how I remember my first jam. Just five or so years ago, my teacher recommended I try going to the Stork Club’s famous Monday night bluegrass jam and try picking with people. I walked in feeling woefully underprepared. I only knew a couple of two-finger chords; I couldn’t quite stretch my fingers to make the Monroe chords yet. I had a couple of tunes that I could play really slow, and my fingers were easily spooked into making mistakes they didn’t yet know how to recover from. I had no idea what people meant when they said “1-4-1-5” or “1-4-5-1”. As someone who likes feeling in control, it was petrifying to walk into a new environment and feel like I was sinking a ship that had been just fine until I came aboard.
But fortunately, there were some friendly folks there who saw the wide-eyed beginner and offered guidance rather than rejection or ridicule. They whispered chord progressions in my ear, showed me their hands as they played, and gave me tips along the way.
What I know now is that this is how everyone learns to play bluegrass. Somewhere in everyone’s history, there’s a kindly stranger with words of wisdom guiding you into this wonderful community. But imagine how many people there are out there who are too scared to make that first leap of faith. How many bluegrassers are out there who simply don’t know where to look to get the kind of mentorship that has been the foundation of our entire musical tradition?
That is where The Root comes in. The Root is a brand-new education initiative out of Bluegrass Pride, dedicated to providing general guidance to all bluegrass and old-time pickers out there who are just getting started out. Named for the foundational note in a chord, The Root will be covering the essential topics that beginners may be too scared or too lost to ask, such as how to find a teacher who’s right for you, what the Nashville number system is, and how not to be a jam buster. The goal is that these videos will help folks get up to speed and give them the tools they need to start jamming offline, thus bringing new folks into local jam scenes and festival grounds all over the country.
New videos for The Root will be released each month, and will be featuring the wisdom of all-star instructors such as Nate Lee, Megan Lynch-Chowning, Jake Blount, Bill Evans, and more. The first video, “How to Find a Teacher”, is now live on the Bluegrass Pride YouTube channel. You can also watch all episodes of The Root in the new section on our website. Check out the link in the menu bar!