Jam Session Etiquette
One of the best and most pleasurable ways
of improving your playing is to participate in the jam (and gig)
sessions. Participating is not necessarily as simple as walking up to other
musicians and playing along with them, though. Common sense and courtesy
will get you a long way. Here are a few tips:
Tune your instrument before the
session starts (6 p.m.). After that time, please tune in a room down the
Never play loudly at first. If you are a
beginner, play along softly in the background. That will also encourage you
to participate sooner than later.
For an upcoming gig on the calendar, we
sometimes start a prior jam by practicing the play list (see below). The
specific guidance or plan for each song is distributed prior to the jam via e-mail (or at
printout for those without e-mail).
jam is an open circle where
participants take turns suggesting a song to play. Be ready for the jam by
having a list of songs you want to suggest when your turn comes around. Also
if everyone is unlikely to know your selection, be prepared to play it first
for the group (which can be a TablEdit file via Lisa's laptop if prior
arranged--i.e., by 5:45). Otherwise, you'll cause the jam to be less
productive (i.e., slow it down to an undesired level).
Announce your choice clearly, which book, and who will
start it (intro. is usually the last measure or two). There should be no
noodling or playing through the song while fellow members are finding it in
their book. Everyone then joins in to play at once. While most will play the melody in
unison, some will provide a non-melody backup (e.g., playing chords to
Usually the person that starts a song decides
when it will end. The signal for "this is the last time" is either to raise your
foot in the air or say aloud "last time." Two to three times is the norm; more
can get boring.
On noodling: A truly annoying habit is when someone
"noodles around" on his/her instrument between songs. It often happens when
someone is trying to ask a question or after the noodler hears the song
selection. The result is that others cannot hear or the suggestor cannot easily
start the selection. If your noodling around is a way of suggesting the next
song, just go ahead and suggest the next song! If your noodling around is for
showing your progress, select it next time as a solo, so others can practice
accompaniment. If it is for a "quick practice," move away from the group (e.g.,
to one of the nearby rooms) to do by yourself.
Help us keep the break to 15 minutes and enjoy socializing then; chatting while
in the open circle or within range of the jam is undesired. For additional
social time, consider visiting after the jam at nearby McDonald's.
Go out of your way to be welcoming and
helpful to newcomers. They represent the future and growth of the music and jam
sessions we all love.
Once you figure out the ground rules, get
rid of those fears and inhibitions, join in, and have fun! If the jam you've
joined is not right for you, find another one or start one yourself with players
of your general ability.
Note: Bluegrass jams differ
from the above old-time jams mainly in that players take turns playing the
melody lead while all the others provide a non-melody backup. The leader (or
person who started the song) nods toward a player when it is his/her turn to
take the lead part one-time through.
Play List for Next Gig (as of
Si Bheag Si Mhor
J'ai Passe Devant ta Porte
Native American Indian flute solo
Whiskey Before Breakfast
Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross
Rosin the Beau
When the Saints Go Marching In
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
I'll Fly Away