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Thread: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

  1. #1

    Default Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    I'm a new player (migrating from guitar) and have found a Jam locally (here in the UK) - they don't have a Mando player so I can't mooch advice from anyone there on the instrument, so I'm wondering what's going ot be the bare minimum to have under my belt before taking an instrument along.

    I'm guessing the basic G, C, D chop chords (which I'm working on) are obvious, but beyond that?

    I'm not shy to get stuck in, and I can take a hint/sideeye so will just stop if I'm messing up the tune :-)

    any pointers?

    thanks

  2. #2

    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    It's best to reach out to the organizer. In my area, they have jams that are slower and beginner friendly. There are also jams where every tune is played at 140+ BPM. I would say at a minimum that you should be comfortable chopping the I-IV-V in the most common keys:

    G-C-D
    D-G-A
    A-D-E
    C-F-G

    Then you can add the less common ones (B, E, F, and Bb). Some jams have a regular song list too.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Go early and introduce yourself. Let them know you are getting started and ask for pointers on local protocol. I've found once they see you are friendly and willing to learn, most are very helpful. Try to go away with a few tune titles wrote down for next time.

    It will help if you know a few 3 finger chord progression patterns (I, IV, V, 7 and minor) that you can shift for most keys.

    Bare minimum is where we all start, but in your first few jams, you can divide what you know by 3 once strangers start playing.

    Mess up early, then relax and have fun. Every one is focused on their own playing and won't notice you unless you are: out of tune, out of time, or on the wrong chord and appear happy to be there.

  4. #4
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Tim, I'm a 2-1/2 year newbie to both music and mandolin. I started jamming with a group at the senior center this past summer. I was so nervous at first, but each week it has gotten easier. Being the only mandolinist, they even miss me when I'm not there.

    At first I was too embarrassed to ask to start my tune over, but each one in my group seems to need to do it on occasion.

    Jamming is great for practicing chords. If I'm not sure of the correct one, I just play softly.

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    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    I helps to know where the notes are in the keys that get played most often. This is where a bit of music theory can help.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Its really useful to be a good rhythm player. Count to 4 and make smooth chord changes. You can always pass on a break or just play the melody if you hear that fast enough.

    have fun.
    Play it like you mean it.

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    Registered User MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Smile, have fun, and make friends, then all is forgiven!
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill McCall View Post
    Its really useful to be a good rhythm player -
    Yep, everyone plays a wrong note or two...but if your time is good that'll go a long way.

    I remember the first time I got on a go-cart course when i was a kid - I had to steer AND control speed AND watch traffic AND... When the song starts it'll flow and you're 'on course' -

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    bon vivant jaycat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Bring beer. The rest will sort itself out...
    "The paths of experimentation twist and turn through mountains of miscalculations, and often lose themselves in error and darkness!"
    --Leslie Daniel, "The Brain That Wouldn't Die."

    "The days tell, the years speak, the centuries decide . . ."
    --Chas. Bukowski.

    "You're never appreciated in your own country." --Joan Bennett, "Scarlet Street."

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    Gummy Bears and Scotch BrianWilliam's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Showing up. Standing with an instrument. Sometime sitting in a chair with said instrument.

    I have issues with the first part.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    bring a pen.

    write down the tunes.

    learn those.

    return and repeat.

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Bottom line skills are being able to keep good time and know when your instrument is out of tune. After that as pointed out above knowing the I IV V chords in the keys of A C D and G after those four keys learn B Bd E and F . Add to that the relative minor VIm in all those keys and you will be able to play rhythm behind the melody instruments on most songs you play. Learning to be a melody instrument takes a bit more. Most musicians are willing to help out newcomers with suggestions set lists song sheets and places to obtain them. Enjoy the ride..... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Brad Laird has a book called Jam Session Survival. It has chord progressions for 100 bluegrass tunes. You have to know (or sense) when the chord changes, and you might have to transpose from one key to another, but you might find it really helpful.

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    Registered User peterleyenaar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    In Time and in Tune, In Time being most important

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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    All good advice, I'll add to be aware of how the jam works as to taking solos. Most jams pass the tune around a circle so as a courtesy to the person sitting next to you (in whichever direction the jam is flowing) let them know in some fashion if you will not be playing a break then they will know to come in at the right time.
    Northfield NF5M #268

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  23. #16
    Registered User peterleyenaar's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Here are some ideas for beginners at a Jam, having hosted a jam once a month for the past 4 years with anywhere between 10 and 30 musicians showing up.
    It is really helpful for a beginner to have the person who starts a song to call out the name of the song and the key.
    When a beginner at a jam starts a song, slow it down a bit and play supportively, don't play right through his efforts and let him or her gain confidence.
    Generally beginners at a jam are a bit shy , encourage them to go for it.
    For the beginner: if you're not sure of the song , but know the key, play backup through the chord progression, do this quietly so when you mess up , (and you will) don't worry about it, even the most experienced players mess up at times, which usually causes some fun and ribbing.
    Jams are not concert performances, so keep it light and enjoy.

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  25. #17

    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    A very good book is "Play Well With Others:A Musician's Guide to Jamming Like a Pro" by Martha Haehl and Mike Walker. It covers all kinds of issues relating to jams and jamming.

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    Registered User Bauzl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Here is some nice reading about bluegrass jams:
    http://www.traditionalmusic.co.uk/bl...book/bgjam.htm

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Hi Tim - I've been in the very same position my self many years back on banjo. In my opinion,it's always best if you can have a few tunes that you know how to play pretty well. That way, the experienced players are accompanying you - always a confidence builder. Other than that,make a note - mental or otherwise of some of the songs/ tunes that they play & practice them at home - in other words,it's a gradual building up of your abilities. Also - very important - listen to a lot of tunes from recordings to learn them,don't rely absolutely on TAB (if you use that method). That way your 'ear playing' will develop & your ability to 'listen & play' in a jam session will increase. After 54 years of playing Bluegrass & teaching myself from recordings,i can pick up on song / tune chord progressions very quickly,& many players on here have done exactly the same. In my opinion (again !),being a good ear player is essential in performing with others. Other than that,it's practice,practice,practice - but you know already that !,
    Ivan

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    Registered User Bob Visentin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    I have been going to the same acoustic jam for 15 yrs. All levels, all styles. The worst thing to break the flow is someone with bad rhythm. Also if someone is leading a song (we all take turns) and they can't count to four, adding or leaving out beats. Every now and then we get a "star" who wants to dominate or play every thing but that is more of a personality problem that is dealt with in other ways.

  31. #21
    Registered User MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Not yet mentioned is tuning your axe. Have a tuner, know how to efficiently tune, and learn to hear when it is out of tune. I'm one of the people that have a physical pain response to tuning errors, so it drives me up a wall to hear the dissidence. Cafe members might know me from the Peterson threads
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  32. #22
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Quote Originally Posted by fatt-dad View Post
    bring a pen.

    write down the tunes.

    learn those.

    return and repeat.

    f-d
    Yes.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  33. #23

    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Not yet mentioned is tuning ...
    The importance of tuning was mentioned a few times earlier in this thread:


    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    ...Every one is focused on their own playing and won't notice you unless you are: out of tune, out of time, or on the wrong chord and appear happy to be there.

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    Bottom line skills are being able to keep good time and know when your instrument is out of tune. ...

    Quote Originally Posted by peterleyenaar View Post
    In Time and in Tune, In Time being most important
    I agree about both tuning *and* timing.

  34. #24
    Registered User bradlaird's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sherry Cadenhead View Post
    Brad Laird has a book called Jam Session Survival. It has chord progressions for 100 bluegrass tunes. You have to know (or sense) when the chord changes, and you might have to transpose from one key to another, but you might find it really helpful.
    Thanks for the mention of my Jam Session Survival eBook. Correction on one point, though: The timing is indicated for each song or tune. The method used for all 100 tunes is to state that each letter equals either 1 or 2 beats. It is better explained by viewing the samples on my site than I can do with my thumbs on this iPod. Haha.

    I just don't want anyone to be misinformed. The timing (duration) is clearly shown. And, to address the keys and transposition, many of the songs are written out in multiple keys and there are transposition instructions in the book too.
    Last edited by bradlaird; Dec-26-2017 at 3:09pm. Reason: Forgot to mention

  35. #25
    Registered User Sherry Cadenhead's Avatar
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    Default Re: Minimum skills needed for the Bluegrass Jam ?

    Sorry, Brad! The group I jam with plays OT, so I hadn't looked at the book in a while. It seems I should have!

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