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Thread: New Jam Session Advice

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    Registered User Ion4014's Avatar
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    Default New Jam Session Advice

    This Friday I will have a bunch of friends over to jam as a group for the first time. Not having done this before and having people of different skill sets, what is some advice to make sure everyone is having a good time? (other than beer, that is already covered) We plan on irish/americana, folk to start. Thanks!

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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    I went to my first jam ever about a month ago, the group was welcoming, they went around the group, each person picking a song to play, announced the song and what key it was in, and started and everyone else joined in. If it was a new song to the group, the person picking that song had a sheet with the lyrics typed up and handed a copy out to everyone. We went around many times in the 3 hours. Sometimes the person picking the song would defer on the solo part, and another player would take it. It was a lot of fun.

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    Emando lover David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    Have a list of songs and keys - not as a set list but as 'what do we play now?' answers.

    Ask everyone to bring one song that they've prepared.

    Have fun.

    Spread the solos and vocals equitably - don't let someone dominate (even if they're better than everyone else)

    Have fun.

    Have no rules re capos, retunings, etc - let people play how they play

    Have fun.
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    Lurkist dhergert's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    Speaking from a musical aspect, if it's a small jam with close friends, you'll probably have no problem. If you have a larger group coming (10+) you might do well to find out what genre jams most of these people go to, because they'll be used to whatever they've done before.

    My meaning is, a formal Irish jam is run very differently from a formal Folk jam and from a formal Bluegrass jam -- and the same also applies with other genre jams. They all have their differences. With a small intimate group of friends you can lead songs together from any of these jamming environments informally, but the larger the group gets, the more things get confusing. Jams in every genre can be great fun, but with larger groups you probably want to do a little genre-specific study to help them run smoothly.

    From a "gathering of friends where music breaks out" aspect, all the normal thoughts about having guests over apply, and it sounds like you've got that covered.
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    A few of the open jams I've been to with a wide range of skill level, and no one leading the group, have been mostly a wreck. If it's a mixed skill jam I think it helps to have some simple guidelines. Like having a list handy of familiar tunes that you can call from. Maybe call 2-3 tunes from the list and then one not listed if several folks know it.

    If the skill level is intermediate or higher most folks can hang on or hang back for a more familiar tune to come around.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Ion4014 View Post
    ...what is some advice to make sure everyone is having a good time? (other than beer, that is already covered)...
    Chicken wings wouldn't hurt. Paper towels to clean the fingers...

    There was an old WWII naval saying, "The convoy proceeds at the speed of its slowest ship." Make sure no one's left out, and that the more experienced and skilled accommodate the lesser. Don't know how big your "bunch" is, but make sure you're aware of how everyone is doing. Try not to discourage anyone's suggestions, and to keep others from doing so. If one person's shy, don't pressure him/her to take the lead, other than some gentle encouragement; don't put anyone "on the spot."

    You may well find that not all participants are equally well versed in the general jam repertoire, which is OK. One problem I have noticed in certain jam situations, is a divide between those who want to play instrumentals, and those who want to sing with just some instrumental back-up. Experienced instrumentalists can get impatient with the somewhat less interesting (to them) and challenging role of accompanist, and singers don't want to sit through nine or ten straight fiddle tunes when all they're doing is chording behind unfamiliar music. I'd say that a decent mix of songs and tunes is possible, but that may require some leadership on your part.

    I love jams and sing-arounds, and have no problem playing accompaniment or back-up as needed. There's a certain skill to being a jam leader or participant, and it's truly not for everybody. Good luck.
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    If someone wants to skip their break, their turn to lead a song, or sit out from playing for a while let them. I’ve been to jams that are too sensitive about including everyone equally, so they end up forcing people to play when they’re nervous and they get embarrassed. It is important to make room for different skill levels but don’t hold people’s feet to the fire to do everything everyone else is doing. It can chase people away.

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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    The way my memory is, I find it helps to have a list of tunes and songs that are appropriate for the jam at hand. I know hundreds of songs and tunes, but I always seem to be struggling to think of one when it's suddenly my turn.
    Mitch Russell

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    Registered User Ion4014's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    I did start out straight away by saying this was for fun, you want a break take it, if not no worries. You screw up, no worries, you don't know the song, no worries. I do need to keep tabs on a good bunch of songs to play. I was thinking of making quick song books for next time. Thanks for the advice!

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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Ion4014 View Post
    This Friday I will have a bunch of friends over to jam as a group for the first time. Not having done this before and having people of different skill sets, what is some advice to make sure everyone is having a good time? (other than beer, that is already covered) We plan on irish/americana, folk to start. Thanks!
    I would gently ask them in advance to come prepared with a couple of tunes for the jam. Maybe extra copies of lyrics sheets and be prepared to teach the chords...no 12 chord tunes with key change at bridge and every other chorus please...

    I'm currently leading an acoustic jam with no particular rule other then no electirc instruments...it must be like herding cats, I'm never sure who will show up and what we will do but we manage to have fun. I found a couple of jam books on the web with alot of standard OT/BG songs and sent that out to everyone as an example and for them to have the lyrics and chords. I encourage them to take breaks but if they don't that's ok.

    I'm still not sure how to handle the ones who noodle over everyone's solo then when it's their turn to solo say...oh, no I don't know how to play...
    Northfield NF5M #268

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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Ion4014 View Post
    I did start out straight away by saying this was for fun, you want a break take it, if not no worries. You screw up, no worries, you don't know the song, no worries. I do need to keep tabs on a good bunch of songs to play. I was thinking of making quick song books for next time. Thanks for the advice!
    Do a couple of Google searches for jam books and you'll find quite a few helpful examples.

    Here's one I found with alot of standards...

    http://caboma.org/wp-content/uploads...ssSongbook.pdf

    And another from Dr. Banjo...

    https://www.drbanjo.com/pdf/bluegrass-jam-favorites.pdf
    Northfield NF5M #268

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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    I agree with everything that has been said, one other thing don't get hung up on the structure, I've been to jams that there must be a break here a turn around here a half break here because that was how Joe Blow recorded it. A jam is for fun not to work things out like a band, if there are 8 lead instrument 3 of them mandolins let each one have a break if they want it, even if all three mandolins play the same thing, don't forget to let the bass shine on the songs he can break.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: New Jam Session Advice

    if there are dulcimers or banjos, it helps to pick a key for a few tunes. They usually retune for the specific key - at least in old-time and (I think) Irish? Not too sure about Bluegrass.

    Remember. . . whoever starts the tune has to kick up a foot to signal the last round. Otherwise, it's always uncertain when it ends. . .

    Have fun.

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