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Thread: taking a break at the jam

  1. #51

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    Hi, I don't really have much experience with BG, but when I am learning to improvise on a tune one of the places I start is by working up a harmony to the melody. It helps me learn my way around the song.

  2. #52

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    Quote Originally Posted by farmerjones View Post
    Yer gettinit.

    The salty reality of a Bluegrass jam: Tune starts. It's goes around. First time/break everybody honors the melody. If I hear chord arpeggios instead of melody, I think to myself that person has yet to get ahold of the melody. It's not a Cardinal Sin. In fact it is better than passing. My experience, if you pass twice, you may get passed up permanently. If you get a second break, you play everything you know. If it contains chord arpeggios, at this point, you've earned it.

    There's some pretty stock melodies in Bluegrass. Let alone the chord progressions. Just be prepared to play in B or Bb.
    Thanks. Been jamming for many years now, can play in any key, and am often invited to fill out impromptu bands.

    I tend to go more for the folks than the musical satisfaction, as the latter seems to vary a lot for me.

    Not being a traditionalist in bg, but mostly rock and jazz, im ok with a break if it sounds good ( to me) and im adding the the fellowship and the song; im happy to be branded an infidel.

    The problem, i guess, is i listen to and play stuff other than bg, so, im spread thinly.

    I can often find/ do a single note break on the fly, but, not necessarily more carefully crafted and intricate. Mebbe double stops. On an unknowm fiddle tune, if i know the changes, i can sorta shadow things, and on the way maybe get a phrase or two before the tune ends. Others, i will pass.

    I happen to love a good bluesy break when it can fit. Thus, pentatonic etc is ok with me, melody or not.

    Also, theres a part of me that loves attempting to get it on the fly, or, doing something different, but related, sometimes great, sometimes sucking, but me, its only a jam, and theres always better and worse players. Ditto personalities. For me, i dont judge one by the other, well.....mostly.

    It doesnt bother me at all when a beginner is trying. Or anyone else.

    I far prefer those who play well with others to those "stars" at the jam who step on others, break off into the separate i know you and we're better clique.

    But consider too, i am in the west, and protocols and priorities are a bit different. It is not unheard of to have pop tunes with bg overtones in jams. God forbid, even robert johnson , stones, beatles, old crow, gillian , zep, etc.

    some one brought a 3/4 irish tune, and despite 3 chords, it was a jam buster. Being me, i liked it. I liked a new tune and, the players attempt to share a tune he loved and wanted. Ditto gypsy jazz, which also ....created challenges. But fun to try on the fly.

    I see the BG genre and its standards, (or for thge elite, those obscure tunes too) as similar to the "Great American songbook" for jazzers, commonly known repertoire to instantly know and play together. Imho, this has expanded to wider songs, simply because they are liked and known. Out here styles, too, to some extent.

    It may be i play BG, a lot, but dont identify as a grasser musically, so my perspective is different.
    Last edited by stevedenver; Apr-06-2017 at 10:33am.

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  4. #53
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    Jan 2017
    Round Rock, TX

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    Yes, I have had much the same experience when I started playing bluegrass. And I have a natural tendency to "noodle" from playing in blues and jam bands. But after several raised eyebrows and a couple of occasions where it was evident that my noodling was confusing the other players up to the point that the entire song crashed to a halt and was not considered to be a part of anything, I adopted a new program.

    I bought a small pocket recorder and recorded each song as a separate file by name. That way I could take it home and pair it up with a couple of compilation jam books and practice by myself. I set modest goals. One new song per jam. Then broke down and paid for some lessons. They taught me how to find the melody, and how to add simple embellishments like double stops, lead in notes, simple arpeggios, cross picking, and playing in different positions. Also how to find the essential notes whose absence kills the melody. It was amazing how few it takes to "indicate" the melody without losing the thread and allowing improvisation.

    And I went to a lot of jams and crashed a burned quite a few times. Blushed and tried again.

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  6. #54

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Grieser View Post
    OK, Mark, I had some time today. Sorry that my strings are 3 months old so the mando doesn't sound its best. The Monroe break at the end of the video is more advanced, but I thought I'd give you a taste of that as well because this song lends itself to it nicely.

    A lot of playing a song you might not know is chasing the chords. Can you read the chords from the guitar player's hands? You can hear where the melody goes up and down. If you follow the melody's contour and play "D stuff" of the D chord and "A stuff" over the A chord, etc., you'll be fine. Play the rhythm of the melody with your right hand--that's also a key.

    The kickoffs you can pick up from listening to other mandolin players and figuring those out. There's lots of them. Same with the ending licks. If you start off great and end great, people won't notice what you play in the middle.

    Anyway, I hope this helps you the way learning this method from Butch helped me. Glad to share it with you.

    Don, this is really great. Thanks for posting. I think I sort of did this type of thing anyway but you broke it down much more clearly than I ever could have and provided some reassurance that I've been tackling this type of thing from a good angle.

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  8. #55

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    Know what chords you're improvising over, understand what chord tones are (it's most important to find the correct first chord tone of the verse for your break assuming your taking a break over the verse chords lol). Know scales. practice right/left hand technique /coordination. DOn't be afraid to fail horribly at jams!

  9. #56
    Registered Picker papabear075's Avatar
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    Nov 2011
    St. Charles, IL

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    What a great thread! I found a class out here in the Chicagoland area that is Pete Wernick’s method and it helped me a lot. I still struggle to find the melody and on the fly I crash and burn quite often. Everyone In the regular group has been super friendly and encouraging. I have yet to go to a jam where newbies or slow pickers were frowned upon. If someone offers me a break I take it unless I haven’t figured out the chord progression by my break. Once upon a time I happened to be in a pick circle with Vince Herman and his sons band Gypsy Moon and a slew of others. The lady in Gypsy Moon offered me a break and I was so scared and embarrassed I opted out. I was mad at myself for letting that moment pass and declared I would never do that again. Someone mentioned the fellowship of playing with others and that to me more than anything fills my bucket every time I play with others. Thanks for listening and Happy Holidays all!


  10. #57
    Registered User Don Julin's Avatar
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    Jul 2007
    Traverse City, Michigan

    Default Re: taking a break at the jam

    Lots of good comments and suggestions in this thread. In my opinion there is nothing quite like knowing the basic melody of the tune and building from there. This is especially true in bluegrass, but makes sense in most styles. I teach a workshop on building a traditional bluegrass break. Here is a video that shows the basics.

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