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Thread: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song circle

  1. #1

    Default Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song circle

    I am an intermediate mandolin player, and play fiddle tunes on my mandolin. I want to start a summer Old Time Jam in a park that is tunes only, not a song circle. There are people in the O.T. community here who know lyrics to just about every fiddle tune that exists, and they show up at the jams I've or others have hosted, and turn it into a song circle. No matter what tune is started, these people will sing lyrics which probably are not traditional anyway.
    There are a lot of song circles locally, and I don't want to tell them to "stop singing," but I don't know how to handle this. When I've said to them before that other jams I've hosted are tunes only, these people give me a lot of flak -- "What do you have against singing?" they ask. Personally, I think this is rude of them, but they apparently think I'm rude that I don't want singing at the jams I host. (I play guitar and sing, too, but not at these jams. So obviously, I don't "have anything against singing" -- hey, I just want to jam, not sing, sometimes.) Does anyone have suggestions about how to assure that my jam will be a jam and not a song circle?

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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    I would start with asking the singers how best to go about adding an OT pickers only jam. That way they are well informed of your intentions ahead of time

  3. #3

    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Play Old Time REELS at dance speed. Play a few 'crooked' tunes. Add a bunch of Contra tunes to your repertoire and play them at speed - you'll wear down the singers.

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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Dear Mark and Dacraw, thank you both for responding to my dilemma. unfortunately, I'm pretty sure neither of your welcome suggestions would do the trick for my possible jam. Here's why. There are too many singers to discuss this with, first of all. But I guess it's possible to just send out an email to my large jam list saying OT pickers only. I think something more detailed would help -- the singers are OT pickers, BUT they insist on singing, too. I kinda don't like to be "negative" and say "no singing at this OT pickers jam." I guess I could say "This is a pickers and fiddlers jam, not a song circle. And as for dance speed, this would be a "medium tempo" jam because I can't play the mandolin at dance speed.

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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Start your own band, or at least your own session/music party, and do the tunes you want with as much singing as you desire.

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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Dear David, that is definitely in my future. I want to start a band at my apartment after New Years. I have to put it off till then due to some construction that will be happening inside my apartment this fall. But I might be able to do that at a park this summer -- maybe I will run a Craig's List ad and audition some people, then just invite them to the park to jam. Good plan!

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    Registered User WELSrev's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    David is correct. Make it your party. Be polite, but be firm. Make it clear in your invitation what the expectations are for that particular jam. Accentuate the positive - this is what we are going to do here. Make it clear again when people show up that this jam is for playing tunes only. You can honestly tell them you have nothing against singing, but that is not what this jam is set up for. If they think you are rude - so be it. They would think it rude (and it would be) if a group of "pickers only" musicians took over a singing circle. Those who who are like-minded and enjoy your type of jam will come, those that do not want that type of jam will stay away. Will some be upset? Probably. Will you need to reiterate what type of jam it is? Constantly. Will it be worth it? Definitely.

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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Just because you have a "jam list" doesn't mean you have to invite everyone on the list. You could just invite those who play by the rules.

    Maybe a nitpick here, but I don't consider a group that only plays fiddle tunes to be a jam per se. A jam entails some improvisation. Just my 2 cents...

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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Advertise it as an INSTRUMENTAL Old Time Jam. Tell people to bring their instruments to your INSTRUMENTAL old time jam. Keep stressing the word INSTRUMENTAL. If someone does show up and starts to sing, after that song, compliment them on their singing, but remind them that they are at an INSTRUMENTAL old time jam. Eventually, it'll be just that.


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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Dear Wels, Jay, and Fenton. Thanks to you all for your posts! I have made a Craig's List ad saying it's an instrumental jam, not a song circle. In the ad, I ask people to provide me with their telephone numbers to get the information about where the jam will be held, and when I talk to people I'll get to know them a bit on the phone and can explain that it's an instrumental jam and that improvisation of harmonies are welcome and encouraged. Unfortunately, I can't pick and choose from my email list because I don't have cross references to who is which email! And there are maybe 200 or so on the list. And Jay, it's definitely a jam, and some people are able to improvise harmonies, or guitar bass runs, etc. to the fiddle tunes. It's my understanding that true Old Time music was improvisational. Some people who perhaps think of themselves as purists, copy old recordings precisely, but that's not the way things were when the recordings were made. Like jazz and blues players, Old Time Fiddle jams -- the ones I have anyway -- are in the tradition of improvisation of harmonies, etc etc

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    If singers are going to be inevitable, give them a designated spot. OT Jam, tunes 9 to 10, singing circle from 10:15 to 11:15. that way, they know they'll get their turn and you can have your tune-only jam.
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    . . . it's definitely a jam, and some people are able to improvise harmonies, or guitar bass runs, etc. to the fiddle tunes. It's my understanding that true Old Time music was improvisational. Some people who perhaps think of themselves as purists, copy old recordings precisely, but that's not the way things were when the recordings were made. Like jazz and blues players, Old Time Fiddle jams -- the ones I have anyway -- are in the tradition of improvisation of harmonies, etc etc
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Hi, Randi, sounds like something some other jam host might do -- not a bad idea at all, but my jam will be instrumental only. There are a lot of song circle opportunities around town that singers have access to, and very few OT jams. In fact, only one other that I know of, and it's very, very fast and I can't keep up, at least some of the time.

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    Jaycat, no problemas! Thanks for writing both times!

  18. #14

    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    If it's free and open to whoever wants to come, all you can do is carve out spaces for everyone. For instance, yell "guitar solo - Jeff!" That signals the singers to shut up. Call on instrumentalists, and call on singers, too. If they don't get it, explain that that's what you're doing and promise (and deliver) that everyone will get a turn.

    And there's nothing wrong with a singer singing while a soloist is soloing, or two instruments or several singers going at the same time, as long as it's not all the time. You can call on more than one person at a time.

    It'll take some effort to train people, but after a few minutes, everyone will get it.

  19. #15

    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    . . . There are too many singers to discuss this with. . . .
    Do you know all their names? If you don't, learn them. When you're hosting a jam, call on people by name. It doesn't take long to train folks to wait their turns. If they don't get it, TELL them you'll call on them. (And then be sure you do.)

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    The premise of this thread seems a little unusual. There are gazillions of old-time tunes that have no words. Some of the more common old-time tunes have a verse or two, but they aren't "songs" in the normal sense. I guess you must be doing quite a few of the familiar tunes that have words -- or which are actually instrumental versions of songs, which originally were sung but now are mostly just played. If you started playing Spotted Pony or Road to Lisdoonvarna, I doubt anyone would have words to sing along with them.

    Can you give us an idea of what tunes you're trying to play, that people start singing on? Offhand, I can only think of a few old-time jam tunes that usually evoke singing: Angelina Baker, for example, or June Apple, Old Joe Clark, maybe Soldiers' Joy a little bit, sometimes Train On the Island in one of its many variations. Mike Cross wrote some recent words for Whiskey Before Breakfast, I know, and of course there are popular songs that crop up at many jams in instrumental versions, like Tennessee Waltz.

    I like the idea of divvying up the jam into "instrumental only" and "singing with instruments" segments, but I guess you don't want any singing at all. I have often thought that the old-time musicians didn't see such a divide between instrumental and vocal, and did a little of both; I've jammed with some of the well-known surviving old-time musicians, like Tommy Jarrell, and they might throw a verse into Yellow Rose of Texas, then go back to just playing the tune. Nothing like a "song circle" as you describe it.

    You don't need to work with your entire e-mail list; start with a half-dozen musicians who are primarily instrumentalists, have a more-or-less private session with them, and grow it from there.

    There's a big difference between a jam and a song circle, or "sing-around" as we call them here, but I would think that a strict "don't ever sing" rule might be a bit restrictive. It's all music, right?
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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    I will tell you a story that may help.

    There is a local venue in my town, a coffee shop, that for a few years hosted a mixed OldTime and Irish jam. A few songs here and there, but that wasn't the main problem. The main problem was the clash between OldTime players (let's play a dozen tunes in G because the banjo players don't want to re-tune) and the Irish players ("you're playing too slow!"). And of course all the fiddlers had to sit on their hands when someone wanted to sing, because what else are they going to do? People who sing in jams like this, usually want the rest of the group to be their personal backup band.

    What solved that particular situation was a change in ownership of the coffee shop. The new owner wanted just Irish music (helped with encouragement by the local stronger Irish players). So now it's an Irish session.

    If someone wants to bring a guitar and sing Grateful Dead tunes, the easy answer is "Sorry, the owner doesn't want that, we're an Irish session." Appeal to authority works, in this situation.

    If you're playing in a public park, you can't do this.

    So find a bar or restaurant where the owner of the venue wants free music -- instrumental fiddle tunes, Oldtime or whatever -- and use that as a club to bash the inevitable guitar army that shows up and wants to play singer/songwriter tunes. "Nope, sorry... the owner wants this kind of music, not that." It's how several local Irish sessions have survived in my area, because the singer/songwriter guitar army is ever present.

    It's the only thing I've seen that works in a public venue. You need the support of whoever owns the space.

    Either that, or be satisfied with private invitation home jams, which are also great fun, but can be hard on whoever is providing the space. My S.O. and I do that once in a while, but it's hard to sustain on a continuing basis (you have to clean up, wash up, etc.).

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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Thanks, everyone, for all your comments and views. The park jam I hope to start this summer will only have six session due to the change of the weather in the fall. So far nobody has responded to my Craig's list ad, though, which is odd. I've had success with meeting musicians through Craig's list before. I might go ahead and send out an email to my jam list. As for singing, yes, it's true that tunes like Soldier's Joy have a few lyrics at times and are not "songs" as such. But there are local people who sing lyrics to just about every old time tune there is -- someone has composed lyrics, so they sing to the whole tune the whole time it's played. After New Years I plan to start my own jam at my apartment. I have hosted very successful jams at coffeehouses. They were tons of fun and everyone played well etc etc But every time, after a few months the owners want us to leave because the jammers won't buy food or even a coffee from the coffee house. I have told the jammers in every email I sent out that it's necessary for them to patronize the offerings or we'd lose our venue, but there were always people who just showed up to play and would not buy. And we were told not to come back because we were taking up seats that patrons could have used.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Quote Originally Posted by stringalong View Post
    I have hosted very successful jams at coffeehouses. They were tons of fun and everyone played well etc etc But every time, after a few months the owners want us to leave because the jammers won't buy food or even a coffee from the coffee house. I have told the jammers in every email I sent out that it's necessary for them to patronize the offerings or we'd lose our venue, but there were always people who just showed up to play and would not buy. And we were told not to come back because we were taking up seats that patrons could have used.
    That can be a problem with cafe and restaurant venues, yes. You're taking up space, and some people won't even order a coffee or beer in appreciation for having a place to play music. They'll just show up to play and then leave. It's frustrating.

    You're probably aware of this, but one way to minimize the problem is not to schedule the jam for when the players would ideally like it, but instead for the times when the place is usually half-empty anyway. Local sessions in my area are on Sunday afternoon or Tuesday and Wednesday nights, when the venues are not very busy. That takes the pressure off. Even if just a few people are buying drinks, it's more than the venue would sell otherwise.

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  26. #20

    Default Re: Need suggestions: the diffrecne betw old time jam and song ci

    Dear foldedpath, good suggestions!

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