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Thread: Jam etiquette

  1. #1
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    I was at a large jam with a fiddle player who never looked up to see what was going on around him, played over other people's breaks, and generally made things awkward for everybody else. I figure he probably didn't know better, but if I run into him again I would like to find a polite but inoffensive way to give him a heads up so that he will play backup until he gets a cue from whoever is leading the tune. I have no social skills whatsoever, so I could use some input.

    The fiddler is not a kid, and fiddles well enough to do some basic improvisation.

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    8 Fingers, 2 Thumbs Ken Sager's Avatar
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    Take along a list of etiquette guidelines to hand out to everybody. That way it looks like you're simply informing the whole jam, not just one person. If that one person doesn't get it, have a personal conversation with him, not in front of everybody. Try to be non-confrontational in front of others. A smile (sometimes) helps, too, as does encouragement to respect others around him.

    There is a large local jam that has completely gotten out of hand because of one person who began doing what you described and nobody asked him to stop. Now everybody who shows up plays that way... imagine 4-5 mandolins all playing their own melody ALL THE TIME on EVERY song. Don't let your jam get out of control. I've talked personally to the biggest noodler a number of times to no avail. A lot of good local musicians avoid this jam, unfortunately, because it isn't a jam as much as a noisy free-for-all.

    Hope this helps,
    Ken
    Less talk, more pick.

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    If it is a closed (invitational) jam, that person should just not be invited back. For open jams, I find they run better if there is an acknowledged host or leader. That leader needs to be assertive, but polite, and should have credibility as a musician. It is that person's job to enforce etiquitte and he or she should do it on the spot, diplomatically but clearly. If you are not the leader, it is problematic. You may wind up with a fight on your hands or at least some harsh words spoken no matter what your approach.

    You can also try playing a "forward roll" when he does that. That's when you hit him the back of the head so hard he does a full somersault!





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    Quote Originally Posted by (Ken Sager @ Jan. 24 2006, 13:15)
    Take along a list of etiquette guidelines to hand out to everybody. That way it looks like you're simply informing the whole jam, not just one person.
    Hope this helps,
    Ken
    Yea, that will set the tone. They will know for sure that "you the man"



    DS
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    It's an open jam, and I am a relative newbie. Last time I just moved to a different room after an hour or so. One of the problems is that nobody was leading the jam, and there were over a dozen players in the room. #

    I'll definitely talk to the organizer about writing up the etiquette. #I'll even write up the rules as I understand them for his approval, if necessary. I need to learn a lot more songs before I can lead the group, but I bet I could recruit some of the regulars and we could sort of lead by committee.

    >>>There is a large local jam that has completely gotten out of hand because of one person who began doing what you described and nobody asked him to stop. Now everybody who shows up plays that way... imagine 4-5 mandolins all playing their own melody ALL THE TIME on EVERY song.<<<

    That's exactly what I would like to avoid. #I like to learn songs at jams, but while I am working the tune out, I like to step way to the back of the jam, and just play louly enough to hear myself. Once I think I have a handle on it, I'll step up and wait to be invited to take a break.

    The forward roll technique is tempting, but ultimately counterproductive. A true diplomat would TALK him into doing a somersault...




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    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    The TEN JAMMANDMENTS (from Robert Rosenberg/Charlie Hall):
    1. THOU SHALT TUNE THY INSTRUMENT:
    - There are too many good, cheap electronic tuners around not to do this.

    2. THOU SHALT LISTEN:
    - If you can't hear the vocal or lead instrument, the YOU are too loud. Be sensitive to volume levels.

    3. THOU SHALT COMMUNICATE WHO HAS THE SOLO:
    - When handing off an instrumental break on, say, a fiddle tune, follow a pattern (like clockwise around a circle) so the next lead player knows it is his/her turn.
    - If the lead player or vocalist passes the break, he/she can indicate with a shake of their head or call out to the next picker.

    4. THOU SHALT WELCOME OTHERS:
    - Open the circle if other players wish to join. Jam sessions cannot be too large if everyone is polite.
    - Old Time music is more interesting when there are many players playing simultaneously.

    5. THOU SHALT SHARE THE SELECTION:
    - Open the choice of songs to individuals around the circle. Don't monopolize the jam by playing one song after another. An instrumentalist can suggest a vocalist do a song.

    6. THOU SHALT TRY NEW STUFF:
    - Once in a while, a participant in a jam may suggest an original or out-of-the-ordinary tune. This is OK.

    7. THOU SHALT LET OTHERS KNOW WHEN YOU'RE NOT JAMMING:
    - Sometimes bands may be warming up or rehearsing for a show and may need to exclude others. This is OK.

    8. THOU SHALT NOT RAID:
    - Don't interrupt an active jam by calling favorite musicians away to join another jam.

    9. THOU SHALT KEEP STEADY RHYTHM:
    - Errors in rhythm are the most difficult to overcome while keeping a group together.

    10. THOU SHALT NOT SPEED:
    - Keep the tempo. Don't start too fast or speed up durning the song.

    DON'T BE A JAM BUSTER!

    ************************************************** *********

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  10. #7
    8 Fingers, 2 Thumbs Ken Sager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (mandoman4807 @ Jan. 24 2006, 11:27)
    Quote Originally Posted by (Ken Sager @ Jan. 24 2006, 13:15)
    Take along a list of etiquette guidelines to hand out to everybody. That way it looks like you're simply informing the whole jam, not just one person.
    Hope this helps,
    Ken
    Yea, that will set the tone. They will know for sure that "you the man"



    DS
    In spite of your smiley, I don't get it. I'm not trying to "be the man" nor do I suggest anybody else try to "be the man."

    Don't hand them out, leave them out for everybody to see and take.

    At least my post had a positive suggestion, unlike yours.

    Joy to all,
    Ken
    Less talk, more pick.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (mandoman4807 @ Jan. 24 2006, 13:27)
    Yea, that will set the tone. They will know for sure that "you the man"
    Did you have a suggestion to make? If you have a better idea I'd love to hear it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (Tom C @ Jan. 24 2006, 13:53)
    The TEN JAMMANDMENTS (from Robert Rosenberg/Charlie Hall):
    ...........................
    DON'T BE A JAM BUSTER!

    ************************************************** *********
    That's a good list. I think I've seen it elsewhere, and it's pretty much the customs I am familiar with. Maybe could use a little more nuts and bolts info on how a jam runs, but it covers the basics

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    Did I antagonize the self proclaimed.. general antagonist?




    DS
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    Quote Originally Posted by (mandoman4807 @ Jan. 24 2006, 14:33)
    Did I antagonize the self proclaimed.. general antagonist?




    DS
    It's interesting that you would post so intemperately in a thread about etiquette......

    Did you have a suggestion to make? I'd still love to hear a better idea if you have one.

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    11. Try not to spit much while singing.
    If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

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  18. #13
    8 Fingers, 2 Thumbs Ken Sager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (mandoman4807 @ Jan. 24 2006, 12:33)
    Did I antagonize the self proclaimed.. general antagonist?




    DS
    No, just calling you out for what appeared to be an attack directed at me, rather than anything relating to the topic or my reply.

    What's up?
    Less talk, more pick.

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    "imagine 4-5 mandolins all playing their own melody ALL THE TIME on EVERY song"

    Sounds like an old time jam to me.

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    8 Fingers, 2 Thumbs Ken Sager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by (Bluegrass Boy @ Jan. 24 2006, 13:41)
    "imagine 4-5 mandolins all playing their own melody ALL THE TIME on EVERY song"

    Sounds like an old time jam to me.
    Me too, but it bills itself as an advanced bluegrass jam, and some folks actually try to pass (share) breaks rather than play them old-timey style. Regardless, there are the 4-5 mandolins who play everything, all the time, the couple guitars doing the same, etc.

    I enjoy old-timey jams, too, and if this were one I wouldn't have mentioned it.

    Best,
    Ken
    Less talk, more pick.

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    (1) Is this a bluegrass jam, or an old-timey jam? Because many OT fiddlers firmly believe that other instruments exist only to back up the fiddle (that's not a slam or an overstatemant, I know & know of a number of fiddlers who say that). So maybe that's where the guy's coming from.

    (2) In my experience, speaking to people directly - in a friendly, non-confrontational manner - tends to produce better results than leaving printed announcements lying around.
    Frank

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    Registered User red7flag's Avatar
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    One of the best suggestions I have heard is that a player should be able to hear the lead instrument clearly over your own. #I find that when I am playing back up to guitar, for example, that advice will have me toning back my right hand so I can hear the guitar.
    Tony



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    Jams are tricky things, ain't they?

    Woodwiz, is this a jam you'd like to keep coming to? If so, try to politely address this fiddler. You'll need to or you'll continually get frustrated unless HE'S someone who rarely shows up. Jams aren't fun if frustrated.

    As the late Dalebygod Hopkins said to me once on the phone: "the fiddle's at my side unless I'm fixin' to play. When i put it to my chin, that says it's my turn...". Sounds like this fiddler you mentioned could use some of this stuff.
    David Mehaffey
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    ...I wonder how the old folks are at home...

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    B-flat.

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    I think that a good "now take it (Whoever)" will do fine. After a few songs of that they should get the message.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (David M. @ Jan. 24 2006, 16:16)
    Woodwiz, is this a jam you'd like to keep coming to? #If so, try to politely address this fiddler. #You'll need to or you'll continually get frustrated unless HE'S someone who rarely shows up. #Jams aren't fun if frustrated.
    It's the best jam in the area, IMO. There are always 60 or more pickers spread out in several rooms, so there is always somewhere else to go to, but I liked working with this particular bunch.

    I've been knocked around enough that I rarely get frustrated by anything anymore, but if I do something I want it to be constructive and productive. It would be dumb to do something that not only didn't achieve the desired goal, but created bad feelings to boot. I want allies, not opponents.

    I never met Dale Hopkins, but from what I have read about him, I missed out.

    Thanks everyone for all the good input. I'm interested in anything else anyone has to say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by (Hutto #39 @ Jan. 24 2006, 16:37)
    B-flat.

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    I host a twice monthly jam that seems to stay good and get better. All who attend love it and help keep it going. We had a new mando player show up a while back who sounded just like the description of the aforementioned fiddle player. I tried the nice approach, the firm approach, nothing seemed to work with this guy. finally he got sick of several player's advice and decided the jam wasn't for him. I figure he didn't want to get it. We get players of all levels and all are welcome. The majority of pickers are on the advanced end of things but all are cognizant of the importance of jam etiquette.
    Cabin Fever String Band, Bill Gorby and the Musical Mercenaries

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    i really like the jammamandments! covers the basics. thanks for posting em.

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    I know the type of fiddler (or banjo player) you're talking about. What I do is, when the song ends, I just say right to him (and the group) "man, I really wanted to hear Bobby's/Susies's mandolin/guitar break, I got the idea it had some pretty cool ideas in it but somehow I missed it the general noise. Can we just start with that again so I can hear it?" or something similar. Then we get the rhythm going and Bobby or Susie does their thing and now maybe the fiddler/banjo player gets used to LISTENING as was so well put in the 10 commandments.

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