All You Ever Wanted to Know About Jamming (But Were Afraid to Ask): April 2014

So you wanna jam? Well…it can be a pretty darn daunting process for someone who:

1. Cares what other peoples’ not always subtle assessment of their abilities are
2. Did not grow up in a bluegrass family band or
3. Isn’t quite sure what their “job” in a jam really is…

Take it from someone who has been there…there is an unspoken language of communication that happens in all jam circles and well- you want to have a pretty good idea about what you’re doing before you go into that gentle night. Especially with a fiddle in your hands!

Here is a list of 10 things that I probably learned was important by not doing it in a jam, getting a funny look, and then re-evaluating what I was thinking, or not thinking! This is pretty specific to bluegrass, so don’t try this in that chamber ensemble you play in…

1. Know the melody of the tune. Try to get in the first three notes of the melody. Melody is critical to bluegrass music. AKA- it’s *not* about those three awesome chords…

2. If their mouth is moving, your bow pretty much just isn’t. Simple and elegant.

3. Know the form of the tune. AABB is pretty common law. Watch the form on the breaks. Is it AA? AABB? Moving through all the parts but each person only taking a section?

4. Find the groove. Serve the groove. Love the groove. “Lock in” to the tempo.

5. Write down a few faves from the jam and learn them on your own. Chances are, you will hear the same songs/tunes again in that circle…

6. Allow for silence and simplicity. The space between the notes is as important as the notes themselves…

7. Improvise over the same tunes often in your own practice time at home.

8. Practice outside of jams and gigs with the same person, preferably someone who sees value in repetition and taking things at a forgivable tempo. Or use online tracks!

9. Observe the culture happening around you. Look for the non-verbal communication cues and listen more than you play.

10.This is a team effort. Serve the interest of the group. A jam is all about the mentality of the “whole being greater than the sum of its parts”…

As always, if you have any questions…pitch them to me. I love helping folks feel comfortable in this environment. And here is a list of local resources just for reading through the whole. darned. thing…

I’m hosting two awesome local jams coming up! SavageFiddler friendly and more! April 18 at Kathmandu in Nederland 6:00 KID JAM! and April 27 at the Pickin Parlor in Arvada 3-5 ALL AGES Jam! Git yr fiddle and come hang out!!

April 26 in Lafayette CO: Crazy awesome house concert with Bet Williams/John and Jack Hodian with my folk project the Amen Trio opening up…tickets are super limited and almost sold out. Jam to follow.

June 2-5 in Nederland, CO: My awesome jam camp! Pickin in the Peaks! Instructors are the INCREDIBLE Jeff Scroggins, Greg Blake, Tristan Scroggins, Andrea Love and myself. All bluegrass instruments are taught along with massive jamming and vocals! Contact me to sign up! All ages 8+ welcome! SIGN UP BY April 15 for a $10 discount with this post!

June 8-14 (Old Time Week) and June 15-21 (Bluegrass Week): I am teaching at my favorite jamming camps in the country. Kaufman Kamp is in TN and heck- YOU SHOULD BE THERE! Go to: http://www.flatpik.com/Steve-Kaufman-Acoustic-Kamp to get all registrated…

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