What Does it Take to Join a Jam Anyway??


Searching around on the Internet for information is something I really love to do.

Jamming has been difficult for me to grasp as it can be for many mountain dulcimer players. One of my favorite jams was at the Colorado Dulcimer Festival. I was actually able to play almost every tune they had. What was really great is that they supplied a small book of the tunes they most likely play in a jam. Yes, it was a slow jam, but not so slow as to be boring. Such fun!

Two Websites I visited were Wiki How To Jam and National Guitar Academy. I compiled some steps below from both sites on How To Jam. They came up with some great things to consider in order to join a Jam and even agreed on some steps.

1. Try a small group with at least one person keeping the rhythm going. Friends that are encouraging and helpful! Select people with similar interests in music as you have.

2. Larger groups you can get lost, but no one is going to hear your mistakes. How many people do you want to jam with and which instruments?

3. Figure out the chords are in the key signature. Unless you can play really fast, it is best to play chords over single notes. Watch other instruments to see what chords are being play, or just ask.

4. Most jams announce the key they will play the tune in so brush up on which chords for common key signatures.

5. See if the group will play the tune through a couple of times to get everyone on board and then have fun and experiment!

6. Jams usually have a leader or two. Keep your head up and watch for the leaders to give any kind of signals such as the end of the tune. Be aware of any visual cues they give.

7. Feel the vibe of the song. Follow the other players in volume, speed, and intensity. Grow the song together and adjust your playing to fit in. Pick songs everyone loves.

8. Improvise when you are ready to take your turn or pass if you are not ready. Just keep it in key!

Share the spotlight, don’t show off. Most of the jams I’ve been in don’t really showcase an individual. Listen to what’s going on around you, everyone has to interact together.

9. Decide as a group when to end the tune. You know the leg in the air so keep your visual going or you’re going to go solo!

10.Practice jamming at home with your favorite tunes either online or on a CD.

11.You don’t need to memorize the tunes but learn them as you can back to front. Figure out the top jam tunes for the group you play with and prepare!

12.Know your instrument where the notes and chords are, need I say more?

Most importantly, Engage with each other, this is for fun! So Have Fun!

Jams aren’t to be so serious as to cause undue stress!

I watched a video with Stephen Siefert and his idea of a jam was multiple circles within circles. I thought his idea was pretty spot on. The inner circle would be the master players and they pretty much guide the jam and he said playing in this position will help them not get bored. The next circle would be intermediate players and they would learn from the masters. The next circle is advanced players and could learn from the intermediates. The outside circle is all of the beginners to observe, learn, and be able to play without anyone hearing their mistakes. Quite a concept if possible but might not be probable in all situations.

Jamming, what little I’ve done, has been interesting and I might not be a good at it. But I would like to improve my ability, to be free from printed tablature and just feel the music!!

Keep the music in the Air!

NancyJ Your GPDA VP

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