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Jam Etiquette

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Jaxon 15 Jan 99 - 10:07 AM
Bert 15 Jan 99 - 10:40 AM
Some Guidelines 15 Jan 99 - 11:07 AM
rick fielding 15 Jan 99 - 12:18 PM
Bob Landry 15 Jan 99 - 12:19 PM
Bill D 15 Jan 99 - 01:27 PM
Mike Billo 15 Jan 99 - 02:19 PM
Barbara 15 Jan 99 - 04:06 PM
rick fielding 15 Jan 99 - 05:36 PM
Barbara 15 Jan 99 - 06:23 PM
The Shambles 15 Jan 99 - 06:51 PM
Barbara Shaw 15 Jan 99 - 08:59 PM
rick fielding 15 Jan 99 - 09:24 PM
catspaw49 15 Jan 99 - 10:05 PM
rick fielding 15 Jan 99 - 10:21 PM
Barbara Shaw 15 Jan 99 - 10:58 PM
Big Mick 15 Jan 99 - 11:10 PM
rick fielding 16 Jan 99 - 03:40 PM
Alice 16 Jan 99 - 05:39 PM
Les B 17 Jan 99 - 01:35 AM
Big Cookie (inactive) 17 Jan 99 - 02:08 AM
Big Cookie (inactive) 17 Jan 99 - 02:11 AM
Big Mick 17 Jan 99 - 02:49 PM
Stubs 17 Jan 99 - 06:47 PM
dulcimer 17 Jan 99 - 08:04 PM
Cuilionn 17 Jan 99 - 09:23 PM
BK 17 Jan 99 - 10:44 PM
The Shambles 18 Jan 99 - 07:58 PM
rick fielding 19 Jan 99 - 09:47 AM
Bert 19 Jan 99 - 10:01 AM
rick fielding 19 Jan 99 - 10:04 AM
GUEST,Marion 25 Feb 03 - 02:45 PM
gnomad 25 Feb 03 - 03:21 PM
Barbara Shaw 25 Feb 03 - 04:01 PM
GUEST,Steven 25 Feb 03 - 04:31 PM
Art Thieme 25 Feb 03 - 05:03 PM
Peterr 25 Feb 03 - 05:07 PM
GUEST,Peter from Essex 25 Feb 03 - 05:17 PM
wysiwyg 25 Feb 03 - 05:22 PM
Peterr 25 Feb 03 - 05:48 PM
GUEST,Steven 25 Feb 03 - 05:49 PM
GUEST 26 Feb 03 - 04:17 AM
Amos 26 Feb 03 - 10:05 AM
GUEST,Sharon G 26 Feb 03 - 12:53 PM
denise:^) 26 Feb 03 - 04:47 PM
GUEST,Les B. 27 Feb 03 - 11:31 AM
Declan 27 Feb 03 - 11:59 AM
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X 27 Feb 03 - 07:26 PM
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Subject: Jam Etiquette
From: Jaxon
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 10:07 AM

We've had a large influx of people to our jam sessions and are finding the need to post some guidelines for joining in a jam to keep it from getting out of control. Common sense prevailed up to this point, but apparently isn't an option anymore. Any suggestions will be gratefully accepted.
Jack Murray


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Bert
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 10:40 AM

Long ago I was mixing with a group of people in quite a different context but we had a similar problem.

It was resolved with humor. If anyone got out of line someone would say loudly "Thow that Bum out of here"

Always got a laugh, made the offender feel part of the group because it was an "in" saying, but it got the point across.

If you start it off with each other, that is members of the old crowd, it becomes accepted easier.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Some Guidelines
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 11:07 AM

I am not sure what type of jam you are holding and where, but here is what I can remember of an article that I read by Stephen C., an Oshawa, Ontario Blues Harp player with decades of experience. The jams that he refers to are hosted in bars, so not all of this may apply to yours. Again, I am paraphrasing heavily.

1. Be prepared. Know the songs that you are going to play, what keys they are in, whether they are slow, shuffles etc. Usually there is a house band hosting these and they need this information.

2. Bring your own instrument. A lot of house bands have a lot or money tied up in their gear, and they don't need belt buckle scratches on the back of their pride and joy Stratocaster or Jazzmaster. Drummers, go easy, leave drumheads in the condition you found them. Don't mess with the levels set by the host band on amplifiers.

3. Stay sober. A lot of people find it easier to get up in front of people if they get loosened up a bit, but keep an eye on it, nobody wants to hear the ramblings of a drunk.

4. The leader of the host band is in charge. Be prepared to do 3-4 songs, but only do a 2nd, 3rd etc. if you are invited to.

5. Be aware of what type of music is being played. Although some jams are completely "open" and welcome different styles, most tend to specialize in a particular kind of music. Hank Williams and Muddy Waters were both great artists, but most jams would support songs from one or the other.

6. Keep solos short and interact with others. Nobody wants to hear ten minute solos, play through 12 bars, watch for a nod, either to you to continue or to the harp or keyboard player etc.

7. Don't jump in unless invited. Usually if you have played a few times at a particular jam, someone may be part way through a song and think that your harp or back up vocals etc. may fit this song and they might give you the nod at which point you can jump in, don't just decide that this song can't be doen without the benefit of your special talent. Usually this is closely tied to number 3.

I am sure there are more, I can't remember them all. Hopefully this is a good start for you.

Steve Latimer


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 12:18 PM

Tricky situation Jaxon. A number of years ago I wrote an article for a folk publication called "Emily Post goes to her first jam session". In it I tried to set down some guidlines for a group of singers and players getting together to do some music. It was written with lots of self-depricating humour, so that nobody would think I was trying to impose "professional" rules on anyone. Wow! Did I get flack! It talked about: getting in tune, backing off a bit if you didn't know the chords, including as many "chorus" songs as possible, so that even inexperienced folks could join in, and in general-just being courteous. Well, a lot of musicians (especially bad ones,) don't want to know from courtesy. A local weekly jam group posted the article on the wall, and for months I heard that certain jammers thought I was "trying to take the fun out of playing, and make us all "professionals". So be careful Jaxon, your motives are sure to be questioned.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Bob Landry
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 12:19 PM

You make very good points, Steve.

I have much more experience with informal jams in somebody's home or backyard than in a club setting where somebody has control of the agenda and the mixer. I don't own an electric guitar (my Guild has all the on-board electronics I want) and I often jam with other musicians who have electric guitars but none of the instruments is run through mixing board.

My main beef has to do with the level of amplification. Please don't overpower the other musicians. One of our friends may not be invited to our biggest jam because of his penchant for plugging in his Dobro, cranking up his amp and over-riding the moods or rhythms that the lead musician is trying to set.

Bob


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Bill D
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 01:27 PM

one of the reasons that 'song circles', where everyone takes turns, became popular, is that the group dynamics of 'open jams' and folk 'hootenannies' is so complex...some people have a psychological need to be heard as often as possible, while others will put up with only 'good' music, and have no tolerance of beginners....I have seen 'good' singers ruin a session because they kept changing the mood without regard for timing, sharing, etc..

if humor and gentle looks don't work, the last resort is to announce rules, or to take someone aside quietly and suggest that they might slow down and watch and learn...


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Mike Billo
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 02:19 PM

Etiquette at a jam session is the same as in any other social situation. If someone doesn't already have the concepts of courtesy and consideration for others, and a sense of the appropriate, then it's very difficult to come up with a set of rules that will give such people these qualities, and even more difficult to get them to follow these rules. If things are getting out of control,then it may be time to move the jam session to a new location and start fresh. Good luck.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Barbara
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 04:06 PM

Let me speak to this from both sides, as an equal opportunity offender as well as in-crowd member.
Some folks, like me, when they first show up in a song or music circle, are nervous. And folks like me 1. make too much noise when we're uncomfortable, 2. are less likely to be on pitch and in time, and 3. don't listen worth a hill of beans.
So. You can post rules, and when you point them out to me, it may work, or I may just get my feelings hurt. It helps to bear in mind that a lot of people are at their worst when they first come into a new place. Just about EVERYONE is insecure in that situation. So you want a fast way to get past that.
What works on me, and I have applied to others with sucess is to be as kind as possible. Put out requests in positive and nonjudgemental ways, like "would you all join me on the chorus?" NOT "Don't sing on the verses!" Or, "Let me try this alone, I'm not sure I know it well enough to sing it with accomaniment."
Too noisy? Try making the thing quieter, and see if you can lead people down. It didnt work? Say before you start, " I want to try this one really quiet... (maybe add,) so I can hear Jim on the kalimba on the break."(or some such)
Anything that includes the Newbies in, praise, recognition, kindness, noticing what they do well instead of withdrawing and sitting with your friends. It is however also important to do this sincerely, otherwise people will just feel condescended to. So, in the immortal words of Thumper: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." An awful lot of problem people turn out to be much better when they get comfortable and relaxed. Including me. So cut us some slack. As a last ditch effort, speak to me outside of the circle, alone, and ask me to change something that's driving you nuts then.
The other half of this, of course, is to show tolerance for the people who don't have any, and humor them when they sit there and snipe. Don't take it personally. Think what a hard life they must have living with themselves all the time and be grateful you only have to do it on first and third Saturday nights.
Blessings,
Barbara


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 05:36 PM

Barb, I think just from your posting and the way you express your views, that consideration for others is part of your make-up. I doubt that at anytime in your musical developement you'd have been one of the "problem people".


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Barbara
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 06:23 PM

Bless you Rick, but would you like references? (grin).


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: The Shambles
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 06:51 PM

Tolerance towards those who do not have any is surely the key Barbara. Easier said than done though in these situations, when they continue to show no tolerance and you have travelled a long way to get there. But there is no other way.

The older I get the more tolerant I get to everything except intolerance.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 08:59 PM

Bluegrass jams have their own highly "evolved" etiquette. Here's the short course.

If you walk up to a jam, you generally hang back around the outer edge until/unless invited to "take a break." You're invited via eye contact, maybe a nod, and if you don't want one you either don't make eye contact or you shake your head no.

Whoever starts the song sings lead, someone else takes tenor, and everyone else tries to find a hole in the harmony where they can add something or keep quiet. You don't step on someone's part: it's not choral or hootenanny singing, it's individual harmonies. Folkies often don't get this, unfortunately, and can break up a good bluegrass jam in minutes.

You can usually tell beginners by how hard they thrash on their instruments, thumping away throughout the song. The experienced, better pickers back off when someone else is taking a break (playing lead, doing something fancy) and join in subtly the rest of the time. In a really good jam, it's possible to hear all the various instruments, and you don't have to shout to sing over the instruments. Everyone plays with sensitivity, no one dominates, until you get the signal to "take one." Then you blaze away, while everyone else appreciates the hell out of your break. The point is that the music is the important thing, not the loudest voice or one instrument dominating.

Very often, the better players are around an inner circle, and the rookies hang back toward the edges where they can join in as much as possible without disturbing the flow. People tend to collect in groups at their own level of playing, although you get better by playing with better players.

Sounds complex and intimidating, and I have walked past my share of jams, and also led many at our campsite at festivals. This treatise sound rather snobby after reading it over, but it's intended to explain the way it is, not set the rules. You're always welcome at our jams!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 09:24 PM

To Barbara Shaw. No, no, a thousand times no. Your posting is NOT "snobby", it's vital information for those who really want to "get" why we are music fanatics. Thank you.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: catspaw49
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 10:05 PM

Barbara and Rick...well stated/not snobby. A lot of what you say Barbara is also true for many other "genres" or branches or whatever of folk music. But it is interesting how the etiquettes have evolved along several lines, not just one of genre. There is also sometimes a regional aspect within the branch and when you get a group of like instruments together that's often something else entirely (ie. dulcimer clubs). In the mountains you do well to lay way back and take it slow. The more...can't think of the right word...let's say "humble" you are, the sooner you're taken in. Being too "prideful" is in very bad taste.

Hadn't really thought about this in these terms before...just doing the polite thing generally works, but there truly are individual "etiquettes." And they need to be observed.

The only thing that bothers me is when I run into the "brand name snobbery". But I think this is diminishing to some extent. Doc Watson plays Gallagher, Ricky Skaggs play a Bourgeois (Dana builds GREAT voiced guitars), and I notice many artists in lots of branches moving to Taylor. Even Ovation seems to be gaining greater acceptance among the "purist" types, especially as a road guitar. I think this seems to be true of other instuments as well.

Nice thread. I'd like to hear some other's experiences as well with different branches/genres/types whatever. catspaw


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 10:21 PM

I remember going to the Bean Blossom festival many years ago and hearing MANY negative comments about Mac Wiseman's Yamaha guitar. These were from other"professionals", who just could not believe that a legendary artist of Mac's stature would not be playing a D-28. Funny thing is that over the years I've seen a number of photos with Mac playing various J-45s and even an Ovation. Wonder if he was just tryin' to get some of them 'riled up. For 18 years now my main working instrument has been a Lowden built like a Gibson J-50. If I had a buck for everyone who's asked "what is that?"


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 10:58 PM

Thanks, guys, for not branding me a snob! A couple of other thoughts occur to me about how to break up a jam:

If you're the bass player, it's gonna probably break up the jam if you just walk away without someone else to take up the bass. If you pick it up, stay with it until someone else takes it. This is usually not a problem. Usually harder to get the bass away from them!

Don't start some loud conversation around others who are trying to play a tune. It's rude, and ruins the music.

What you said, catspaw49, about laying way back in the mountains was true for us. A few years ago we spent a week in West Virginia at a Habitat volunteer center, and invited a local couple over to play a few tunes with us. They were real quiet and subdued for awhile, but by the end of the evening we were cranking out world class Cripple Creek!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Big Mick
Date: 15 Jan 99 - 11:10 PM

Barbara, your advice is absolutely sound, not in the least bit snobby. Very well done.

With regard to snobbery, let me tell you that one of the best guitarists playing any style, anywhere is a fella by the name of Brendan Nolan. If you get the chance to see him play, do yourself a favor and go. But don't be put off by his guitar, it is a Yamaha. But I have heard a lot of players that don't get the sound out of D-45's that Brendan got out of that thing last saturday night.

Mick


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 16 Jan 99 - 03:40 PM

Mick, I met Brendan Nolan about 10 years ago (think I even had him on my radio show) and was mighty impressed. He left me with a casette of his music, which I still play, but I have completely lost touch with him. Where is he located these days? Last I heard was Montreal. Thanks.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Alice
Date: 16 Jan 99 - 05:39 PM

Along the lines of staying sober, I would add that having someone smoking a cigarette right by me when I am there to sing will make me leave out of self-preservation. Some singers are smokers, but for those of us who are not, it helps to have the smoking on the other side of the room or circle if it is in the room at all. In our session, the musicians are non-smokers, or at least they refrain during the session. The smokers that show up to listen seem to be mostly college kids, around 20 years old, and mostly girls.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Les B
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 01:35 AM

One of the things we do with our group's jam sessions (old timey/bluegrassy/folky - usually a dozen people or more) is to go around the circle and each person chooses a song or instrumental to do. We all play behind the person, and they can ask for special help on leads or vocal harmonies or whatever. This works for several reasons -- it takes the pressure off an individual of having to come up with several songs in a row; it allows people new to the jam to meld in (they can pass their turn by for several go-rounds until they feel ready); and it keeps those who tend to "hog" or take over a jam from taking a 30-minute ego trip. If a person doesn't play a lead instrument or sing, they still get a turn -- for instance our non-singing bass player will ask the banjo player to do a certain piece that has a good walking bass part to it, etc. Our district fiddle jams, held once a month, operate in a similar fashion. They have a sign-up list, and people rehearse and jam in the back room, and then get up and are allowed three tunes over the sound system when their name is called off the list. Recently there was a rule added, since so many singers were signing up, that there had to be a fiddle in the group performing on stage -- after all, the jam is sponsored by the fiddlers!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Big Cookie (inactive)
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 02:08 AM

Use humor to curb a situation in progress. If you have to say something later to keep a something from occurring again, take the person aside. They may have not realized what they did when they did it so why embarrass them twice. Just think how you would like to be treated were the situation reversed and how to handle it will come to you. Best Blues, Cookie


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Big Cookie (inactive)
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 02:11 AM

Use humor to curb a situation in progress. If you have to say something later to keep a something from occurring again, take the person aside. They may have not realized what they did when they did it so why embarrass them twice. Just think how you would like to be treated were the situation reversed and how to handle it will come to you. Best Blues, Cookie


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Big Mick
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 02:49 PM

Hey Rick,

Brendan is now living in St. Petersburg, Fla. He has a website HERE and has released several more CD's since then. If I were going to recommend one, it would be "Across the Great Divide" which has an immigration theme. All his CD's are very good, but this one resonates for me. Probably the immigration theme.

All the best,

Mick


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Stubs
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 06:47 PM

I join in a regular weekly jam whose origins go back some twenty-five years. In that time there have been professionals and amateurs of all stripes gathered together. Some of them, and these are the regulars, will never learn proper etiquette. It has become a friendship night rather than a jam night, sometimes with different tunes in different corners, always with someone out of tune, and seldom anyone truly listening and seriously tryng to contribute! Some excellent musicians never return after one night because of this, but the jam goes on. It is not recommended to let your jam degrade so, but the up-side is that new musicians are never intimidated and those old f***s who have stuck it out learn how to play in a scene a lot roudier than any bar, a truly valuable asset! Keep on jammin'!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: dulcimer
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 08:04 PM

I have been in jams which have been going for a bit or which are supposedly "open," then three or four players join in. After a while, it becomes apparent that these have played together for a lot and they are just rehearsing for some on stage performance later. They really don't care how or what you play. So I guess I echo being cautious about what kind of jam you find yourself in.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Cuilionn
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 09:23 PM

'Tis maist helpfu' for a fledgling sangstress an' instrumentalist tae be readin' these posts, for guidness kens I need a' th' help I can get. Wuid ony-ane care tae enlichten us, I'm wonderin', on th' similar question o' etiquette for ceilidhs? Th' anely anes I've attendit were sponsered by ma Scots Gaelic teacher an' choir director, an' altho' they're baith possessit o' a generous spirit, it wis verra discouragin' tae hae an expert sing sumpit in Gaelic wi' nae accompaniment, an' THEN luik aroond th' ruim an' invite ony any o' us puir eejit students tae hae a gae at it!!! Th' choir director allus glared at onybody whae dared tae sing in Braid Scots oor onythin' ither than Gaelic, sae maist o' us ne'er went ayont jist jynin' in on choruses. Is this sairt o' thing standard for a ceilidh, oor nae? An' can folks gie a hint aboot th' subtle rules underlyin' a true ceilidh, Scottish style, Irish style, oor itherwise? I'm beginnin' tae wonder if these are secrets still guardit by some survivin' sect o' Druids, for naebody I ask seems willin' tae lay onythin' richt oot!

Muckle obliged,

--Cuilionn


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: BK
Date: 17 Jan 99 - 10:44 PM

Wow! did typing that broad scots hurt yer fingers? It woulda hurt mine, as bad as I type.. I wonder if that one chap that attends the old & unpleasant jam does so somewhere in the general area of the DC metroplex.. sorta sounded somewhat familiar from my days in the Nations Capital.. Now in the heartland mid-west I go occasinally to a nominally bluegrass jam. Therefore I appreciate the specific bluegrass advice, as I am folky & they sometimes remind me of that fact, though always with gentle humor. It is in the basement of a local hardware store. They practice, superbly, the mature virtues mentioned in the post by Barb. They are patiently trying to educate me.. never an easy task with my thick head, and I'm too busy to go as regularly as I would like, but among the things that really surprised me was how many Tom Paxton classics have passed into the bluerass mainstream (Tom is, after all, an Okie) as well as songs like "Handsome Molly," which I first heard from Ian & Sylvia. Also their growing recognition of the Celtic (yes; I often use THAT word & think it has useful meaning) origins of much of blugrass material. They do an instrumental number that is clearly "Little Beggar Man." But best of all, they are great people; as freindly, courteous & charitable as any folks I've ever met. I think they'd like the folks on the Mudcat, for sure, and you'd like them.

As for instruments.. I've been to open mike's in MD where the disapproval of someone not playing a Martin was not subtle. I've aquired some very good, bad & indifferent guitars over the years. For years I've often toted on old beat-up pure acoustic, deep-bellied Ovation I got, broken, from a pawn shop in 'Balmer. I put on new machines & repaired the multi-cracked top, and the warped case. It clearly isn't in the class of my Martins, but it's taken tremendous abuse & still hangs in there, stays in tune, handles easily, and I'm not as worried about some drunken cowboy throwing beer on it in a street festival. (Obviously, the repairs have held). On a recent trip back east I got a Baby Taylor. The price was very modest in Silver Spring MD - wouldn't be here in small town mid-west - great to tote on an airplane & go to family picnics, etc.. Looked at many Taylors & gotta say my next serious/pricey guitar - someday - could very likely be a grown-up Taylor; something just a little smaller than the dreadnaughts I usually have.

I've also heard & played some of the modest-priced Canadian guitars from the company that makes Seagull. Some of these (often the Cedar-topped ones; even Taylor is now making spectacular cedar-topped guitars!)are truly wonderful, have a warm, vibrant & lively - very folky - tone, & compare well w/almost any "good" (expensive) brand guitar. I wouldn't reccomend anything else for even close to the money.

Gotta go; Cheers, BK


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: The Shambles
Date: 18 Jan 99 - 07:58 PM

I'm going to get all twitter and bisted here and make myself feel better.

It is the music that matters and I get a little upset when the need for a drink or a vist to the 'small room' means that people get up and make other people stop playing to enable them to get out, instead of waiting until the music has stopped.

I feel better now, anyone else got a gripe?


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 19 Jan 99 - 09:47 AM

Being new to the Mudcat, I watch with fascination how the threads wind, twist, split and then come back together. Damn, I wish (almost) all of you lived in Toronto! One more thought about "civilized" jams and song circles comes to mind. Like a marriage or relationship, it's very difficult to try and change the rules (or add new ones) after a fairly lengthy time. If your jams have become chaotic, or some folks are just incapable of getting in tune (surely no-one DELIBERATELY screws it up) you, yourself, may just have to set up a new one, with some printed guidelines. Don't worry if for the first few sessions it's just a couple of you playing. When the word gets out that the music comes first, good players will flock to your jam.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Bert
Date: 19 Jan 99 - 10:01 AM

I don't know if song circles qualify as jams but the 'leading' club in our area has this rule.

A group of four or five get together and vie with each other as to who can get in quickest with the next song. No one else gets a chance to sing. I've even seen them pull their chairs into an 'inner circle'.

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: rick fielding
Date: 19 Jan 99 - 10:04 AM

Bert, SPLIT! While you've still got your soul!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST,Marion
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 02:45 PM

Here's an etiquette question: last weekend I went to a jam and sat beside an older man who I hadn't met before. As another person started a song - and before I had played a note - he turned to me and said, "Key of G, dear. One sharp!"

As I don't know how to talk to people, I didn't say anything, but now I wish I had said, "What's a sharp?" What, if anything, would you have said?

You may think I'm overreacting to what was intended to be helpful, but I found it quite irritating that he assumed that I needed this (very elementary) help because I'm a woman, or significantly below average age in this jam, or both.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: gnomad
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 03:21 PM

Could be either reason, Marion, or neither.

There are plenty of people who will patronise absolutely anybody, regardless of age, gender or other specification.

It is also possible that he was genuinely trying to be helpful (there are some such around) but I've got to admit that his addressing a complete stranger as "Dear" doesn't look good.

Perhaps you could offer him help tuning his instrument?


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Barbara Shaw
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 04:01 PM

Not sure how I would have reacted in my younger feminist days.

Here's how I would take this today: he's from a generation that shows it notices attractive women by calling them 'dear' and he clearly noticed you and wanted to be helpful and welcoming. He assumed you read music notation by mentioning 'one sharp' which is the way the key of G is notated on the staff. I don't see any reason to take offense either from an age or gender perspective.

Maybe I've mellowed some.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST,Steven
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 04:31 PM

I have been playing in bluegrass jams for many years, bringing my banjo, guitar, and upright bass, and playing what ever fits in the jam the best based on what's there and what's needed. If there is already a bass there, mine sits. If there are at least 2 banjos, who needs a third? Guitar will always work, if you make it work.

I guess what annoys me the most is when some players, and believe me, they are not always the inexperienced ones, don't know when to back off and compete with someone's acknowledged break or try to play a lead while someone is singing a verse.

Playing with people is not about one's self. It is about cohesion. Listen to where you fit.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Art Thieme
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:03 PM

With jam, there are no big chunks of fruit to be found anywhere. Not in suspension and not on the bottom. If they are found, it would be called 'preserves'.

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Peterr
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:07 PM

Curious how at many sessions the participants want the public to listen to them but won't involve them. Eg 1)they won't play if there isn't anyone else in the pub 2) they won't acknowledge anyone who isn't involved in the session and sit in an inner circle 3) if at 10.45 an interested punter asks for The Hills of Athenry or Grandfather's Clock they look at each other with an amused resignation.
They still want any free food or beer, though!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:17 PM

These are the ones who will tell you how sessions return "folk" to "the people".

In my experience there is nothing like a session for clearing a bar. I know of one session bounced by the landlord recently because the regulars were staying away. The musicians weren't willing or able to change to a quieter night so that was it. The guy has a family to feed and given the tight margins that country pubs operate under nobody thought the request unreasonable.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: wysiwyg
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:22 PM

WHAT THE HECK????????? Is this the kind of crap people are thinking underneath their so-nice public manners????

It's easy to assume someone meant to be rude, but how about assuming someone is just being welcoming in his own way? Who's the rude one here, the one who welcomed a stranger or the one who complained about how he happened to do it, all over an international forum?

And the other complaints-- gee, do you think people need to learn HOW to jam??? Do you ever take someone under your wing and show them the ropes? Were you born sensitive to others or did someone have to show you the ropes, ever, in any kind of situation???

And whassup with whining about things here instead of speaking up when something happens, and getting it straight THEN with the person involved? You might find out you had your head on backwards that day and heard/saw them wrong. You might learn how to deal with people instead of writing them off as idiots.

Geeze, I'm glad people don't bring that attitude to OUR jams or I'd quit running them! If it came up in a Mudcat jam I'd ask someone with that attitude to leave! It's far more destructive of community than inconsiderate jamming!

~Susan


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Peterr
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:48 PM

Susan
That's fine if you are the one 'running' the session - then of course you can put people straight as to the way you prefer things to go. What is difficult is if you're not a regular.
How right you are about welcoming others and esp. inexperienced singers/players, and explaining how it works. My problem is with the people who exactly don't do that, and think the audience should be honoured to hear them even though they ignore said audience and even insult them(and their fellow participants) by NOT HAVING LEARNED THEIR WORDS AND HAVING A CRIB SHEET!!!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST,Steven
Date: 25 Feb 03 - 05:49 PM

Susan, why don't you be a little specific to what you are addressing?


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Feb 03 - 04:17 AM

Doesn't the jam go on after the butter?.....


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Amos
Date: 26 Feb 03 - 10:05 AM

Pay attention to Art -- he's one of the best-preserved jammers in town! Let's give him a toast, butter him up, and admire his spread!

A


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST,Sharon G
Date: 26 Feb 03 - 12:53 PM

The original post was asking about guidelines when you have a lot of new people. I think it can be really tricky for a lot of reasons

1- Beginners often want to play and don't know any session etiquette at all. They may be inhibited about joining in and feel left out or unwanted. Conversely, they might be much too brash and not realize they are stepping on toes. So beginner bodhran players sometimes pound on away loudly on every set or guitarists apply the same set of chords before learning the melody, or try to accompany a song that is meant to be sung unaccompanied. Or they bring out song or tune books in a session that expects the tunes and songs to be learned at home.

2. Different genres have have different unwritten rules- for example the blues session Steve described and the bluegrass sessions described by Barbara. Old-time and Irish sessions are inclusive- all the instruments play together (no breaks), but have their own little internal rules and dynamices.

So musicians crossing the line to a new genre may have expectations that don't mesh with the session- for example, playing bluegrass chords on a mandolin in an Irish session.

3. Even within a genre, different sessions have different personalities- how tunes are started, how much the "alpha musicians" control the flow etc.

I am an "anchor" musician in two sessions- one strictly Irish and one that is much more ecletic. We try to be welcoming to all newcomers, but sometimes have had to redirect people. It's not easy- how do you tell someone that their choices are inappropriate for the particular session without hurting their feelings?

I had to do this recently and it wasn't easy. I was very direct in saying things like "This is the Irish session, and usually in Irish sessions people__________________________. But at the other session we hold, we play all kinds of music, so let's play that one there".
I think I might have been too blunt for a couple of people. One felt like we were just too fast for her, even though we encouraged her to return. One person disappeared, and another person seems to have taken some of the suggestions to heart.

Here are a few things I think can be done:
I think it's possible to have conversation during the session and talk about it without singling someone out- like "One thing I've always enjoyed about this session is the way we ________________"
Another idea is to take a person aside and say some encouraging things and suggestions about fitting in better at the same time, like "I'm so glad you've come back to play here. Have you ever tried watching the _________ accompanies the song?".

Of course some people don't get subtle hints, and if it's important, it needs to brought up directly or be willing to tolerate it. If that dobro shows up at the Irish session again I'm planning to be very direct!

Hope this is helpful and to the point....

Sharon G


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: denise:^)
Date: 26 Feb 03 - 04:47 PM

Well, as far as 'patronizing jammers' goes--
I attended a dulcimer festival here in MI, and was playing the piano in a big jam--my first time "out in public," instead of just playing with the folks I knew from my local folk group. All was going extremely well, and I was quite pleased.

Next thing you know, "Patsy Patronizer," (name changed because I'm such a nice person), a woman I knew from the group back home, comes and joins in the jam, after we'd been playing for an hour or so...

She sits down at her dulcimer, and begins *hollering out chords* in my general direction, as if I didn't know what to play. (She'd done it before, so--YES, I knew she was doing it to me. She'd been playing quite a while before I ever started, and had to remind everyone of that fact quite often.) I was quite irritated, as were some others, but gritted my teeth and finished the tune. (If you've ever had anyone holler chords, you'll know how annoying it can be--by the time they've played the notes, processed them in their brain, sent the message to their mouth, hollered out the chord name, and then YOU hear it and process it, there's at least a 3-bar lag!! There are few things that annoy me more...)

After we finished that tune, I turned to her and smiled sweetly. "Gee, Patsy," I cooed, "It's awfully hard to play when you recite the chords so loud. Maybe you could just mutter them under your breath, and you'd still be able to keep up with us!" I smiled once more, and turned back around to the piano.

She NEVER did it again!!


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 27 Feb 03 - 11:31 AM

Way to go Denise! You really nailed the timing problem with "chord shouters," and what a nice rebuttal at the end. I occasionaly play with a fiddler who does that same thing.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: Declan
Date: 27 Feb 03 - 11:59 AM

Denise,

It sounds like you handled that situation very well.

Just be aware that, at least in Irish Music sessions, sometimes when people shout keys at you, there not telling you that you're playing the wrong chord now, but they are letting you know that the next tune they will be playing is in a different key to give you a chance to prepare for the change.

I used to dislike this happening when I started playing in sessions first, and took a "why is this person trying to tell me how to play" attitude. But if you think about it the person is trying to be helpful and the forewarning of a key change is useful to have. I've also found that when lead musicians shout the next key to accompanists its not that they think you wouldn't be able to find the key yourself, but its a way of acknowledging your accompaniment and saying I'd like you to back me on the next one as well - its in G (or whatever).

Big problem is that if the place is noisy or the session is loud it can be difficult sometimes to tell if they're saying B C D E or G.


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: denise:^)
Date: 27 Feb 03 - 02:31 PM

Well, shouting a key *might* be annoying, sometimes, but I think I could tolerate that...My buddy Patsy, on the other hand, was shouting out *every single chord change in the tune!!*

THAT'S why she was always about 3 bars behind!

A once-a-tune key 'shout' would be a treat, compared to that!

Denise;^)


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Subject: RE: Jam Etiquette
From: X
Date: 27 Feb 03 - 07:26 PM

I just play my banjo as loud and as fast as I can.


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