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Thread: Slow Jam Tips Needed

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Slow Jam Tips Needed

    This may be a recipe for disaster BUT I知 starting a bluegrass slow jam. I say this because I am only an advanced beginner/approaching early intermediate player. I go to a fairly intense local jam and I enjoy it but there are things about it that make it hard for beginners: they rarely give the name of the song or the key, they play super fast. I知 not trying to change them. I listen and learn and play what I can but I would also enjoy a slower paced jam. Unfortunately, no one else is interested in starting one. So here I go!

    I壇 love to hear tips or format suggestions, keeping in mind that I am not an experienced player and can稚 count on more experienced players showing up (in fact, initial interest seems to be from less experienced players). P.S. I don稚 want this to be a sing-along group. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

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    Registered User rockies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Take a check on this http://www.slowpitchjam.com/ Sue Malcomb has the materials and all the info to do this. She has been doing and advising on this for many years. Good luck
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    Registered User Tom Haywood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    One thing I try to stay on top of at my bluegrass jam is that the songs and breaks go around the circle. The more experienced bluegrassers sometimes start calling on specific instruments or players for breaks, then the less experienced folks get left out of some songs. Next, people start calling songs out of turn. It can get very confusing and exclusive, fast. I usually announce the rule a couple of times that this jam session goes around the circle, because I want the beginners to be able to participate.
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Figure out the set of things you want, and advertise. Like minded folks will respond, those seeking different things probably not.

    I’d start with a set list rather than ‘anything goes’, to let people get comfortable playing, leading and taking a break.

    People need a comfortable place to start. Knowing what to expect and seeing familiar faces is a very good start.

    But ymmv
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    Registered User Erin M's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Haywood View Post
    One thing I try to stay on top of at my bluegrass jam is that the songs and breaks go around the circle. The more experienced bluegrassers sometimes start calling on specific instruments or players for breaks, then the less experienced folks get left out of some songs. Next, people start calling songs out of turn. It can get very confusing and exclusive, fast. I usually announce the rule a couple of times that this jam session goes around the circle, because I want the beginners to be able to participate.
    One of the reasons I'm grateful to be the bass player in jams (at least until I get capable enough on mandolin and the COVID nightmare ends): not many opportunities to solo. So basically I pay attention to the guitar/mandolin players' fingering on songs I don't know so I can try to follow the changes. Usually works out. If not, we'll just call it Bluejazz (yeah, I *meant* to do that... yeah)
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Thanks Dave, I will check slow pitch jam out. Bill and Tom, I thought I’d go around the circle, having folks select and lead songs. I worry most, that almost everyone passes. I also worry some, that it may be a train wreck for the novice player who leading (usually timing issues). I don’t think I’ll have to worry about folks hogging leads, but I do think it’s a good idea to have some system for knowing if anyone is gonna take a lead.
    Last edited by Bunnyf; Aug-19-2020 at 2:31pm.

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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Typical etiquette at a slow jam would be to tell the next person if you plan on not taking a break so they can get ready. You can teach that rule to everyone. A song list would be a good way to start and if you were motivated you could even provide a little song book with chords/lyrics or find one online. There is a jamming school/group in Portland called Taborgrass. Their website has tons of free resources with chord sheets, tab, etc. (http://www.taborgrass.com/p/music.html) If you advertise it as a Beginner/Slow jam people more experienced people will know what to expect and it should be welcoming to new people. Then just tell them the run down, we are trying to work on these songs, if you don't want to take a break tell the person next to you, etc. Most important thing for this type of group is to have fun and be supportive of each other.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    The best slow jams, of any genre, I have attended, were just prior to a regular jam. So if the regular jam is at 8, the slow jam is at 6 or 6:30, at the same location, that kind of thing. That way many experienced jammers can more conveniently come early and help and inspire, and, newbies can stay late and try their hand at the regular jam.

    I think it may be a challenge to get experienced jammers to attend a slow jam that is disconnected from their regular jam, and I think it is important that the slow jam contain a mix of experienced and newbies.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    The New Jersey Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Association has had a Slow Jam for years. A few years back it became the Jamming Workshop. Take a look at this page, there might be some information there you can use.
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    This may be a recipe for disaster BUT I’m starting a bluegrass slow jam.... P.S. I don’t want this to be a sing-along group. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.
    I'm not sure what 'sing-along group' implies. Are you wanting the jam to be mostly fiddle tunes?

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The best slow jams, of any genre, I have attended, were just prior to a regular jam. So if the regular jam is at 8, the slow jam is at 6 or 6:30, at the same location, that kind of thing. That way many experienced jammers can more conveniently come early and help and inspire, and, newbies can stay late and try their hand at the regular jam.

    I think it may be a challenge to get experienced jammers to attend a slow jam that is disconnected from their regular jam, and I think it is important that the slow jam contain a mix of experienced and newbies.
    Jeff, I completely agree with you. In fact, I go to a monthly jam just like that and it really is the best. A couple of old-timers come early and they provide a lot of instruction and guidance. They are the glue holding things together. We will be a little more like the blind leading the blind, I’m afraid.

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    I'm not sure what 'sing-along group' implies. Are you wanting the jam to be mostly fiddle tunes?
    I’m thinking of jams that I have attended where folks play out of a songbook. Everyone sings and strums together, no breaks.

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    The New Jersey Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Association has had a Slow Jam for years. A few years back it became the Jamming Workshop. Take a look at this page, there might be some information there you can use.
    Mike, thanks that was very useful. I particularly liked the idea of getting folks to commit to learning and leading a particular song and playing that regularly.

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    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Hey Bunnyf, it looks like a great thing that you're organizing! If you were up my way, I'd sure be interested. Wishing you all the best for a successful and fun endeavor.

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    not a donut Kevin Winn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Here's a link the Taborgrass site Josh mentioned above. Go to the Music page and there's a ton of chord charts, lyrics and tab for a whole mess of standards. There are also good info pages on jam etiquette and such. It's a great welcoming community for beginners.

    http://www.taborgrass.com/
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  20. #16
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Thanks for the input and links, I have a dropbox set up w/ about 50 songs. I picked out the most familiar ones from my library and the ones with the simplest chord structure, as suggested songs. It would be great if everyone played along by ear, and maybe folks just brought lyrics (if they need them) for the songs that they wanted to lead. I hate seeing people riveted to their music sheets but I understand the need for verse lyrics sometimes for the leader (people can usually remember chorus lyrics and everyone’s singing together anyway) but the leader singing the verses alone can worry about blanking out. I see that some groups decide on just a small group of songs and work on specific ones each jam. I wonder what works best.
    I also saw different ways of handing out solos. Some do “group solos” by instrument type. Some ask who wants a solo first or has folks line up at the mic (big jam) to take a break. All good ideas. Again, I wonder what will works best? I guess it’s gonna depend on how many show up and what the skill level is. I’d like to start with a format and stick to it but I wonder if I have to be more flexible.

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    Rush Burkhardt Rush Burkhardt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Hey, Bunny! Maybe there's something in Wernick's Jam Camp material that will be useful? I'm not suggesting you buy into the Jam Camp business, merely that there may be some ideas you can use! https://drbanjo.com/what-is-the-wernick-method/ Have fun! (PS I'm running and didn't look to see if someone else mentioned this!)
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Rush Burkhardt View Post
    Hey, Bunny! Maybe there's something in Wernick's Jam Camp material that will be useful? I'm not suggesting you buy into the Jam Camp business, merely that there may be some ideas you can use! https://drbanjo.com/what-is-the-wernick-method/ Have fun! (PS I'm running and didn't look to see if someone else mentioned this!)
    Rush, I’m very intrigued by this and want to learn more. I wonder how dependent this method is on the playing skill of the leader. As I said, I am only an early intermediate player.

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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    Rush, I’m very intrigued by this and want to learn more. I wonder how dependent this method is on the playing skill of the leader. As I said, I am only an early intermediate player.
    I've taken 2 Wernick Jam classes. My impression is that as long as you know the song, can play rhythm and keep good time, you can lead it. There were a number of beginners in my class (including me) and I was surprised how quickly we were able to plan together and not sound awful

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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Dave, that is encouraging. I lead a local mixed instrument, mixed genre sing-along, but this will be something competent different for me. I have difficulty going from leading the singing and laying down a strong rhythm, to jumping in with a solo break. I don’t have a problem when someone else is leading. That’s partially why I don’t want to be leading every song. This transition is something I need to work on, but in the meantime, it would be nice if we could pass around the lead, so I can relax and noodle a bit.

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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Bunny:

    I've taken the Wernick Jam Camp in Southern CA. The leader was a professional, multi-instrumentalist, with years of experience. And a great singer too.

    I applaud you for your efforts in getting your local jam started. I'm rooting for you.

  26. #22
    Registered User Rob Ross's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Coming from a different tangent, I lead a slow jam online via Zoom. We used to meet in person, but many older members, so won't be doing that for a while. Not bluegrass, more old time, so everyone plays together, no breaks. The group originally came together as older folks who played violin in school decades before and wanted to play again joining with folks who like old time. That means we have a very high percentage of music readers, so sheet music is used. In person we would always go around the circle and everyone was expected to call a tune, even if they couldn't actually play it. That gets them used to it and they get to play a tune they want to work on. Onscreen is more difficult to keep this practice going--who is really on your right side? That said, as a leader, have a short list of tunes, by key, that you can warm the group up with till people feel comfortable and start calling tunes. Dredge up the old warhorses, the ones the more advanced folks tend to avoid. Heck, they learned on them, and for good reason, they're good tunes folks should know, "Whiskey before Breakfast", "Flop Eared Mule", "Old Joe Clark", and always, "Soldiers Joy", if for nothing else that one great jam I went to in Sacramento where I was definitely dragging the average down, called "Soldiers Joy", and they said, "We don't know that, how does it go?"

    To me, the biggest thing as a leader is ensuring you keep the tempo 1) constant, and 2) appropriate for the group. It's a slow jam after all; play slow. Learners play the part they know fast and the iffy parts slow. Grab your guitar or bass player, make sure they know to drive the beat at a steady pace. Heck, a loud mandolin chopping steadily will do the trick. I can't do this by myself online, so I really, really strive to stomp my foot hard to to remind MYSELF to keep from playing things too fast or speeding up for the folks playing along. We'll play through a piece several times at a sedate pace for the learners, but the last time or two we'll pick up the tempo for the folks who can and also for letting the folks who can't play fast get to practice a tune at a faster pace.

    When playing slower bluegrass jams, it's good to go through the group before each tune to identify who is taking a break, so there are no surprises and the beat goes on but the notes don't. I also like to have the last time through a piece after all the breaks be an "everyone together" break. Chopping chords for 80% of a jam wears thin, and after hearing all the breaks, folks get a chance to put fingers down and try out new things before the evening wears on and they forget all those neat things they heard.

    Good luck, I think you'll have a blast once you've done it. Also, where in Florida? My folks in Daytona have passed away, and I'll no longer be traveling that way on business anymore, but even when I was there regularly, Florida was pretty barren when looking for jams to drop in on. I'll get there every now and then, and the mando goes along often. I will play at any jam I can get to.
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    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Rob, thanks for the tips. I get the feeling that I知 gonna get a lot of strumming-only guitars and a few pickers. Most won稚 be familiar w/ fiddle tunes, but will know some songs, like I値l Fly Away, Will the Circle, etc.My starting point was fiddle tunes but I get the idea that those who are showing interest have music background on old-time, roots or bluegrass music. I知 thinking that they like old country and gospel, in general, and are just starting to explore bluegrass. I sometimes get fiddlers, banjos, and a fair amount of harmonica players in my mixed sing-along and some might join us but it seems like we will be guitar heavy.I値l play mando and I have a friend who値l be down for season and play bass. BTW-I知 in Placida, near Boca Grande.

  28. #24
    Registered User Rob Ross's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    I get the feeling that I知 gonna get a lot of strumming-only guitars and a few pickers. Most won稚 be familiar w/ fiddle tunes
    I was going to mention that, but had gotten quite verbose already. I'm a tune guy, one of those folks who can't even talk, let alone sing while playing, but I play all the standards for folks who CAN sing. Be ready to play the tune if no one is willing to lead off, but after only a few sessions you'll see folks willing to play a break. It may be the SAME tune, SAME break every time for a while, but they'll eventually branch out . . . from little acorns, etc. Likewise, there's always going to be folks that just want to play chords, but with gentle leading, they will fess up to a tune they're working on. If anyone else knows it, have several folks play at the same time, slowly. If you're new and nervous, having other folks play along is very helpful.

    I think the best thing I learned to do that was somewhat difficult originally was to learn to just keep playing through all my mistakes. I make lots, but now I'm better at just ploughing on, mostly still on the beat. I'll laugh out loud, but I just press on. That helps the other folks playing along hang in despite the occasional klunkers. As I said, it gets better the more you do it, and then it gets to be pretty fun. Enjoy yourself!
    Rob Ross
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    and of course,
    the 1970 Suzuki-Violin-Sha Bowl Back Taterbug

  29. #25
    Registered User Bunnyf's Avatar
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    Default Re: Slow Jam Tips Needed

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunnyf View Post
    ?..My starting point was fiddle tunes but I get the idea that those who are showing interest have NO music background in old-time, roots or bluegrass music. I’m thinking that they like old country and gospel, in general, and are just starting to explore bluegrass...
    Don’t know why I can’t edit my post but I meant to say that folks have NO fiddle tune background but they know some songs.

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