Jam sessions are one of the best perks of being a fiddler. Whether you’re a seasoned jam veteran or you’ve never experienced a jam, there’s always something to be gained from a jam session, even if you don’t play in it yourself.
How do you find a jam session to attend? It always helps to get more plugged in to your local musical community, but even if you’re well-connected, jams are sometimes still hard to come by. That’s why we encourage you to set up your own jam session! Here are a few things to know when you start your own jam:
1. It doesn’t have to be big. A great jam can happen with as few as two people! In fact, many of the recordings you’ll find in the Fiddle Lounge are of jams just like this. In Texas style, jams always remain pretty small (usually a fiddler and a few accompanists at most). This way, the fiddle and the rhythm instruments can stay very attuned to each other. In other styles, the sizes of jams vary. If you don’t know a lot of other musicians to jam with yet, rest assured that you can have a great jam with just one other person and the tunes you know from Fiddle School.
2. Instruments may vary. You can almost always bet on seeing fiddles and guitars at a standard jam session, but you might sometimes find some more unusual instruments joining the jam. Upright bass is a great complement, as is piano. You can hear some recordings with the great piano accompanist Betty Solomon in the Fiddle Lounge. Every once in a while, a tenor banjo or even a mandolin will join in the rhythm section too.In Texas style, only the fiddler plays melody and there are no solos. In other styles, you’ll notice players pass the tune among themselves in different ways. One last instrument that’s fun to include: your voice! Singing songs can be a fun way to add variety, and many of the Fiddle School tunes have lyrics.
3. Jams are low pressure. Especially if you’re not used to playing with others, it can feel intimidating to participate in a jam. But jams should be a low-stress, non-judgmental space, and you can help create this kind of atmosphere when you host your own jam session. Encourage your fellow musicians, talk about what you’ve been practicing and listening to lately, and share your musical motivation with each other! Jams are first and foremost a space for us to lift each other and the music up. When you look at it this way instead of as some kind of performance or test, you’ll fall in love with jams just like we have.
4. Jams will help you practice better. Jam sessions are the perfect place to try playing the tunes you’ve worked on so hard with other people. This can feel so rewarding after hours of practice. Even more energizing is the feeling that you get after a jam session. You might feel inspired to learn a new tune you heard that night or practice a spot in one of your songs that needs a little TLC. Jamming is like a shot of motivation that can really help break you out of a practice rut or send you to the next level.
By now, I hope you’re convinced that you should find or start a jam session. It’s easy to pull together a couple friends and make it happen, and once it does, you won’t regret it. Let us know how it goes, and happy jamming!