Exploring the world of Bluegrass jamming as a fiddler? You’ve come to the right place! Here’s your go-to guide on what you need to know to fit in seamlessly with other players at your next Bluegrass jam.

  1. Choosing the Right Songs

Selecting appropriate songs is crucial at a Bluegrass jam (and any jam). Prepare to lead tunes that fit within the genre. Here’s a starter list of Bluegrass standards:

  • “Big Sciota”
  • “Jerusalem Ridge”
  • “Bury Me Beneath the Willow”
  • “East Tennessee Blues”
  • “Salt Creek”
  • “Whiskey Before Breakfast”
  • “Saint Anne’s Reel”
  • “Blackberry Blossom”
  • “Cripple Creek”
  • “Soldier’s Joy”
  • “Red-Haired Boy”

To learn more about appropriate selections, attend jams and observe popular song choices. Create a list of tunes to learn based on what’s commonly called.

  1. Figuring Out Song Keys

Master the skill of identifying song keys with these tips:

  • Listen to the last note/chord of the A part, which usually indicates the song’s key.
  • Memorize keys associated with specific songs. For example, “Soldier’s Joy” is almost always in D.
  • When in doubt, ask your fellow jammers about the key before the song begins.
  1. Kicking Off a Song

As a fiddler, it often falls to you to kick off a tune. Here are two example fiddle licks to start a song. Learn them to use at your next jam! 


Ascending Pickup Notes

  1. Jam Etiquette

Observing proper jam etiquette is very important. Follow these guidelines:

  • Be sure you’re invited to join (or attend an open jam).
  • Assess the jam’s skill level before participating.
  • Quiet down while others solo.
  • Choose tunes familiar to most or all of the other musicians.
  • Maintain a positive and friendly attitude.
  1. Taking a Break (Solo)

Soloing is such a fun aspect of jamming. Develop your soloing skills with these steps:

  • Memorize the chord progressions for common songs.
  • Learn fiddle licks from bluegrass recordings, then incorporate them into your own solos.
  • Explore Fiddle School’s Lesson 31 and Lesson 32 on improvisation.
  • Check out my recorded classes Jamming Skills 1 and Jamming Skills 2 for in-depth soloing guidance.
  1. Playing Behind Singers

Follow these tips when playing behind vocalists:

  • Avoid duplicating the singer’s notes.
  • Leave enough space. Less is more.
  • Play a supportive role and keep the focus on the singer.
  • Allow other instruments to contribute fills too.
  • If you chop, follow the chord progression and keep a steady rhythm. Learn more about chopping in this class).
  1. Blending with Others

Respect your fellow musicians in the jam with these tips:

  • Remember that jamming is collaborative.
  • Listen to others in the circle as much as you listen to yourself.
  • Be mindful of the space you take up during each song.
  • Adapt to the lead of experienced players.

We hope this fiddler’s guide enhances your Bluegrass jamming experience! Ready to delve deeper into the world of Bluegrass fiddling? Join us for our online camp, “A Weekend of Bluegrass Jamming Skills,” on February 9th-11th, 2024. Learn more here.