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Fiddle Jams for Beginners

Posted by fiddlerdi on Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yesterday, Micheal (Woodwiz) came over to the school (The Americana Music Academy) for a lesson and we were discussing the situation with musicians that need help moving into the "playing well with others" part of their musical journey. I lead a group called Bluegrass 101 with our local Bluegrass Club. We meet once a month from Oct - April and have bands playing on stage as well as jamming rooms. Since I am a Fiddle Teacher (beginning guitar and mando too) I encourage all my students adults and kids to come to the jam. That gives them the opportunity to see some end results with playing both performance and recreational. I soon discovered by listening to several commennts that the newer players were very intimidated by the more seasoned jammers and didn't feel comfortable even getting their instrument out. So myself with a couple of other very good and patient players started the 101 Jam. It has been very successful sometimes bringing 25 or 30 people together to play. Like MD mentioned in the forum about this, you must have a designated leader. Some people who are in between the beginners and intermediates have a harder time being patient so I can see that it could take a Bluegrass 102 before long for them to have more fun participaing. It is very important as you see people arrive to invite them into the room and encourage them to come and play. If you don't they will filter away. Everyone can at least play back-up chops of some kind. That really gets them involved.  Even though we often have several different types of instruments we can produce a good sound. I always lead simple songs with only 3 chord changes. I call out the chord changes a lot at first.  I play along on mando usually, because I don't play it really well. We play the song enough times to let everyone have a couple of breaks and we play very slowly. I put in the names of the tunes in our monthly newsletter so they can come prepared. I teach etiquette, and some basic theory. There is no charge and the only thing that is bad about it is that I sometimes can't get away to jam with some of my fellow players. I am going to help that situation out this year by teaching a couple of my  better players to lead the jams. Hopefully this will perpetuate into new groups. In the past I have had music handouts for the next meeting. I wasn't sure how that would go over but it was a very popular thing to have. I also try to get people to exchange information with each other and see if they can make their own little jam groups outside the monthly meetings. A lot of new relationships are formed here. They are all a lot more relaxed when they find out that they all have the same fears in common. We laugh a lot at ourselves. Our club president wanted to know at the end of last year if everyone wanted to get up on stage and play a few songs as a group. Nobody was quite up for that yet.  It's really rewarding to me as I get to watch them grow into better musicians. Everybody wins.

5 comments on “Fiddle Jams for Beginners”

KCFiddles Says:
Wednesday, October 17, 2007 @9:16:41 PM

Thanks, Diane.  That kind of fills out the picture a little more.

One of the traditions at Fiddle Hell (as I understand it) is that everybody has to get up and play a tune, and at the end everybody plays a couple of tune together, after all the jamming and socializing.

Midwest_Fiddler Says:
Thursday, October 18, 2007 @7:35:51 AM

Playing music with others definitely helps one learn.  When I started out I was fortunate to hangout with Garry Harrison, Dave MIller, Dan Baird, John Bishop and the other Indian Creek Delta Boys.  Trying to play with folks that are more advanced than you can be a bit frustrating but it is also very inspiring.  I think folks learn faster in situations like that.
The Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago have ensemble classes.  These are led by Paul Tyler and/or Steve Rosen.  There are quite a few good old-time players in Chicago now, perhaps as a result of these classes.  The Folk School in St. Louis may have these kind of classes too.  I think these schools may have bluegrass ensemble classes too, but I'm not sure.

Chirps
PS: I will be playing at the Lawrence, KS dance this Saturday, 10/20/07.  Come on by if you get a chance.

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