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Good, tight musicians.. A breath of fresh air

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Oct 8, 2018 - 5:24:13 PM
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6589 posts since 3/19/2009

Yesterday I traveled about 90 miles to attend a small jam..One fiddler (me), a Ukulele player, a banjo player, a guitar player, and a banjo/guitar player.....It has been a long time since I've been in a jam where I was the only fiddler..but that is not the main point.. All of these other musicians LISTENED, they had control of their instruments, played quietly until they felt comfortable with a tune, had no desire to control the jam and were all respectful of the talent of the other musicians, and were talented.. We played TIGHTLY all evening long.. When I went home I was FLOATING with satisfaction.. I needed that.
This is not to say that my regular musician friends aren't good enough. We often play well together.. but last night..the mix was just amazing.. I hope some of you get that kind of mix from time to time.. Do you?

Oct 8, 2018 - 6:06:41 PM
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830 posts since 7/26/2015

Yep, that's why I love the small jams. There's a lot to be said for the big jams, but they lack that hard-to-find tightness. I had a big jam once with a few dozen people, and while it was cool, it couldn't compare to the groove from the tightness when I played with those guys in smaller jams of three or four people. Big jams and big dances are great in terms of inclusion, but it's much easier to get a tight sound with a small group, especially with people you've known for years. Electric bass player Adam Neely has a great video about what he calls "phase locking", which I think explains this phenomenon well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEbUNDW9bDA 
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Yesterday I traveled about 90 miles to attend a small jam..One fiddler (me), a Ukulele player, a banjo player, a guitar player, and a banjo/guitar player.....It has been a long time since I've been in a jam where I was the only fiddler..but that is not the main point.. All of these other musicians LISTENED, they had control of their instruments, played quietly until they felt comfortable with a tune, had no desire to control the jam and were all respectful of the talent of the other musicians, and were talented.. We played TIGHTLY all evening long.. When I went home I was FLOATING with satisfaction.. I needed that.
This is not to say that my regular musician friends aren't good enough. We often play well together.. but last night..the mix was just amazing.. I hope some of you get that kind of mix from time to time.. Do you?


Edited by - soppinthegravy on 10/08/2018 18:23:30

Oct 8, 2018 - 6:09:41 PM
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6589 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Yep, that's why I love the small jams and dislike the big ones. When you're used to that tightness, big jams are miserable, by comparison/contrast.
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Yesterday I traveled about 90 miles to attend a small jam..One fiddler (me), a Ukulele player, a banjo player, a guitar player, and a banjo/guitar player.....It has been a long time since I've been in a jam where I was the only fiddler..but that is not the main point.. All of these other musicians LISTENED, they had control of their instruments, played quietly until they felt comfortable with a tune, had no desire to control the jam and were all respectful of the talent of the other musicians, and were talented.. We played TIGHTLY all evening long.. When I went home I was FLOATING with satisfaction.. I needed that.
This is not to say that my regular musician friends aren't good enough. We often play well together.. but last night..the mix was just amazing.. I hope some of you get that kind of mix from time to time.. Do you?


 


I agree, especially now that I'm older and my hearing "ain't what she used to be."..I still attend and host large jams....but mainly as social events.. Those large jams are where beginners get introduced and meet each other, but musically... they often lack..

Oct 8, 2018 - 6:13:18 PM
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6 posts since 10/12/2011

I've been playing with the same small group for the past few years and we always have a ton of fun playing together. All that said, once in a blue moon all the stars align...the energy level is high, everyone is fully engaged and the music is just magical.

Oct 9, 2018 - 7:05:13 AM
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1980 posts since 10/1/2008

The possibility of that magic is what encourages me to keep playing, practicing and taking lessons. It will put me on the road of an evening for an hour plus drive. Yet even when it is often disappointing I still keep getting out there. That every once in awhile "wow"is worth it.

Oct 9, 2018 - 4:08:29 PM
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30 posts since 1/21/2017

"Good, tight musicians.. A breath of fresh air"

Amen brother.

Oct 9, 2018 - 5:51:49 PM
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199 posts since 8/10/2017

I play regularly in a big messy jam. Smaller subsets of us form our own smaller jams now and then. One way we do that is by sticking it out to the end when the punters have gone home. Another thing we do is get together to play tunes we are still trying to learn. On those occasions we're not a tight jam, but instead another rare treat: people you can trust to learn and share new tunes with, make mistakes in front of, who still listen and follow and who collude to bring new tunes to the larger jam.

Oct 9, 2018 - 7:09:39 PM
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3740 posts since 9/26/2008

The small old time jams I have are really just two people - fiddle guitar and fiddle banjo with the occasional mixing of the two for a three piece. That said, we usually have some moments - easier with just two or three. The other jams can get big, but some of that is we sit too far apart sometimes.

I play bluegrass with some fellas and we call ourselves a band. But we've been historically pretty loose as far as bluegrass goes. I used to say it was more of a string band with the gang vocal styling. However, since the guitar player / band leader died two years ago (has it been that long?) the band is in some ways looser than ever yet tighter. Consisting of anywhere from 4 to 6 members (who were never all in the original band at the same time) depending on availability. Because of this variable lineup, guitar duties can fall on me or one of the banjo players (three guys play banjo, but one of them usually plays mandolin with us). When we're all there, it's bass banjo guitar fiddle mando aaand dobro! The magical part, for me, is the vocal flexibility this lineup has. Three tenors four leads three baritones and everyone is rock solid - the math involves double and triple threats. The singing is so tight that you'd think we'd been doing it together for a decade or more instead of these past couple years.

Small is nice. Tight is magic. 

Edited by - ChickenMan on 10/09/2018 19:14:05

Oct 10, 2018 - 6:19:37 AM
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1482 posts since 10/22/2007

Seems Bluegrass doesn't get the credit around here, but from Bill Monroe on down, the format is geared for trading musicians and voices, in and out. It's almost like Bluegrass was made for jamming. "So how long y'all been playing together?" The answer, many times was, five or ten minutes. Jams at the State Fair, where I knew not their names, and I knew not their faces. I found they were all rank strangers to me. : )

Oct 10, 2018 - 8:41:29 AM
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967 posts since 4/6/2014

Finding out that another musician has a similar idea of a tune, (or is sensitive enough to get your ideas and vice versa), and is skilled and willing enough to compliment another musician's playing is what music is all about, ....(folk music anyways).

i know a few of em, but they are much in demand......just got to dab in when you can

Oct 10, 2018 - 12:31:18 PM

1187 posts since 12/11/2008

Ah, what is a jam? A situation where the various instruments attempt to play in unison (all the OT jams I've had experience with) or a situation where every player gets to improvise a solo a couple of times (most of the BG jams I attend)?

Oct 10, 2018 - 1:14:21 PM
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6589 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Ah, what is a jam? A situation where the various instruments attempt to play in unison (all the OT jams I've had experience with) or a situation where every player gets to improvise a solo a couple of times (most of the BG jams I attend)?


THEN, there are Old Time jams where SOME people try to play a solo (unique version of a tune) while everyone else is jamming with each other  ..(Guilty as charged)....And THEN there was the time that I was invited to a BG jam and didn't know that I was to sit quietly while other did their 'thing'... I got scolded for that...   

Oct 10, 2018 - 2:31:51 PM
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847 posts since 6/26/2007

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver
..And THEN there was the time that I was invited to a BG jam and didn't know that I was to sit quietly while other did their 'thing'... I got scolded for that...   

That's part of what listening is for. I learned to play in a BG jam (and figured out how it works by listening and observing), then joined an OT jam where I learned a lot more tunes. Once in a while an OT guy has come to the BG group and usually had to be told the difference. Neither group has been as tight as I would like. The OT jam is defunct and I'm usually the only fiddler, along with one banjo, one bass and a bunch of variable guitars in the BG jam. All I can do is try not to be a guilty party. Once in a great while it all fits together and those nights are the goal.

Oct 10, 2018 - 3:13:40 PM
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1335 posts since 8/27/2008

Unfortunately the good jams in my neighborhood have dried up over the years. I used to host 2 jams a week, one an open session for any tunes or songs, bluegrass/old time (as long as you were acoustic), and one for just learning and playing tunes. Used to be lots of instruments, kids, dogs, drinks, folks just there to listen. Now though, people have gotten sick, died, moved away, lost interest. Goes with my philosophy that everything changes, rarely for the better.

But, you can't stop me from playing everyday anyway. There is one other stalwart who still shows up every Monday. We work pretty hard at always getting better, and have a lot of appreciation for each other. Also, some old bandmates from the past have started meeting once a week again. All of them except me have been seriously compromised by healt issues, so the real joy is just that we're all there, enjoying the old songs and our friendship, even if it's slow and casual. But I hope the jams will come around again someday. It would be a welcome breath of fresh air.

Oct 10, 2018 - 3:43:11 PM
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6589 posts since 3/19/2009

Brian... good story... Our local jams have changed a lot over the years also. I complain a lot...but my heart isn't alway in it.. I remind myself of the people who don't have ANYONE to jam with EVER... I'm not a perfect musician and even though I complain about this one or that one I always remind myself that I am Lucky to have friends who play music.. In the end, although it seems to be about the music...it is really about the comradery..

Oct 10, 2018 - 8:41:09 PM
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7 posts since 6/6/2018

This was an interesting discussion, primarily ( for me ) the phase locking portion.

I distinctly remember when I heard this synchronized perfection for the first time. In the Army overseas, early sixties, we had visiting musicians come through our Enlisted Men's club. There were two guys, an electric bass and a drummer kicking his bass drum. They were so perfectly aligned they melted together as one sound. The effect was spectacular. When I hear a fantastic band, jazz, BG, country, folk, anything, I always think it's this tightness that makes their sound "pop."

On occasion when I've played with a pro jazz musician friend I could sense his wiggling his timing around to synch up with me. And when he put himself in my groove, that magic clicked on immediately.

Oct 11, 2018 - 6:41:25 AM
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1482 posts since 10/22/2007

We have a doghouse player that loves to sneak up on a jam. He'll stands back behind everybody and listens. Then when he jumps in, it's like the jam becomes transformed. From a distance it sounds like somebody's playing a phonograph. Everybody looks at everybody else and smiles, and thinks, "Now we're cook'n." Yes, don't you wish every jam could be as good.

Oct 11, 2018 - 2:00:43 PM
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2191 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Ah, what is a jam? A situation where the various instruments attempt to play in unison (all the OT jams I've had experience with) or a situation where every player gets to improvise a solo a couple of times (most of the BG jams I attend)?


What is a jam is a good question...  Those are 2 ideas or perceptions, but there are alternatives, ideas, goals about jamming than those 2.  

More important than labels or rules, is simply; what is "this" jam situation about, the goals, ideas of what playing music in this context is about? 

----------

In my experience, size of group is generally less important than individuals involved. Those with shared common goal toward the sum of the group sound; engaged listening, adapting and improvising for the group sound and feel. That musicianship skill is more important than advanced technical skills.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 10/11/2018 14:06:54

Oct 11, 2018 - 2:31:56 PM
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967 posts since 4/6/2014

Seems that there are a few "key" players that everyone wants to play with, usually eclectic musicians, in my experience, who can hold a tune together in what ever genre/key/tempo. Its such a relief when they roll up to a jam or session, especially if one of em is a bass player, i think hearing a good bass line for a tune on the fly would be good basic skill to acquire, at least the players i like to play with all seem to have that skill,... i seem to be too busy playing "the tune" or remembering "the changes" to think about bass lines...a future project for me that i think would involve just sitting and listening for a while perhaps?...

Oct 11, 2018 - 2:34:41 PM
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1335 posts since 8/27/2008

quote:
Originally posted by pointpergame

And when he put himself in my groove, that magic clicked on immediately.


An essential part of any good jam is good timing. A good bass player can do it. Guitars can do it. But generally speaking, a fiddle player can't hold the tempo for everybody even if he tries. I'd say a good jam is about good timing almost more than anything else. Without that it's a constant battle.

Oct 11, 2018 - 2:47:55 PM
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6589 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by abinigia
quote:
Originally posted by pointpergame

And when he put himself in my groove, that magic clicked on immediately.


An essential part of any good jam is good timing. A good bass player can do it. Guitars can do it. But generally speaking, a fiddle player can't hold the tempo for everybody even if he tries. I'd say a good jam is about good timing almost more than anything else. Without that it's a constant battle.


Timing..Yes...For years I, Me, Personally had a reputation for having BAD TIMING.. That reputation still haunts me..However on now DON"T have bad  timing and I AM able to keep time steady (when It is a tune I'm leading/starting)...to the point that no matter how much others get out of time I refuse to change the time I've selected..Yes, it can appear to be passive aggressive but  when I finally say, "STOP.. Let's get in time and start over" ....suddenly the tune smooths out and we play well together......Sometimes people, especially in larger jams just can't/don't listen well enough to stay together..A friendly reminder can be a good thing.  

Oct 11, 2018 - 4:57:28 PM
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3740 posts since 9/26/2008

Yep, any instrument can lead if everyone can/is willing to follow. That’s why you say the fiddle can’t do it. The fiddle has to be rock solid. Many players are unable to disengage the active brain that’s driving the plectrum or plucking the strings and engage the passive that allows you to respond freely but in control. My experience is: the musicians that everyone wants to play with are sensitive people even when they aren’t playing music. They are also often hilariously funny.

The reason a bass helps is because it is very hard to ignore. But a bass player who speeds up can be... frustrating. I’ve known many a bass player with that habit. Played with one at Clifftop this year. No amount of playing behind the beat can save it when the bass gets all excited and forgets its place in the mix. You just roll with it and hope to make that curve up ahead. If you’re in a band with said bass, time for a crucial conversation.

As Lee and George said, listening is the key. But once everyone is listening, grooving, somebody has to be willing to test the water, if you will, and introduce some chaos if the real magic is to happen. Alter the melody this tiny bit. Add this double stop. Play this run on the guitar, right there, and again. Respond to the chaos or hold the groove - it is a choice that can make laughor break indecision the spell.

Edited by - ChickenMan on 10/11/2018 17:00:19

Oct 11, 2018 - 6:27:21 PM

199 posts since 8/10/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Ah, what is a jam? A situation where the various instruments attempt to play in unison (all the OT jams I've had experience with) or a situation where every player gets to improvise a solo a couple of times (most of the BG jams I attend)?


I went to a couple of music gatherings for people who play handpans. A handpan jam is yet another completely different beast! There's no tune everybody is playing, no chords they're all following. I admit I couldn't do it. It appeared to me like some kind of mysterious conversation where people are playing with the rhythm and following each other on improvised melodies.

I'm really excited tonight because tomorrow I'm going to a weekend campout culiminating with a fiddler festival. Gonna be lots of jamming.

Oct 11, 2018 - 6:39:43 PM

6589 posts since 3/19/2009

Diane.. New one on me..I'd seen those 'drums' before but I had no idea that they were called handpans.........I wonder, is there a handpan Hangout??laugh

Oct 12, 2018 - 5:49:15 AM

2191 posts since 9/13/2009

quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Electric bass player Adam Neely has a great video about what he calls "phase locking", which I think explains this phenomenon well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEbUNDW9bDA 

Good video. I don't think he really explains "phase locking" (what I think of) but does bring up differences in how folks think about music; and relates to listening, how we listen, and being tight.

One way is playing independently at the same time as other; refer to technical quantitative and.or metric sense of "timing" - often listening to an external cue; metronome, conductor or another player, like a bass, guitar, drum, or perhaps unison lead; and thinking to aim for it. Getting close can achieve some sense of tight. 

Alternatively, others use the more concept of rhythm (and layers); it's rhythmic "feel" rather than thinking timing... often as a much more sensory listening with your whole body; there's a physical feel, of weight, gravity, momentum, inertia and  sense of "in the pocket" to lock into and ride. (or in the zone)

Phase locking term reminds me how might also relate as form of entrainment, as in this example. how as individuals that get coupled together gravitate toward mode locking, (and pulse becomes stronger and more energy efficient.)

IMO the latter, ultimately that feel is "silent" perceived underpinning; not entirely based on each note that is played; nor only for tight precision playing.  If everyone on same page with strong feel where precise center of beat is; that can allow for a bit of looseness, risks, push/pull, and bending time... without disrupting the continuity of underlying strong pulse.

Edited by - alaskafiddler on 10/12/2018 05:57:27

Oct 12, 2018 - 6:01:37 AM
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6589 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by alaskafiddler
quote:
Originally posted by soppinthegravy
Electric bass player Adam Neely has a great video about what he calls "phase locking", which I think explains this phenomenon well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEbUNDW9bDA 

Good video. I don't think he really explains "phase locking" (what I think of) but does bring up differences in how folks think about music; and relates to listening, how we listen, and being tight.

One way is playing independently at the same time as other; refer to technical quantitative and.or metric sense of "timing" - often listening to an external cue; metronome, conductor or another player, like a bass, guitar, drum, or perhaps unison lead; and thinking to aim for it. Getting close can achieve some sense of tight. 

Alternatively, others use the more concept of rhythm (and layers); it's rhythmic "feel" rather than thinking timing... often as a much more sensory listening with your whole body; there's a physical feel, of weight, gravity, momentum, inertia and  sense of "in the pocket" to lock into and ride. (or in the zone)

Phase locking term reminds me how might also relate as form of entrainment, as in this example. how as individuals that get coupled together gravitate toward mode locking, (and pulse becomes stronger and more energy efficient.)

IMO the latter, ultimately that feel is "silent" perceived underpinning; not entirely based on each note that is played; nor only for tight precision playing.  If everyone on same page with strong feel where precise center of beat is; that can allow for a bit of looseness, risks, push/pull, and bending time... without disrupting the continuity of underlying strong pulse.


Alaska, I liked the video demonstration.. goes to show how a couple of cans of beer can improve a group smiley

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