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What? A jam without fiddles?

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Sep 14, 2019 - 1:57:05 PM
7615 posts since 3/19/2009

A crazy thought occurred to me today.. What if one was to host a jam for any instrument except fiddles...Have you ever done that? I mean, what would happen if one were to host a jam that Normally would be Fiddlecentric.....but drop the fiddles.. Ideas? Would it be fun? challenging? Impossible? Interesting?

Sep 14, 2019 - 3:29:08 PM
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2056 posts since 8/23/2008

you would need to specify....''no fiddles''...!!.... yeah crazy for sure..

Sep 15, 2019 - 8:11:22 AM
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4122 posts since 6/23/2007

Why would anyone want to exclude fiddles from a jam ? Most jams don't have a lot of people who can play good "lead breaks". Fiddlers are normally a welcome addition. Most decent fiddlers play a large repertoire of tunes. Fiddles are not overbearing and fit in with just about any type of music. I can understand restricting a jam to fiddlers who play a specific style of fiddling. Buy the last sentence also applies to other stringed instruments as well

Sep 15, 2019 - 8:18:57 AM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

"Would it be fun? challenging? Impossible? Interesting?" A stupid waste of time?
It might be great though - you could play all those Dead and Eagles songs you've been wanting to get to!

Sep 15, 2019 - 8:38:28 AM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

It could be a Fun thing to do...I'll bet that in areas where there are no fiddlers, that that lack doesn't keep people from getting together and jamming... Having recently spoken about a banjo jam, it got me to thinking...!! Good banjo players, harmonica players, accordion players and even some guitar players could all lead tunes.. In my area we are blessed with many multi talented musicians and I DO believe that it could work.. ..Like Doug mentioned.. Challenge? Interesting? Fun? Yep. all those things... A few years ago we had a great banjo player lead a contra dance one evening.. Nobody noticed a lack of fiddles...Besides, many OT musicians bow to fiddlers..and with good reason maybe, but Maybe for one evening other instruments could shine. One of my favorite things to do when I'm fiddling is to go down to the same octave as a banjo player and then their instrument gets highlighted..I like that and I think that they do also......... If it gets to 'iffy'... we could break out a fiddle..you know....in an emergency..

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 09/15/2019 08:39:47

Sep 15, 2019 - 9:13:22 AM
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DougD

USA

9233 posts since 12/2/2007

Lee, I started playing "old time" music in the 1960's, when fiddlers were very rare. We had lots of get togethers without fiddles that were just fine. But why make that a rule for a jam?
I don't go to jams much, partly because jammers seem so interested in rulemaking - no C tunes, just one key per week, etc. All that seems silly to me.
But I was asked to lead a jam once because a friend of mine couldn't be there. It was small, about ten people with differing instruments and interests, and we just went around the circle to choose a tune. Two of the participants were the young daughters of a dear friend of mine, who didn't know many tunes so we played what they knew (they're now winning prizes at fiddle contests). Another was a pretty good fingerstyle guitarist, so when it was his turn we played whatever he wanted. It happened to be St. Patricks Day weekend, so when my turn came I always played a jig, which may have baffled everyone else, but its good to learn new things. I think everyone had a good time, and it didn't seem stressful like some of the jams I see described on the FHO. Why add to that, just as an experiment?

Edited by - DougD on 09/15/2019 09:14:57

Sep 15, 2019 - 9:14:02 AM
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423 posts since 9/1/2010

If this suggestion is specific to an old-time jam then I feel it would certainly be different. Long before I ever played the fiddle there were a few of us that jammed regularly and we were all flatpickers. Yeah we played fiddle tunes, but on guitar and it was more akin to Tony Rice than say Luches Kessinger. If the jam had no lead players or singing going on I feel it would get stale pretty quick.

Sep 15, 2019 - 11:24:15 AM
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2941 posts since 6/21/2007

You might wind up with a harmonica player or two to replace the fiddler(s).

Sep 15, 2019 - 12:37:42 PM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry

you would need to specify....''no fiddles''...!!.... yeah crazy for sure..


IF I schedule this jam, I'd specify for sure.. and point out that it is FOR FUN.. not to eliminate anyone...In my area  I only know ONE fiddler who doesn't already play a second instrument, so nobody would be eliminated from coming... and that One person could play my washtub base..

This in not something that I'd want to do often but the idea came to me after having been in jams where the banjos were allowed to 'lead'..pick the tunes and and enjoy being the center of attention.  I'll think of it as a "theme Jam!!!"  

Most OT fiddlers realize that when there are NO banjos in their jam that the door is open to quick change of keys... and when a banjo joins the jam the fiddlers get locked in..Not a bad thing, mind you..  It will be interesting to see what happens when banjo and other instrument players are not playing with a fiddle.... (Remember, this is all for fun, and those who don't want to participate ..well, they won't come!!)

Also I wouldn't think of it as being a 'rule'......The Only RULE I like to see in a jam is, "IF you don't know a tune pretty well, please play quietly."..and that rule doesn't seem to swing much weight around here...Such is life..smiley

Sep 15, 2019 - 12:39:04 PM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by BanjoBrad

You might wind up with a harmonica player or two to replace the fiddler(s).


EXACTLY!!!... Having been around several really good harmonica players recently.. I can say that they would be able to lead.. Even I could lead on one or two tunes...

Sep 15, 2019 - 12:42:41 PM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by rosinhead

If this suggestion is specific to an old-time jam then I feel it would certainly be different. Long before I ever played the fiddle there were a few of us that jammed regularly and we were all flatpickers. Yeah we played fiddle tunes, but on guitar and it was more akin to Tony Rice than say Luches Kessinger. If the jam had no lead players or singing going on I feel it would get stale pretty quick.


Stale!!! yep.. out come the fiddles.. However in my case, as I've mentioned, we are lucky in that we have lead-capable musicians on several instruments.. Banjo, concertina, accordion, harmonica, whistle, etc.... I'll draw the line (Hey, it's MY house) when someone wants to "LEAD" with spoonswink Although I DID sit next to a really good spoons player a couple of times and really did enjoy him.

Sep 15, 2019 - 12:47:38 PM
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Beardog

USA

91 posts since 8/12/2012

Decent fiddlers are still very rare in jams that aren't exclusively old-time music. In bluegrass, it seems that many of the potentially "decent fiddlers" choose to become very good mandolin players, instead. The really dedicated musicians seem to gravitate toward banjo or flat-picking the guitar. The really good fiddlers in bluegrass are either child prodigy types who often seem to move on to other things when they reach their late teens, or real old guys who have been fiddling since about 1940. I decided to move from banjo to fiddle a while back because fiddlers are so rare in my circle. But, now I would rather play and learn old time fiddle tunes than bluegrass most of the time......

Sep 15, 2019 - 1:37:03 PM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Beardog

Decent fiddlers are still very rare in jams that aren't exclusively old-time music. In bluegrass, it seems that many of the potentially "decent fiddlers" choose to become very good mandolin players, instead. The really dedicated musicians seem to gravitate toward banjo or flat-picking the guitar. The really good fiddlers in bluegrass are either child prodigy types who often seem to move on to other things when they reach their late teens, or real old guys who have been fiddling since about 1940. I decided to move from banjo to fiddle a while back because fiddlers are so rare in my circle. But, now I would rather play and learn old time fiddle tunes than bluegrass most of the time......


Sam, your comment reminds me of a documentary from 1965 about Bluegrass/mountain music. In it I observed that most of the banjo players played thumb/two finger style..(whatever that is called) and NOT claw hammer as is not common in Old Time jams at this time....The culture has shifted ...and I'm afraid we may have lost some of the "variety'' of instrument styles..that were at one time common.  Have you noticed this?

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 09/15/2019 13:40:48

Sep 15, 2019 - 1:41:19 PM
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2941 posts since 6/21/2007

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver
quote:
Originally posted by BanjoBrad

You might wind up with a harmonica player or two to replace the fiddler(s).


EXACTLY!!!... Having been around several really good harmonica players recently.. I can say that they would be able to lead.. Even I could lead on one or two tunes...

 


Lee - I haven't been around anyone playing old time on harmonica, but I've jammed some with Dan Levenson (FiddleDan, here), and I know that at least a couple of his Boiled Buzzards CD's used a harmonica in lieu of a fiddle.

(edit) Oh, yeah, we had a couple of concertinaists sit in on some of the jams I used to run - they work well if there's no fiddler around.

Edited by - BanjoBrad on 09/15/2019 13:44:36

Sep 15, 2019 - 2:53:27 PM

2056 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver
quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry

you would need to specify....''no fiddles''...!!.... yeah crazy for sure..


and that One person could play my washtub base..

 


No, Thanks...............

Sep 18, 2019 - 3:15:47 PM
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Beardog

USA

91 posts since 8/12/2012

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver
quote:
Originally posted by Beardog

Decent fiddlers are still very rare in jams that aren't exclusively old-time music. In bluegrass, it seems that many of the potentially "decent fiddlers" choose to become very good mandolin players, instead. The really dedicated musicians seem to gravitate toward banjo or flat-picking the guitar. The really good fiddlers in bluegrass are either child prodigy types who often seem to move on to other things when they reach their late teens, or real old guys who have been fiddling since about 1940. I decided to move from banjo to fiddle a while back because fiddlers are so rare in my circle. But, now I would rather play and learn old time fiddle tunes than bluegrass most of the time......


Sam, your comment reminds me of a documentary from 1965 about Bluegrass/mountain music. In it I observed that most of the banjo players played thumb/two finger style..(whatever that is called) and NOT claw hammer as is not common in Old Time jams at this time....The culture has shifted ...and I'm afraid we may have lost some of the "variety'' of instrument styles..that were at one time common.  Have you noticed this?

 


Yes, I have noticed this as well.

Sep 18, 2019 - 4:15:29 PM
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4262 posts since 9/26/2008

quote:
Originally posted by DougD

"Would it be fun? challenging? Impossible? Interesting?" A stupid waste of time?
It might be great though - you could play all those Dead and Eagles songs you've been wanting to  get to!


Around here, this is practically what you get at all open “old time” jams. Ten to twenty guitar players and A bluegrass-ish banjo player sitting in a huge circle taking turns getting up to the mic and singing some gospel song, old 70s country song, or the Eagles, while everyone else plays along (hence the need for a mic).  Six  ridiculously slow songs in G in a row and I am out of there. laugh

I come from a long line of non-fiddle guitar music oriented jammers we never had any drama (unless there was too much drink) or stale times.  

Interesting “thought experiment,” Lee, but seems like an unnecessary one. Also, since when doesn’t the banjo get to lead a tune? Everyone leads a tune when it’s their turn. I’m pretty sure that was how you operated every time we’ve jammed. 

Sep 18, 2019 - 5:10:38 PM
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Fiddler

USA

3964 posts since 6/22/2007

When I first started playing over 40 years ago, the jam sessions were dominated by a small handful of alpha folks (not necessarily fiddlers!) who determined what would be played and the tempo. For me, since I didn't know any better, it was fun. I made note of the tunes and sources and went off to find recordings or find someone to teach them to me. (At one point I was learning 2-3 new tunes a week!) The folks at those jams helped me tremendously and gave me encouragement. It also gave me insights to dealing with those "festival" jams. 

Fast forward a whole bunch of years. That early jam experience was so important to me and my development. I wanted to give other new players the same nurturing experiences that I had. When the jams first started here in Dallas at a public facility, it was led by two very alpha personalities. Their purpose seemed to be to isolate and discourage new folks by calling very obscure tunes and unfriendly keys. They even "invited" folks playing anything other than fiddle, open-back banjo and guitar to leave. It was a very unwelcoming environment! In fact, the management nearly "uninvited" us from meeting at that facility because of this!

When these folks quit coming, I gladly stepped in and took over. I changed the format to one that allowed everyone an opportunity to call a tune. This gave the new folks a chance to call a tune that they were working on and they could set the tempo. Having strong musicians support this, helped the new folks gain confidence and encouragement to continue practicing. 

My observation is that if the jam is in a public setting with a fairly large number of folks, then some order is needed - and is expected. I have established some basic rules for the group such as we only play tunes and songs that are in the public domain and in the "old-time lexicon". Yes, we do go into some Celtic and maritime/contra tunes, after all, we all started out with those! And that if a banjo is present, we will stay in one key for a bit to minimize the time spent retuning.

A "festival" jam or a closed jam is another story. Watch out! No holds barred. Although, most of time, we will be kind to the banjo players. 

Sep 18, 2019 - 8:37:37 PM
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4262 posts since 9/26/2008

Never really experienced the alpha situation, OR I was too oblivious to recognize it and butted my way into calling a tune whether they liked it or not angel

Sep 19, 2019 - 8:33:50 PM
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1612 posts since 10/22/2007

quote:
Originally posted by ChickenMan
quote:
Originally posted by DougD

"Would it be fun? challenging? Impossible? Interesting?" A stupid waste of time?
It might be great though - you could play all those Dead and Eagles songs you've been wanting to  get to!


Around here, this is practically what you get at all open “old time” jams. Ten to twenty guitar players and A bluegrass-ish banjo player sitting in a huge circle taking turns getting up to the mic and singing some gospel song, old 70s country song, or the Eagles, while everyone else plays along (hence the need for a mic).  Six  ridiculously slow songs in G in a row and I am out of there. laugh

I come from a long line of non-fiddle guitar music oriented jammers we never had any drama (unless there was too much drink) or stale times.  

Interesting “thought experiment,” Lee, but seems like an unnecessary one. Also, since when doesn’t the banjo get to lead a tune? Everyone leads a tune when it’s their turn. I’m pretty sure that was how you operated every time we’ve jammed. 


Suffering enjoys company. A typical jam in our region is also a circle of guitar players ready to play another draggy old country song. Good for a fiddler's ego, if you can stand it, they treat me like a king when i show up. I am also typically the youngest (58). It's nice to be so welcomed, but playing roughly the same melody for several hours can get tedious.. I use it for a chance to better the little nuances.  How are you going to make this break better or different from the last six? This is what I am thinking. Not all the time doing, but the positive intent is there.

Sep 19, 2019 - 9:05:53 PM
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5676 posts since 8/7/2009

I will offer an opinion without having read all the responses up until now.

... a jam without fiddles?  seriously?  Almost seems a silly question. As much as I love playing fiddle (and i really do!!!) - a lot of jams I go to never involve the fiddle. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be welcome... only that the music that would be played probably wouldn't be  "conducive" to a fiddle (unless you are a really good fiddle player - not me).  I would be playing guitar and singing. Always a great time at those jams though.

I do have opportunities to play fiddle with my old time friends - at least once a week.

And at home - when I want to play music alone - 95% of the time- I will pick up the fiddle and paly fiddle tunes. And then later - fuss at myself - because I do know a lot of songs... and I want/ need to contribute more to the "other"jams.

Sep 22, 2019 - 5:51:47 PM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

smileyLet me say that I'd ONLY have a jam without fiddles IF the jam participants could each LEAD a tune ... Remember, I posted this idea after having heard a three banjo jam. .....Your stories about 'train wreck' jams without fiddles/structure/rules... hit home.. I'm no dummy.. (ok, maybe a dummy,)  and I'd not schedule a jam that I didn't think would be fun, accepted, or appreciated...smiley

I will pass on the idea of ever hosting  a 'spoons/washboard jam. (not that there is anything wrong with spoons or washboards..).....no matter what..

Edited by - TuneWeaver on 09/22/2019 17:54:32

Sep 23, 2019 - 1:07:02 AM
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2056 posts since 8/23/2008

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

 

I will pass on the idea of ever hosting  a 'spoons/washboard jam. 


Oh shucks, I would bring my BONES to that..................

Sep 23, 2019 - 2:29:55 AM

7615 posts since 3/19/2009

quote:
Originally posted by buckhenry
quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

 

I will pass on the idea of ever hosting  a 'spoons/washboard jam. 


Oh shucks, I would bring my BONES to that..................


Well, now if I had know THAT, I'd maybe reconsider!!!

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