Here's my problem. In my town there are several active open mic nights and jam sessions going on, with a lot of participants, both pro and amateur. Unfortunately for me, the most popular style around here is classic rock and Chicago blues. Almost nobody plays country, and definitely nobody knows how to back up a fiddle tune. Every time it's my turn to introduce a tune, it always turns into a train wreck. These rock 'n rollers always overplay and always the wrong chords. I try to explain to keep it to simple 3-chord changes, but these people have never heard a fiddle breakdown before and are absolutely clueless.
Last night one of them offered a solution. He suggested I email him links that would help him learn how to back up fiddle breakdowns on his guitar.
I'm hoping you folks can point me in the right direction to find such links. Thanks.
I think the old time jam website would be a good place to start: oldtimejam.com/ You çan listen to the tunes in various combinations of instruments (including just the guitar) and there are chord charts too.
It's great that someone there wants to learn! This person is trying to make things work. Doug's suggestion is good.
I had a similar problem at "jam sessions" or song circles in my area. First of all, these are a great group of folks and I have made some wonderful friends. So, I am not discounting these totally!
These songster-type folks seemed to think that anyone with a guitar can back a fiddle tune. WRONG! It was always a disaster when they played along. When compared to the often tedious, 10 minute, 250 verse self-composed ballads, I only had less than a minute for my turn. I could only last three times through the tune, if that long. It was absolutely unbearable!!
I had two solutions:
1. Quit going to these things and quit making myself miserable.
2. Go because the session was a good opportunity to work on different skills (improvisation, harmonies, ear-learning a melody quickly) and also meet some new folks.
I chose #2. When I was asked to lead a tune/song, I decided to make the experience good for everyone by choosing a tune that was recognizable or hummable or was very simple. And, if not a waltz, it had to be much, much slower than I typically play. Since I frequently play for contra dances, 115-120 bpm is very comfortable for me, but I would hold it to 100-110 bpm - and even that was too fast for most. So, have some familiarity with the music others are playing because frequently you will find cross-overs that are shared in both styles.
Just recognize that this session is not an old-time jam and you are the "old time" expert. The other folks are newbies and they are going to sound like it.
Tune choice - go for common, familiar tunes
8th of Jan - beware, they will want to sing along!! Just know that the song has a little different structure
Turkey in the Straw
Hop High Ladies - simple chords structure
Cotton-eyed Joe - must be the dance hall version!! They will screw up anything else
I know that these are overplayed and not exciting tunes to play. But, I was able to get most of the folks at the sessions to play along and we actually sounded ok. In fact, they often looked forward to the more energetic, upbeat tunes that were a stark contrast to the usual fare of draggy ballads. And, over time, I was able to introduce other more interesting tunes and get them to play at tempo.
I have to continuously recognize that these sessions are not an old time jam and their knowledge of the music is going to be very limited. However, being able to play music with others and create something that will never happen again is amazing. Add to that, meeting new folks and making friends. It is a wonderful experience!
Edited by - Fiddler on 02/27/2020 14:45:01
Them that don't get the simple boom-chuck, yes, i been there.
I gotta ditto Kirk,
Those that are at least trying and/or willing to learn are key. Them that think it's beneath them, i can't be around.
Also a common thing: Some folks don't grasp 1, 4, 5, but know C, & D, go with G(key), or A, & G, go with D, etc.
The Pegram site and chords are great IF you know how to play the proper back up style. Does their chord book give pointers on that? I can't recall.
This seems like a great resource.
Well folks, I certainly appreciated all the links and suggestions, and days ago I passed them along to the guy I previously mentioned. Unfortunately the dog ate his homework (just as I suspected it would... Bad Dog!), and he utterly destroyed Ragtime Annie in front of a live audience at a popular local bar/restaurant.
Oh well! I guess I'll just have to face the fact that Neil Young and the Rolling Stones dominate the jam scene around here, and there's no place for oldtime fiddling these days.
Thanks for the links. We tried.
If you also played, you could have a one on one with said person, but I'm guessing that isn't an option
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