Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

236
Fiddle Lovers Online


Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Sep 28, 2021 - 7:19:02 AM

Jimbeaux

Germany

401 posts since 5/24/2016

Hi,

Since there aren't any oldtime jams around here unless I organize them myself, I decided to start attending a monthly bluegrass jam that I recently learned about.

The format is such that everyone gets to pick a song or tune in turn, so I'll have no problem when I'm up.

I'm not very familiar with the concept of taking breaks. How does that usually work? Will I be expected to do this even if I'm not familiar with a tune?

Not sure what else to expect in general. Any tips?
Really, I'm mostly interested in getting more practice at chording along, but not interested in becoming a bluegrass fiddler.
I do, however, quite enjoy music that lies somewhere between oldtime and bluegrass, like Scruggs banjo with OT fiddle or clawhammer in a bluegrass band, etc.

Sep 28, 2021 - 8:08:37 AM
likes this

9490 posts since 3/19/2009

My experience in such jams is that they'll let you pass on a break if you are not comfortable playing the tune.. You may find that their entire repertoire is significantly different than yours. I've encountered some amazing musicians at mixed jams but never did like sitting out while 6-8 musicians took their breaks.. Once I quietly played along but got the evil eye from the jam organizer.. She said, "I can see that you are an old time musician..in that you want to play along all the time.''....Still, those were nice people and I had a great time.

Sep 28, 2021 - 8:43:44 AM
like this

12509 posts since 9/23/2009

Organize your own, if you know people and you can do it...BG people, in my experience, don't wanna play OT.

Sep 28, 2021 - 8:46:21 AM
like this

doryman

USA

229 posts since 2/10/2020

Hi Jim. I play in mostly bluegrass jams. Lee is correct in that you can pass on taking a break. Typically the one leading the song will make some kind of eye contact with you right before it's your turn and you can polite shake your head no and the leader will move quickly to the next musician in line. After a few songs, folks will get the idea that you won't be taking many leads and they may just skip you or, at very least they will be ready for you to say no! However, if your jams are like mine, it's rare to have a good fiddler (we are mostly guitars, banjos, mandos and dobros...in that order), so everyone is probably excited to have you play.

That all being said, you don't have to sit on your hands while others take a lead. There is certainly a place for a fiddle to fill and back-up. Since I am still a beginner at the fiddle (banjo being my main instrument), I actually like fill and back-up more than taking a lead when I'm playing the fiddle. A well placed lick that compliments and doesn't step on other players is a real joy to pull off. I'm kind of that way with the banjo too. I love to play back-up. I actually get compliments for my back-up playing, but no one ever compliments my lead playing! Less is more.

Finally, don't be afraid to take a lead. Most bluegrass songs are pretty straight forward, 1-4-5 stuff. Just play some arpeggios, or a pentatonic scale, blues scales work well, slide around a few notes, do a couple of double stops...you know, sound fiddly and everyone will be happy. You don't have to play the melody note for note.

Edited by - doryman on 09/28/2021 08:48:02

Sep 28, 2021 - 9:23:49 AM
likes this

31 posts since 6/12/2015

Doryman is right on. I would say if you pick a tune pick one that bluegrassers would know (there are maybe 40 or so that everyone knows).

You might not want to play much when a guitar is taking a break because they're hard to hear.

You'll do fine and have fun.

Sep 28, 2021 - 9:37:59 AM
like this

481 posts since 6/11/2019

John Doryman above is right on.

You don't have to take a break--it's the job of the person leading the song to kick it off, query people with a look while underway, and tag it. Just shake your head no, it's not a faux pas. The leader must be prepared to keep going with the next option. But I do a lot of learning when I "cobble together" a break as John describes. Break is either over the verse (usually) or chorus. Which means 16 bars to play some "stuff": 4 for some kind of kick-off into the melody, 4 to roll into the V chord usually, then repeat the first 4, and use the last 4 for some kind of "come home" lick to the I chord. Really, as long as you know where to hit that I chord at home on time, that's your money.

At a typical BG jam where I'm the new guy, I'll know maybe 50% of the songs called. But I usually make a note of the ones I like and somewhat learn them.

The OT jams I go to are actually harder for me to play an unfamiliar song/tune. I can't really improvise over an OT tune much, it doesn't sound right, you really have to play the melody there primarily.

The other thing is, a lot of time BG folks will call one in a key you have not played it in, because of their voice. That has been real helpful for me learning the patterns of the fingerboard.

Sep 28, 2021 - 10:10:04 AM
like this

481 posts since 6/11/2019

I'd also like to add that BG jams are not (and should not be) gatherings for competition and 'let's see what you can do' during a break. They are very good opportunities for you to learn your instrument inside and out, cause you do a lot of thinking on your feet, so to speak. Somebody is going to start singing the next verse no matter what kind of break you play.

It's pretty durn fun.

Sep 28, 2021 - 10:40:14 AM
like this

doryman

USA

229 posts since 2/10/2020

quote:
Originally posted by Flat_the_3rd_n7th

 They are very good opportunities for you to learn your instrument inside and out, cause you do a lot of thinking on your feet, so to speak. Somebody is going to start singing the next verse no matter what kind of break you play.

It's pretty durn fun.


Amen to that!  

Edited by - doryman on 09/28/2021 10:51:18

Sep 28, 2021 - 12:01:56 PM
like this

2467 posts since 10/22/2007

3 things:
1.There are sort of crossover tunes where BG has adopted an OT tune.
2. Just relax and listen. Pick up the melody, play the break.
3. The more you pass, it is harder to catch the eye of the leader. You may have to say,"I'll have a bite of that" before the tune kicks off.

I'm a BG jam fan.

Sep 28, 2021 - 1:34:47 PM
like this

1904 posts since 12/11/2008

Some good suggestions here. For me, when I just don't know what to play, I'll cobble together a solo by repetitively...but soulfully & stylishly...fiddling the first two notes in the key signature the tune is in. When the tune inevitably changes to the V, I just soulfully, repetitively play the key's second & third, or the key's fifth & sixth notes. Shockingly, I've actually gotten applause from folks sitting at the bar when I do this.

Edited by - Lonesome Fiddler on 09/28/2021 13:35:31

Sep 28, 2021 - 4:06:54 PM
likes this

481 posts since 6/11/2019

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Some good suggestions here. For me, when I just don't know what to play, I'll cobble together a solo by repetitively...but soulfully & stylishly...fiddling the first two notes in the key signature the tune is in. When the tune inevitably changes to the V, I just soulfully, repetitively play the key's second & third, or the key's fifth & sixth notes. Shockingly, I've actually gotten applause from folks sitting at the bar when I do this.


Wonderful...I'm going to steal this, s'il vous plait

edit:  Jim is in Frankfurt, should have typed, "bitte" instead

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 09/28/2021 16:10:15

Sep 29, 2021 - 9:33:48 AM
likes this

Snafu

USA

111 posts since 2/2/2014

A few BG Caveats:
1. The singer picks the key and it is not polite to push back. I play with a few ladies who like singing in the key of B (5 sharps) and either play or sit it out.
2. The key will change sometimes for every song. Not generally a fiddle issue.
3. Most BG jams will “allow” you to have a song word sheet with the associated chords noted. It also show the key. This can be quite handy. But generally they won’t wait for you to flip pages to get to it. A big BG fake book can be handy.
4. Sit where you can see the best guitarist fingers. He/she will use a capo so understand how moving the capo changes the key and the I, IV and V chords
5. As said above they love it when a fiddle joins, be ready for “take it fiddle” call outs. Just improvise over the melody.
6. They may not openly encourage it but they DO like fiddle tunes especially after everyone has sung the 1 or two BG songs they brought to the jam. Old standards are best and it’s ok to say do you all know “‘such and such” and get agreement. If you do find one to play, pass the tune to others and lay back or just vamp on the chord tonic note while they take the melody. You should end the tune.
7. Don’t play when a guitar or lightly played mandolin is playing a break.
8. If your fiddle is loud like mine is you may want to play using a mute. It helps you to hear them (very important! ) and prevents you from overpowering the guitars.
9. If you have vibrato leave it at home.

Sep 29, 2021 - 1:26:09 PM

Jimbeaux

Germany

401 posts since 5/24/2016

These are some great tips. I expected to just be open and flexible, but all these ideas give me a really good starting point.
I'm looking forward to this jam!

Sep 29, 2021 - 6:05:25 PM
like this

5501 posts since 9/26/2008

Here's what no one is saying: yours is the ONLY instrument with sustain, use it to your advantage, particularly in playing back up but also during breaks.

Key signatures will be an issue. Can you play in B, Bb, E, C, F? The folks I play with regularly hit all of those. B is the trickiest because the only open string note is E. Bb and F are fine once you get used to it, because you have open strings available (A D and G) to help you with pitches.

Listen close and figure out the melody. If that's all you play for a break, it is plenty. Maybe learn how to "peel off" in the final few bars to give it a little oomph.

Sustain, non OT keys and melody. If you play for/with older folks, they will appreciate the melody more than you might expect; not everyone wants to hear hot jazzy licks which is about all one hears these days. 

Sep 29, 2021 - 6:08:02 PM
like this

5501 posts since 9/26/2008

Oh, and a loud fiddle is an asset if the people you play with are as loud as the ones I play with - loud Huber banjo, big loud Martin guitars and loud upright bass, even the mando player has great projection!

Sep 29, 2021 - 9:07:40 PM
like this

3 posts since 9/28/2021

Be prepared to play on a song that you don't know. If you can't seem to figure out the melody, try doing long harmony notes or chinks as a background addition. If a break comes to you and you aren't comfortable, someone will usually step in. Don't forget that you're there to have FUN, so don't get embarrassed. t happens to the best of us.
Hope this helps!
-Dani

Sep 30, 2021 - 2:56:39 PM
like this

9490 posts since 3/19/2009

Jim, don't even THINK about going to that jam and not reporting back!! Just sayin'..laugh

Oct 28, 2021 - 4:39:20 AM
like this

Jimbeaux

Germany

401 posts since 5/24/2016

quote:
Originally posted by TuneWeaver

Jim, don't even THINK about going to that jam and not reporting back!! Just sayin'..laugh


Okay, okay.

In brief, I had fun, but over 3 hours I probably knew just a handful of the tunes/songs they played. Especially at the beginning, I just chorded a long or stayed quiet, but the only other fiddler, who described himself as a "country" fiddler who is new to bluegrass, was often playing along the whole time, even over singing. He was definitely more experienced than me, but I thought he was playing too loud when other people were singing or taking breaks. Still, he was a nice guy and it was a relief to have another fiddler there so I wouldn't be heard so much while figuring out what to play. We also took a twin-fiddle break or two, which was fun.
 

The jam followed a turn-taking concept and they were open to trying unfamiliar ones. I was also surprised by how much mileage I got out of Under the Willow Tree. They played it early on in the session, and I was totally confused because I had learned it in G, but they were playing it in A. But even though that didn't go so well, over the course of the rest of the evening, there were like 4 or 5 other song tunes played that were nearly the same melody and chord structure.

So, I'll keep going. I'm still not a huge fan of bluegrass, but maybe I'll become a bit more of one... Either way, the ear practice and meeting people who might like to join an OT session in the future is definitely worth it.

Oct 28, 2021 - 5:33:43 AM
likes this

2467 posts since 10/22/2007

Thanks so much for the follow-up.
Just playing with others is what it's all about in my opinion.
As a fiddler, a catcher of melodies, it often sounds like sameness. Don't mention it in a jam. That's your private magic trick. Red River Valley, Silver Haired Daddy, and 18 other songs. Same key, or different key, some guitar pickers seems to think each is different. Like playing all night 1,4,5, or 1,5,4, or 1,4,1,5, When one understands it is no longer magic, but to the untrained observer it's magic.

Oct 28, 2021 - 12:09:12 PM

119 posts since 7/30/2021

Your first time at jam sounds like mine! The need to "make stuff up" instead of playing tunes I know/remember, caught me off guard but it's fun... After multiple jams I gradually got the hang of doing backbeat, occasional harmony, filling in 'empty spots'.

Those "hot bluesy fast high licks" are something I still can't make up! I try to practice improv a bit by playing with backing tracks. I research songs when I can (I was assigned the intro to "Wagon Wheel", so I was looking up groups that play that and how the fiddle solos go).

The people are great - nice, funny, laid-back. There are some amazingly talented musicians in our group - love listening to their breaks!! Then their breaks give me ideas on what to do for my breaks or fills.

(I hope the Irish/Celtic folks are the same...they seem more serious(??) ... I think I may attempt the trek to the Irish session soon...32 miles at 5pm in heavy traffic...but not that soon, because I looked at their tune list and I know ONE tune :-P. So that's the drawback of not being able to "make stuff up", ha ha)

Nov 20, 2021 - 9:07:55 AM

Gary524

USA

8 posts since 8/1/2017

quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Some good suggestions here. For me, when I just don't know what to play, I'll cobble together a solo by repetitively...but soulfully & stylishly...fiddling the first two notes in the key signature the tune is in. When the tune inevitably changes to the V, I just soulfully, repetitively play the key's second & third, or the key's fifth & sixth notes. Shockingly, I've actually gotten applause from folks sitting at the bar when I do this.


This seems to be a really good idea.  I just want to make sure I understand what you mean when you say you play the first two notes in the key signature.  Do you mean the first two notes of the scale indicated by the key signature?  For example, if the tune is in the key of G, you would be playing G and A until the chords move to D and then you'd play A and B?

Nov 20, 2021 - 11:09:42 AM

1904 posts since 12/11/2008

quote:
Originally posted by Gary524
quote:
Originally posted by Lonesome Fiddler

Some good suggestions here. For me, when I just don't know what to play, I'll cobble together a solo by repetitively...but soulfully & stylishly...fiddling the first two notes in the key signature the tune is in. When the tune inevitably changes to the V, I just soulfully, repetitively play the key's second & third, or the key's fifth & sixth notes. Shockingly, I've actually gotten applause from folks sitting at the bar when I do this.


This seems to be a really good idea.  I just want to make sure I understand what you mean when you say you play the first two notes in the key signature.  Do you mean the first two notes of the scale indicated by the key signature?  For example, if the tune is in the key of G, you would be playing G and A until the chords move to D and then you'd play A and B?


Yes. When the tune is in G, when the guitars/back-up are playing a G chord, try soulfully/charmingly/capriciously intoning G and A. When the back-up chord switches to D, capriciously/happily intone A and B. Slide up into 'em. Play 'em a bit flat. Have your fiddle say "Uh, Wuh. Uh, Wuh."

Nov 29, 2021 - 2:12:56 AM
like this

Jimbeaux

Germany

401 posts since 5/24/2016

BTW, I went to another jam with the group and this time I was the only fiddler. It was a good challenge and I had fun. For the most part, I only took breaks on tunes I knew beforehand, but realized that I could have taken a break on a few other tunes.

The most experienced musician there (as far as I can tell) told me he was glad that I decided to come again, so that was nice to hear. I was mostly doing fills or chording along, so I guess what I was doing was more appreciated than not.

I was actually quite taken by one instrumental tune that doesn't get played in oldtime circles. It was called Cherokee Shuffle. Apparently it comes from a Nashville bluegrass fiddler who made a cd of breakdown/dance tunes, so they are probably oldtime in origin and I'll be happy to introduce this tune to oldtime crowds. It's fun to play.

Nov 29, 2021 - 7:23:43 AM
likes this

119 posts since 7/30/2021

Sounds like you are having fun. :-)

Yep I was often the only fiddler at our jam, and I wondered why!
Like, where did the others go? I thought that maybe they prefer jams where they can play melody, like pure OT or pure Irish trad jams? Or maybe the competent fiddlers are in such demand that they got poached, and are all playing in small private bands/groups?

Everybody loves Cherokee Shuffle, and you'll find that a lot of people know it, you will have plenty of people to play it with! (So far I am hating my rendition of it...if I ever get the right feel, there's a guitar guy at our jam that has been waiting to play it with me...currently I'm not brave enough to inflict my horrid classical-sounding version on the poor guy...:-)

Nov 29, 2021 - 7:56:03 AM

31 posts since 6/12/2015

Yeah it seems like someone has called Cherokee Shuffle at the last 10 jams I've been to, whether bluegrass or more folk/old-time. Great tune.

Nov 29, 2021 - 7:57:47 AM
likes this

31 posts since 6/12/2015

quote:
Originally posted by NCnotes


Yep I was often the only fiddler at our jam, and I wondered why!
Like, where did the others go? I thought that maybe they prefer jams where they can play melody, like pure OT or pure Irish trad jams? Or maybe the competent fiddlers are in such demand that they got poached, and are all playing in small private bands/groups?
 


All those reasons, and fiddle is probably the most difficult bluegrass instrument to play, so fewer people even attempt it. But every jam I've ever been to people love it when a fiddle shows up.

Page: 1  2   Last Page (2) 

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.2207031