is a moderator ... except for ensuring jam etiquette is followed,
he/she will likely stay out of everyone’s hair. Because COVID
remains with us, you must be fully vaccinated and free of all recent
symptoms to participate. We will abide by the venue’s
requirements regarding masks and social distancing.)
The Ten Jammandments
1. When the moderator talks, stop noodling, stop gabbing, start listening.
When you're sitting in the circle, you may call a tune. Call
tunes that you can execute, start to finish. If you call a tune,
you must perform it (no proxies). When you call a tune you do
these three things in succession:
-give the name of the tune
-give the key of the tune
-if there are no questions from the group, perform the tune.
Total elapsed setup time - 90 seconds or less.
The circle moves clockwise, never any other way. When the person
on your right is winding up, have your song ready to go and without
prompting from the moderator, set it up for the group (See #2 above).
Don't call out tunes, or make suggestions for the caller. That's
what you do when it's your turn.
When you're not calling a tune, stay quiet and attentive. Try to
remember you are the audience, and not a competitor for Hamlet's stage.
When you are calling a tune, you own the circle. If someone
starts interfering with you, or disrupting your flow remind them you
are setting up a song and shut them down.
Never, ever noodle on your instrument. Your job as a musician in
the circle is to play your best in total support of any song called,
particularly your own. Also, re-read #1 above.
Session #1 is for music only, and raising one's level of
musicianship. Session #2 is dedicated to trading song ideas,
techniques, history, stories, etc. If you're calling a tune in
Session #1, forgo the long story and the history. If you can't
set your song up in 90 seconds or less, please pass the opportunity on
to the next person. If you must discuss history, find someone
who's interested during the break, or test the waters in session #2.
Everyone in the circle supports the song caller, and the song
called. Re-visit #1 & 5 above. Get out of the song
caller's way. Let the song shine. If you must BS and
noodle, take it elsewhere.
When someone is taking a lead and you can't hear it, it means you're
playing too loud. If you're playing a lead simultaneously, you're
10. If you're under the influence, or stoned, you are in the wrong place.
We sit in a circle. The larger the group, the larger the circle,
and vice versa. Atmosphere is friendly, and intimate. Focus
is musical communication. Don’t be shy! Introduce yourself
to those around you.
Players in the circle determine the songs played, moving clockwise
around the circuit. Please respect that. When it’s your
turn, call your “tune” so everyone can hear. Let ‘em know what
key you want to play it in. If it’s gonna be tricky,
explain it (see #5 below). Make sure everyone is on board before
you pull out. It can be very distracting to hear people
whispering, “What key is he/she in?, or What’s the name of the tune?”
once you’ve begun your number.
One of the joys (and challenges) of sitting in a circle is the
opportunity to step up and take a lead. For the experienced
folks, this is no big deal, it’s how they perfect improvisation.
It’s called plunging boldly into the unknown. Sort of like Star
Trek. For the less experienced, it can be a daunting leap.
Trust us, we’re not gonna be funnin’ on you. Just give it
your best shot. Sometimes you’ll go down in flames, sometimes it’ll be
magic. At all times, you’ll get something out of it to make it
worth your while. We all get butterflies. They never go
away. Learn to appreciate them. The late Jerry Garcia
referred to improvisation as “Diving for pearls.” There’s a
reason for that. Sometimes they’re there, sometimes they’re
not. The only secret you need to know about music is to “learn by
trying." If there’s a disaster, the moderator will call a halt,
and we’ll start again from the top. Eventually, you’ll get it to
sound the way you’re hearing it in your head.
Who calls the songs? If you’re an individual sitting in the
circle, and playing an instrument, you can call a song. If you
come in as a duo, or trio, your pair or group can call one song per
rotation. Come prepared, it’s smart to have your song list figured out ahead of time.
As friends, we’re patient, but as a friend, you should be
courteous. When it’s your turn, take charge, speak up loud and
clear, and in thirty seconds or less, spell out what you’re going to do and tell how you want us to support your effort.
START WITH THE NAME OF THE TUNE, THEN SAY WHAT KEY IT’S IN.
Remember, we’re not trying to stump each other here. We’re all up
for new and different adventures, but if you decide to spring one on
us, take a few moments to talk us through it, provide an overview on
the song, spell out any chords if they’re off the beaten trail, and
describe the layout (verse, chorus, variations). Keep it under 90
forget, you are there to play American Roots Music. I
personally play the Beatles catalogue, as well as Hendrix, and
I’m OK with Hip-hop, and even Elton John. For the most part,
they’re not American Roots Music. PLEASE, try to be clear
on that, and respect the “Program.” Again, if you must challenge
us, do your homework, write it up, and pass copies to the group to
ensure they’re with you. Lastly, if you don’t understand what the
song caller wants, ask questions. You’ll never get foot on that
train if you don’t even know where it’s at. Whatever you do,
remember this golden rule of jamming. “It’s doggone impolite to
expect everyone in the room is gonna figure out what you’re doing when
you didn’t have the courtesy to bring them in to begin
with.” That’s a good way to get personally acquainted with
Leads: If you’re calling the song, take command of the
group. See who wants to take a lead before heading
out. Eye contact works wonders. If a song has already
started and you want in, look to the song caller and nod your
head. Shake a polite “no” if you don’t. You might also let
the person to your left know, to ensure continuity. Oh, and
don’t forget to modulate your volume, particularly when someone else is
singing or playing a lead. For example, if someone is on the
other side of the circle singing or taking a lead, back it down so you
can hear what they’re doing. Be forewarned, courtesy is
reciprocated, more so if already extended.
friends, I know some of you are just starting out on this
journey. No need to be nervous or afraid, we’ll support
you. If you’re too shy to give it a go, pass on to the next
person in the circle. Your time will eventually come, and you’ll
know when you’re ready.
When your song has run its course, you’ll want to signal folks the end
is fast approaching. Nothing complicated, a common trick is to
kick your foot out as you start the last cycle. You can also just
say, “bring it on home folks”. If you don’t do this, you might
just find opportunity to witness what we call a “train wreck”. No
problem, we’ll pick up the pieces and put it back on the track.
BE MINDFUL OF JAM COURTESY. THE PERSON WHO’S UP IS HAMLET.
THERE’S NO ROOM FOR TWO HAMLETS ON THE FLOOR. THERE WILL BE
PLENTY OF OPPORTUNITIES TO CHAT AND CHATTER, TO TRADE AND
EXCHANGE. JUST REMEMBER WHEN ONE OF OUR FRIENDS IS SETTING UP A
NUMBER FOR THE GROUP, OR PERFORMING A SONG, HE OR SHE DESERVES
OUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION, AND SUPPORT. NEXT TO LISTENING, KNOWING
WHEN TO BE QUIET IS THE HIGHEST OF JAM COURTESIES. IT IS ALSO THE
ONE MOST IGNORED!
8. The good folks at Tacoma Public Library provide this forum. Respect and protect the facility. Rules
prohibit coffee brewing and food on site, the preferred beverage is
clear bottled water or its equivalent. Keep the place spotless.
Just like when you came in.
9. There you have it. Those are the rules which guarantee a quality experience. Not too much to ask, all things considered.
Any questions, email “Billy” at
(Ignore/delete the Z’s) ZbluemuserootsjamZ@Zgmail.com
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