My instructor tells me I need to start playing with other folks, but I can't really find any who would want to play with a beginner-intermediate. There is a local jam session, but only advanced players attend, so I don't think i would mix too well.
I am thinking of buying one of those jam CDs that would at least give me some experience playing with others, even if they are digital. Any suggestions??? Or are there any YouTube videos that would work?
I've tried to use two of Pete Wernick's jam DVDs, but found that the collective sound of playing to a DVD (using TV speakers) is very different from having live musicians in the same room. The experience wasn't the same.
Are you sure you're not welcome at your local jam? Even advanced players welcome newcomers, as long as they know a few basics and have good etiquette.
Jack Hatfield has several jam CDs -- he leaves the banjo out so you can play the break and, as I remember, he plays them slowly and at tempo. hatfieldmusic.com
There's always Band in a Box for a price -- you can download over 200 FREE backup tracks to begin with and then put in chords to whatever song you're trying to learn. There are several vendors here on the Hangout who sell BIAB -- check them out, sometimes it's on sale. I recommend only buying the basic package - you don't need all the bells and whistles if you're just going to use it for learning to jam, do breaks and backup. Check out banjostore.com or elderly.com or check out some of the other vendors on this site.
I used the two Wernick Jam videos for practice. Sure, they're not as good as being in a jam scenario, but you can use them as part of your practice. I also felt they were instructive in general jam etiquette and as an introduction on the general role of an instrument in a jam scenario. If nothing else, it gives you practice changing chords while music is happening, and you don't have to use any slowdown software or the like. It's just another tool in the learning toolbox. If it works for you, use it.
I started using the backing tracks here recently. But then I thought of playing with the bluegrass jam sessions on youtube -- there are thousands of them. I have only been doing this for a couple of days, but wish I had started long ago. It is the next best thing to being at a real jam. I usually stop playing during the banjo breaks and just listen, and that gives me ideas. And I hear songs that I don't hear at the real jams I play at. I think I might spend most of my practice time doing this, at least for a while.
<< the collective sound of playing to a DVD (using TV speakers) is very different from having live musicians in the same room. The experience wasn't the same.>>
That is certainly true, but if you manage a decent volume (using earbuds out of a laptop sounds better and is less obtrusive than turning a TV up loud) it's still a good practice tool. For people with timing problems, trouble learning chords, or other jamming stumbles, it's the best way I know to solve those problems... in private.
I've tried to use two of Pete Wernick's jam DVDs, but found that the collective sound of playing to a DVD (using TV speakers) is very different from having live musicians in the same room.
For this reason I use a muted banjo with a pickup, mix the backing track with my banjo playing in a small mixer and replay the result via headphones. This works quite well for me even though as a whole back tracks certainly are only a bad substitute for a real jam.
Go to the jam and at least give them the opportunity to kick you out ;-)
Most jams will kick you out if you're obnoxious but if you're a newbie looking to learn, you can sit in the back and play chords quietly.
You can even record the sessions and use that for your practice track. I like that better than a static jam track that never changes. The other reason I don't like jam along tracks is because most students use that to practice their lead.
What you learn from actually attending a jam is that -you- have to play -backup- -most- of the time. You -can- work on that with a jam track (or any CD) but most folks don't hence the requirement from teachers to actually attend a jam.
Go to the jam.
Carry your banjo inside with you and leave it in the case and sit and listen if nothing else. Jams change every time depending on the musicians. If you hang out until the end, it often gets quieter. Or maybe show up early and try a few things with one or two others.
Playing with others will open up a whole new world.
I went through one of Pete's DVDs a couple of times last week for a change of pace (good practice). Went to an 8 hr jam Saturday night (played for about 6) and have another jam on tomorrow night. And there is another monthly jam I also go to when I can. All welcome/suit beginners. And heaps of conventions popping up to get together and jam at.
That's here in Aus. Surely there must be something in your area for beginners. As good as DVDs are, they can't kick back with a beer and talk banjo/BG like real people. My motivation and just knowing what I needed to learn went through the roof once I started going to jams.
I agree with Joe. I used Pete's DVD's quite a lot when they first came out (VHS tape originally!) and they really helped me to learn to hear chord changes, practice backup techniques, and to practice breaks as well. Then later they helped me to learn how to improvise. You can try all kinds of stuff without having to worry what someone else might think of your mistakes. And I think it really does translate well to jams - not exactly and not immediately, of course, but I don't know of any better way to prepare yourself to play in jams.
One of the most important things a jam DVD does is teach you to start a lead on time. When you're in a jam, and it's your turn, you have to hit right on going from backup to the lead. Being able to practice this at home is invaluable. I can't attest to Pete's stuff, as I've never used any of it, but jam DVD's and MP3's are quite helpful.
As a side note, I've been using VLC, a free media player, to slow down MP3's of Flatt and Scruggs so I can comfortably play along with them. The timing you learn from doing this is, in my opinion, greater than a jam DVD. Just my opinion.
I go to a jam every Sunday with players far, far more advanced than I am. I have learned so much about playing up the neck, timing, playing by ear, harmony, and so many other things just by sitting in. Often these players will take time to show me something or answer my questions. I don't really feel like I'm playing "with" them (I can't even roll fast enough to keep up). I sit back and just do what I can! But, it is a wonderful way to learn and I encourage anyone to go to a jam, no matter what the level.
When I started playing with Pete's intermediate dvd I slowed down the faster songs to be more comfortable with the tempo. Now I speed them all up. I never looked up a tab for any of the songs. I played along, catching a melody, picking up some of Pete's lick's, remembering the good stuff and recovering from the stuff that did not work out so well. I tried to make it better every time, without playing it the same way twice.
1. Introduce yourself. Explain that you are new to jamming. 2. Play very quietly. 3. Watch. 4. Listen. 5. Smile. 6. Go home and listen to a bunch of their jam tunes until you puke. 7. Go back every time and repeat steps 2-6.
Before you know it, you will find that those "advanced players" are almost always the nicest folks that you could ever meet, and they will start pushing you to improve and participate in a meaningful way.
99.9% of bluegrass folks are "salt of the earth", professionals and the very best of jammers included.
I have the Murphy Method slow jam DVD and it is helpful, but there is an awful lot of talking by Murphy. Casey does a nice job of counting down to "your" breaks during the jams and that is very handy. I am going to try Pete Wernick's DVDs next.
Yeah, I would really like to try the real jam, but i guess I want to find someone who makes as many mistakes as I do, at least for the first time. However, if I can swing it, I might go and listen a time or two. I will have to ask my instructor what he thinks.
But thanks for the tips on Pete's DVDs, as well as some of the emails I have gotten and the other websites. I think these have the advantage of better meeting my schedule, since I can use them anytime I want. And I would like to try a few things before I "go public".
And pcfive, as far as the YouTube idea, any idea what I should search for?
I wanted to report that I tried Pete's Intermediate Bluegrass Jamming DVD again, this time with a laptop and headphones, keeping one headphone slightly off my ear. It worked very well this way (as opposed to using a regular DVD player through the TV speakers). There are no jams this weekend. Pete's DVD was a good substitute.
Thanks for showing me a different way to use this DVD.
Check out the web site for "The Murphy Method." They sell a slow jam DVD, and "picking up the pace" jam DVD, and a fast tempo jam DVD.
Bought both of these for my Daughter for Christmas. Her Banjo picking is moving along well but I don't always have time to Jam with her so I figured these DVDs will help fill the gap. I read a review for them on another forum and they are well spoken of.