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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Terminology Used in Bluegrass/Old Time Jams

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hayesdt - Posted - 04/10/2011:  07:29:25

When I play in a number of jam groups -- whether Old Time or Bluegrass -- some of the players use terms when playing whose meaning I'm not always familiar with.  I know, for example, what a "Tag" is when someone yells it out near the end of a tune, but what do some of these terms/phrases mean?

     Take It Home / Bring It Home

     Turn It Around / Turn Around

Also, are there other common terms used in jams that a player should be familiar with?

Edited by - hayesdt on 04/10/2011 07:29:54

tombriarhopper - Posted - 04/10/2011:  07:36:15

I watch for the non-verbal tags...the head nod to you means that it is your time for a break...if you shake your head in the negative, then it goes to somebody else...the leg going up means the song is about to end...the tomato thrown at you means you are out of tune...stuff like that!

JonT - Posted - 04/10/2011:  07:51:22

Take it home = end it/do the final verse and tag.

Turn it around = do it again/do that break again/do the tag again.

blanham - Posted - 04/10/2011:  08:41:39

A "turn around" is done when the singer is between verses, where the instruments repeat the last phrase that the singer just sang.

Another term I sometimes hear is "around the horn."  I don't know exactly what around the horn is, but it has to do with going around the circle of 5th's, like the chord progression in "Salty Dog Blues," where your chords are G, E, A, D, and G (I,VI,II,V,I).

pdbanjo - Posted - 04/10/2011:  09:52:48

The jams I've been at, "Around the horn" usually means each player in the jam circle will be offered a break. Usually this proceeds in a clockwise rotation. When it gets back to the person that started the tune he/she may keep it going around the horn by playing another solo or take it home with leg movement toward the circle center and playing an ending tag or play a last solo with ending tag thereby "bringing it home". 

 As said above, jazzers sometimes use the term "around the horn"  in the context of playing a bridge using a certain chord progression of the circle of 5ths that resolves back to the key that the song is in.

Edited by - pdbanjo on 04/10/2011 10:08:11

HolyGrass - Posted - 04/10/2011:  10:00:11

I like the use of "gears" instead of "keys"


Steven M - Posted - 04/10/2011:  13:18:30

Lessons in the blindingly obvious surely!

The Old Timer - Posted - 04/10/2011:  15:03:39

A "tag" usually means the singers repeat the last line of the song.   "Tag it" informs everybody that double ending is coming up.  An instrument could play the tag too, like Ricky Skaggs hit record of Cryin' My Heart Out Over You where the fiddles play the tag, repeating the last line.

"Take it home", "bring it home" or even "home" means it's time to end.  Monroe hollers "On the way home now" the last go-round of the Wheel Hoss recording, for instance.  I've also heard some of today's Nashville pickers say "put it in the bed!".   I heard a bunch of them pickin' with Earl at a party once where they slammed a tune home with a great ending, and Earl or somebody commented "he really put that 'un in the bed, didn't he!"

A "turn around" is an instrumental introduction or break, which is typically just the last line of the song.  Perfect example is how F&S started off "I'll Go Steppin' Too" with a fiddle "turnaround" by Benny Martin.

"Split it" means two instruments would share a break in a vocal song, again like I'll Go Steppin' Too where the banjo and fiddle alternate lines.

"Around the horn", hmmm, I've heard that term only in a Gibson Bros. song about baseball in an iron mining town!   In a jam session, when everyone is really cooking, sometimes the leader will tell the instrumentalists to "go around" so everybody gets multiple chances to pick more breaks.  I guess "around the horn" would do for that, like baseball players throwing the ball around after an out.

"Kick it off" should be obvious, someone start the song off with an introduction, or just start pickin' it!  "Kick it off with a turnaround" would mean play the last line of the song as an introduction...

Banjoists and fiddlers play fancy endings, sometimes called "tag endings", like "shave and a haircut" and the like.   That's not the same as "tag it".  I don't know any "proper" jam session terminology to describe these endings.  Someone has probably named them.  There are "Jimmy Martin endings" with the instruments vamping/rolling rhythm until the guitar man makes a big G run and WHOMP! they stop.  There is the near-standard Flatt & Scruggs ending carried by the banjo, I don't have words to describe it but we all know it.  There's the Bill Monroe ending where he "thrashes" the mandolin for lack of a better word, or even the "terse" Bill Monroe ending where he chops the mandolin ONCE and they're done!  There's the "hillbilly ending" usually played by the fiddler, followed by the rhythm instruments just thrashing the chords in the pattern of "shave and haircut", Monroe liked that one.  There's the famous Ralph Stanley 6-stroke strum ending on the banjo.

I suppose Murphy or someone has named Earl's and Ralph's "long endings" to banjo numbers, like Earl's Breakdown, Pike County Breakdown, Big Tildy, etc.


pdbanjo - Posted - 04/11/2011:  12:55:31

Sometimes someone will say "split eights" or 4s or even 2s. This means you split a solo up amongst all the players into 8 bars, or 4 bars etc. You solo for eight bars then the next person picks up where you left off and plays the next 8 bars and so on around the group. Gets pretty exciting when it's down to 2s.

El Dobro - Posted - 04/11/2011:  13:05:00

There are many terms, but quite a few can't be mentioned here.

mybote - Posted - 04/11/2011:  14:12:32

Last time someone told me to take it home, they really meant, "take it home".   " And don't come back 'till you can play better."

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