Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

294
Banjo Lovers Online


 All Forums
 Playing the Banjo
 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Jams with too many banjos


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/394180

shadw - Posted - 11/27/2023:  07:27:38


Any tips for playing in a small jam with multiple banjos and not have it sound like garbage?



Only idea I’ve had is to have one banjo roll and the other vamp, but I wanted to see if you wise and more experienced players had any better suggestions!


Edited by - shadw on 11/27/2023 07:29:29

FenderFred - Posted - 11/27/2023:  07:40:22


quote:

Originally posted by shadw

Any tips for playing in a small jam with multiple banjos and not have it sound like garbage?



Only idea I’ve had is to have one banjo roll and the other vamp, but I wanted to see if you wise and more experienced players had any better suggestions!






Take it in turns to play a solo. Take turns in playing backup, one plays a roll backup, whilst another vamps and plays fill ins. Take turns sitting out, maybe singing instead


Edited by - FenderFred on 11/27/2023 07:41:16

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 11/27/2023:  07:42:49


Split up into separate jams.

Mad Hornet - Posted - 11/27/2023:  07:49:33


This actually happens a lot around here. Everyone just rolls with it.

phb - Posted - 11/27/2023:  07:51:02


I have heard about jams with too many banjos but only from mandolin and guitar players.

chuckv97 - Posted - 11/27/2023:  07:52:03


What Fred posted. The backbreaker is players who can’t play their rolls in time,, ragged rolls kill the song. If you’re a beginner don’t play if you can’t keep time,,, rant over.

phb - Posted - 11/27/2023:  08:01:06


Well, how are beginners supposed to learn to play in time with others if not in a jam session? To me that is a different skill (although dependent on) than playing in time with a metronome. But yes, beginners jams, of course. Hopefully there will be enough experienced jammers to keep the beginners jam from falling apart. In my local jam session we try to constantly walk the line to not drive off the good musicians, yet be encouraging enough to newcomers. Whenever the subject comes up, the organiser usually argues in favour of raising the bar while I take the side of the beginners...



The worst jams I have played in were those with a) too many players regardless of the actual instrument or level of playing because then the circle becomes so big that delays added up AND b) no bass to set a reference for all. This can become hell quickly even with mostly experienced jammers in the circle. The best solution really is to not play at all until it is your turn to take a break. I have only seen a jam split into two groups in separate rooms once and didn't like it too much because, of course, the good players and song leaders went to the room where I wasn't... laughblushcrying



 


Edited by - phb on 11/27/2023 08:03:15

Texasbanjo - Posted - 11/27/2023:  08:02:55


I've been in jams where there were 2 or 3 banjos and as long as each banjo player understands their spot; i.e., break or backup, it usually works pretty well. It's when one guy/gal decides to take over and drown out the other players is when it gets to the point it's either time to explain how it's supposed to be, ask him/her to leave or leave the jam and go home.

Usually, the banjo pickers just nod to each other when it's time for them to play some really good backup while others just vamp or roll. When a banjo picker has the nod for a break, others are quietly vamping in the background, allowing the one guy to really shine.

Rich Weill - Posted - 11/27/2023:  08:36:35


quote:

Originally posted by phb

Well, how are beginners supposed to learn to play in time with others if not in a jam session? To me that is a different skill (although dependent on) than playing in time with a metronome.






At the risk of going off topic, the problem of beginners keeping time with others in a jam session -- which is indeed different from playing in time with a metronome, because you no longer control the tempo -- often can be traced to how beginners are taught to play. Assuming we're not talking about raw beginners who can't keep time because they're fumbling to finger the next chord, beginners taught specific songs played a specific way have great difficulty modifying how they play these songs to fit them into a jam situation. They don't know how to strip a song down to its basics -- starting with a chord progression and a rhythmic right hand -- because they weren't taught to build a song up from the basics, adding in elements (e.g., melody, ornamentation) as they go. If you can't simplify a song when others are playing it faster than you do, you'll always lag behind. 

BTuno - Posted - 11/27/2023:  08:40:54


For me, open jams are to have fun playing music with others. Too many banjos, too many guitars? Don't participate if that bothers you, find a private jam. We just have to be considerate of each other; find ways to interact in fun and interesting ways: alternate lead and back-up, up-neck and melody, melody and harmony, claw hammer and 3-finger (Earl and Johnny McEwan on the Circle albums). Its even fun to have a banjo jam with only multiple banjos. Open Jams should be fun and communal !

Owen - Posted - 11/27/2023:  09:14:33


Tongue-in-cheek, treat it like a business .... buy out the competition.  cheeky  Yer welcome!



Fwiw, I've been told my timing is good [whatever that means], but I don't hear/get anything similar about any other aspect of my playing [cough, hack, cough].  I suspect there must be a  l-o-t  more to it.   wink



 

Jbo1 - Posted - 11/27/2023:  09:26:32


Since I also play Dobro, guitar and sometimes bass, I'll back off and let the other guys shine. For a while anyways.

monstertone - Posted - 11/27/2023:  10:07:08


All of the above, at one time or another, sooner or later. smiley The important thing here being diplomacy. One could always do as Bill Monroe was known to do, & vamp loudly, but then I am reminded it is sometimes better to remain silent & be thought a fool than to speak up & remove all doubt. The best I was ever able to come up with in situations like that was, take a break, put the banjo back in its case, walk away & chill for a while. Hopefully others would soon follow suit, & opportunity would become ripe for comment, sans offense, or embarrassment.


Edited by - monstertone on 11/27/2023 10:14:07

gentrixuk - Posted - 11/27/2023:  10:30:52


Another nice way to deal with it is to let one banjo start off then the others come in with some back up and gradually build up

TN Time - Posted - 11/27/2023:  11:42:47


"Too many banjos" didn't seem to be a problem for Earl Scruggs and Friends on The David Letterman Show.
Robert

Old Hickory - Posted - 11/27/2023:  11:57:32


quote:

Originally posted by shadw

Any tips for playing in a small jam with multiple banjos and not have it sound like garbage?






Well, we can give you tips for laying back -- playing minimally or not at all when you're not soloing; playing up the neck when most of the others are playing down the neck; playing only partial phrases (only 4, 5 or 6 notes per measure) when playing rolling or licks backup. Probably more.



I tend to play nothing for up to half a verse after I solo.



Since we can give these tips to the other banjo players, it's up to you to teach them by example.



In my opinion, banjo players with actual band experience should understand how to stay out of other players' ways -- even other banjo players, which is not something we typically experience in a band.



If these multiple banjo players can only play together in a way that sounds like garbage (your word), you're dealing with people who don't get along well with others. They're not succeeding at one of the first requirements of jamming.

Paul R - Posted - 11/27/2023:  12:52:19


I guess my one tip would be: Back off. At the BLuegrass jam we used to have, lead breaks were by nod from the song leader; all others were supposed to lay low and let the lead come through.

But our problem wasn't too many banjos, it was way too many guitars, and just too many people. It made for lots of noise and little good music.

One issue was lack of understanding of the words "Bluegrass" and "jam". Too many players just brought what they knew and didn't make an attempt to understand what consitutes Bluegrass music. And too many didn't seem to grasp that you need to bring at least a minimal skill set to a jam. This made nuanced playing inaudible.

bob chappell - Posted - 11/27/2023:  14:28:34


For me, in a jam with too many of 'any' instrument, I am always cognizant of the bass player. I can tell that after an instrumental that has over 9-10 breaks, he's either losing interest or flat wore out.

Owen - Posted - 11/27/2023:  18:30:39


Paul: "And too many didn't seem to grasp that you need to bring at least a minimal skill set to a jam."



Yes, indeedy... even those that advertise "... all skill levels welcome."  wink



I was at a jam once that advertised the first hour as "slow jamming."  It turned out that the hour lasted about 2 1/2 or 3 minutes .... however long it took to get through one tune.  Ah well, ya win some, ya lose some and some get rained out, I suppose.


Edited by - Owen on 11/27/2023 18:34:23

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 11/27/2023:  18:43:29


That settles it, Im going to throw banjo only jams...cuz you caint have too many banjers.  enlightened



 

Laurence Diehl - Posted - 11/27/2023:  22:29:05


I think the perfect number of banjos in a jam is two. Maybe three if they really know what they’re doing. I often don’t play anything at all when I’m not soloing, or plays so quietly that others can barely hear me.

banjopaolo - Posted - 11/28/2023:  04:41:56


Arturo Toscanini once was asked ‘which is the most beautiful instrument in the orchestra?’ The answer was: Flute… then he was asked ‘ and which is the worst?’ And he answered Two Flutes!

I think the same can be said for banjos….

wrench13 - Posted - 11/28/2023:  05:04:40


At our usual Tues nite jam, there is one banjo (NOT me - I'm a fiddler who is learning banjo). Occasionally there are 2, both very skilled, and thats not a problem. One is a Scruggs player the other is more a chromatic, Keith style player. BUT once in awhile there are 3 and even 4 banjos and these others are not highly skilled, more mid level players. The jam leader had/has to constantly remind the group about not stepping on others during solos and when there are vocalists singing! And the in-between songs noodling - that gets to be so bad no one can even hear the next tune being called! And only banjo players seem to do that - you dont hear mandos or guitars plucking around between songs. On fiddle, I solo and either just chunk out the on beat or completely shut up. During singing I occasionally play the rests in the melody or long bow chord double stops. I wish I had the magic answer to too many banjos. Well yes, maybe GOOD TASTE. But that can be in short supply sometimes.

steve davis - Posted - 11/28/2023:  07:49:56


If they are capoed leave yours off for access to those omitted lower tones.



Good or bad taste isn't the instrument's fault.


Edited by - steve davis on 11/28/2023 07:52:10

Rich Weill - Posted - 11/28/2023:  09:26:40


quote:

Originally posted by Paul R

And too many didn't seem to grasp that you need to bring at least a minimal skill set to a jam.






As long as we agree what this "minimal skill set" includes. Knowing the basic chords, recognizing chord progressions, rolling/vamping in rhythm, jam etiquette. Anything else? You don't need to know how to play "Cripple Creek" (or any other complete song) to jam.



The problem with requiring a "minimum skill set" is that it suggests you have to be a decent player to jam -- when jamming is how you become a decent player. And with skill comes ego, which can make that first jam a most deflating experience. Often never repeated. The less beyond the very basics you know, the easier it is to start jamming -- because you have no ego to deflate. You can't do much, which means you won't try much, but you'll have gotten started. 

wrench13 - Posted - 11/28/2023:  11:20:44


Re: Jamming, when I was just getting started on fiddle, I'd go to the jam sessions in Central Park, NY. The inner circle was Kenny Koseck, Bill Keith, Andy Statmann and the like. The next circle was those folks who HAD the needed minimum skill set to jam. The next circle (what I called the outer circle of Hell) was those rank beginners who were better off not heard at all. I remained there for a few years before I even dared to enter the next level circle. Newbies need to keep in mind that without the inner circle guys, there'd be no jam. Find a corner and work from there.

Paul R - Posted - 11/28/2023:  11:27:19


quote:

Originally posted by Rich Weill

quote:

Originally posted by Paul R

And too many didn't seem to grasp that you need to bring at least a minimal skill set to a jam.






As long as we agree what this "minimal skill set" includes. Knowing the basic chords, recognizing chord progressions, rolling/vamping in rhythm, jam etiquette. Anything else? You don't need to know how to play "Cripple Creek" (or any other complete song) to jam.



The problem with requiring a "minimum skill set" is that it suggests you have to be a decent player to jam -- when jamming is how you become a decent player. And with skill comes ego, which can make that first jam a most deflating experience. Often never repeated. The less beyond the very basics you know, the easier it is to start jamming -- because you have no ego to deflate. You can't do much, which means you won't try much, but you'll have gotten started. 






Top of the list for me would be the ability to listen.



I'm not looking for a virtuoso, but someone with the ability to hear what's going on and not be intrusive.



With another banjo in the group (better than me - and that's not hard), I'd often just chunk (especially since we didn't have good Bluegrass rhythm guitar players).

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 11/28/2023:  11:50:50


"And with skill comes ego"

Not universally, no. Let the ego maniacs try to out ego each other, the rest should have fun without them. Best musicians I know are pretty humble.

chuckv97 - Posted - 11/28/2023:  11:57:07


quote:

Originally posted by NotABanjoYoda

"And with skill comes ego"



Not universally, no. Let the ego maniacs try to out ego each other, the rest should have fun without them. Best musicians I know are pretty humble.






Reminds me of an interview I read years ago with Chet Atkins ; he was asked if he practiced scales - he replied, "No, but I'd probably be a better guitar player if I did." 


Edited by - chuckv97 on 11/28/2023 12:00:00

Rich Weill - Posted - 11/28/2023:  12:32:46


quote:

Originally posted by NotABanjoYoda

"And with skill comes ego"



Not universally, no. Let the ego maniacs try to out ego each other, the rest should have fun without them. Best musicians I know are pretty humble.






"Ego" is not egomania. Humble people have egos. "Ego" is only having a positive view of your ability, even if it's the limited ability of a beginner. Does anyone leave their first jam feeling better about their ability to play than when they walked in? If there is, that's news to me. A first jam experience is almost always deflating. All I'm saying is: the less you know above the bare minimum, the less air, and the less there is to deflate. The fundamental rule of first jams should be: don't do anything that decreases the likelihood you'll want to return for your second jam. 

NotABanjoYoda - Posted - 11/28/2023:  14:14:08


quote:

Originally posted by Rich Weill

quote:

Originally posted by NotABanjoYoda

"And with skill comes ego"



Not universally, no. Let the ego maniacs try to out ego each other, the rest should have fun without them. Best musicians I know are pretty humble.






"Ego" is not egomania. Humble people have egos. "Ego" is only having a positive view of your ability, even if it's the limited ability of a beginner. Does anyone leave their first jam feeling better about their ability to play than when they walked in? If there is, that's news to me. A first jam experience is almost always deflating. All I'm saying is: the less you know above the bare minimum, the less air, and the less there is to deflate. The fundamental rule of first jams should be: don't do anything that decreases the likelihood you'll want to return for your second jam. 






We wont be in agreement on anything here, which is what makes life fun!  My first jam was quite encouraging for me and my band mate.  I was 8 and practiced a couple songs until I knew them dead before going and it was with musicians my grandad and parents played with.



  Everyone has their own experience and inner circle no doubt, and every experience under the sun does occur for sure.  Id say jam with your own crew.  Recruit a couple friends if you dont have a jam crew.  Grow together.  Soon youll be a band rather than a loose gathering of strangers.



RGIRE



 



 



 



 

Paul R - Posted - 11/28/2023:  19:49:27


quote:

Originally posted by chuckv97

quote:

Originally posted by NotABanjoYoda

"And with skill comes ego"



Not universally, no. Let the ego maniacs try to out ego each other, the rest should have fun without them. Best musicians I know are pretty humble.






Reminds me of an interview I read years ago with Chet Atkins ; he was asked if he practiced scales - he replied, "No, but I'd probably be a better guitar player if I did." 






Or Chet Atkins and Les Paul on the Chester and Lester album. Les asks Chet, "Do you know who Mel Bay is?" and Chet answers, "He wrote those guitar instruction books." Les yells, "SEND FOR HIM!"


Ks_5-picker - Posted - 11/28/2023:  20:07:54


Most of the banjo player I know can play quietly until it’s their turn to shine. I usually try to make sure they get a chance to play the fills before their break comes along. They do the same for me.

A bigger problem for me is jammers who insist on changing keys on every song with no regard to capo position,and not only that,they don’t seem to think there’s a need to take the time to retune. :(


Edited by - Ks_5-picker on 11/28/2023 20:13:08

steve davis - Posted - 11/29/2023:  09:05:43


At Don Stover's campsite at Thomas Point Beach all pickers were welcome and everybody was given a break.



If someone's struggling at a jam don't just talk about them...talk TO them.That will help them learn about jams.A jam isn't a talent contest.


Edited by - steve davis on 11/29/2023 09:07:57

shadw - Posted - 11/29/2023:  09:56:30


Thanks, guys! I appreciate the sage advice and great tips that we will try. Maybe there are no “Jams with Too Many Banjos” after all, and this can be our band name.


Edited by - shadw on 11/29/2023 10:05:44

heavythumb - Posted - 11/29/2023:  11:11:28


When I am at jams with multiple banjos, I don't play at all when another banjo is taking a lead break.  When I take my break I play it in as different portion of the neck than the other banjo(s).



When another instrument is taking a lead break (say mandolin), I play back up in a different portion of the neck than other banjo(s).  That is, if the other banjos are playin' in the first to seventh fret area, I play in either the seventh to twelfth or the twelfth to twenty second fret area. 



I guess that is why I wear my frets out up-the-neck not in the first seven frets area.



YMMV



 



Heavythumb

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Privacy Consent
Copyright 2024 Banjo Hangout. All Rights Reserved.





Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories

0.09375