Due to obligations and the needs / demands of aging parents, I have not played the banjo with other musicians in a very long time. Last Thursday night I did, and I had a blast. It helped that the individual who invited me did not attend. Every time I was asked to start a tune or sing, I announced that “Mr. ____” had allowed me 30 passes for my first night at the jam. It also helped that I knew one of the musicians there. Just getting exposure to keys other than G and playing in semi-darkness were great fingerboard exercises.
- Smile, be friendly, be polite, don’t be the last to leave unless you help clean up or put away chairs, etc.
- Lay back and enjoy, you don’t have to play every tune
- Sometimes it is best to just listen
- Examine your motive(s) for being there
- Knowing 10 tunes at 110% is not the same as knowing 100 tunes at 75% (one banjo player there was able to take a break on everything played… very impressive! I, on the other hand, could not play a break to much of anything, although, “technically speaking”, I have a better three-finger roll.)
- Find out what keys the old fiddle tunes are in and learn them, or at least a good accompaniment arrangement to play along with the fiddle
I left the jam in awe of good people and musicians that could play an entire evening, not require song books, and enjoy each others’ company. I am also amazed that a couple would open up their home every other Thursday night for the size of crowd that was there, with cold bottled water and soft drinks, extra chairs, and citronella candles burning all around.
I’d like to thank Glenn and Charlotte England of Killen, AL, for opening up their home, Bill Morrison of Florence, AL, for inviting me to the jam, and to a very talented Mark Campbell of Florence, AL, for showing up in spite of knowing I would be there. (LOL)
Lastly, I’d like to thank Kyle K. Smith for providing me with the best sounding banjo of that evening. The two others there were well respected, well known brands, but fell just short of the hollow, reflexive pop, and depth of color that I was able to coax out of my Smith Legend.
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