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The value of loud jams

Posted by WayneConrad on Thursday, October 10, 2019

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I'm going to write about ukulele some more, but it applies to banjo so don't tune out yet.  The Sam Ash music store near me has a ukulele jam every Tuesday, and I started going to it.  It's a big, loud jam, with 10 or more people... sometimes 30 or so... all pounding away on their ukuleles.  Some of them favor big, loud baritone ukuleles and use a plectrum just to make sure you can hear 'em.  It's sometimes so loud it's difficult to hear my own instrument.  At first that was annoying, and I wondered if it was worth going to it, but I stuck with it and now I've learned that big, loud jams can be great.

A big, loud jam is great precisely because it's big and loud.  If I can barely hear my mistakes, nobody else can, either.  That gives me room to experiment, mess up, try different things.  I can try improvising melodic lines, or strumming the backbeat instead of the front beat, or doing some three-finger-banjo style rolls with my right hand, anything at all.  If I try something and it sounds good, I can do it some more.  If it doesn't sound good, probably nobody heard me so it's alright.  A big, loud jam is freedom to experiment without fear of messing up the tune.

It's not just the idea of going to big, loud jams that applies to the banjo, but some of the things I'm learning on ukulele apply directly to banjo as well.  There's not a huge difference between ukulele and banjo--they both have reentrant tuning, scales on one aren't that different than scales on the other.  There's no doubt that my ukulele playing is not authentic, having a strong banjo accent, and my banjo playing is certainly not a great example of any one style either.  But I never set out to be a great example of anything.

I have picked up the banjo again--it turns out I don't have a metal allergy after all, so it's safe for me to play banjo.  Also, the band has asked me to play in a folk festival next year, so it's time to shake the rust off.  So I'll be able to write more directly about banjo again.



2 comments on “The value of loud jams”

carlb Says:
Friday, October 11, 2019 @7:02:22 AM

Rather then big loud jams, I prefer that more novice players, as I did, just play more softly until they catch the tune. I still do that when a tune is played that I don't know and try to catch while everyone is playing.

pickn5 Says:
Thursday, October 24, 2019 @4:56:14 AM

WayneConrad my first and only jam experience so far was not great, but, not bad either. The skill level of the regulars was way above my perpetual novice level. I sat outside the circle and cheat vamped for a couple of hours. I'm not giving up and continue to work on my playing backup and breaks. I don't know if these old fingers will ever be fast enough, but, the picking and learning makes me happy. Keep picking.

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