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February 4th Jam Session

Posted by tklassen on Tuesday, February 5, 2008


There is a local bluegrass, old time, and folk music association which holds an open picking session twice a month.  I have been attending off and on since it's inception in 1987.  I haven't been there for a few years and made the effort tonight to go.  It was good to see many old familiar faces and acquaintances. The tunes are still sung with enthusiasm and instruments played with gusto.

The session turned into an athletic exercise as to who can play the fastest and loudest. It is tough to compete with 10 guitar players who take no quarter; banging with abandon with no regard as to who is singing or God forbid someone taking a break. They all shall be heard.

It was good for me to be humbled again, to fall into their trap, to pull on my strings like there was no tomorrow. I was beaten. There was no banjo in this world that would match their volume. And the harder I pulled the louder they became. There was no room for intricate and subtle. There was no place for the complexity of passing tones. There was only room for straight ahead hard core drive.

I moved to a different area of the building and found a small group with gentle music. But they came first one, then another, then a couple more. The vicious circle started again.

Over the years these sessions taught me a lot about volume, listening, and making the music sound good. The importance of enhancing the sound and not dominating it. How not to behave when playing in a group setting. Many will never learn, a few will and be a joy to pick a few tunes with.


I must now turn the lights off and lock the doors I think they are in the driveway.

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