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Sep 11, 2019 - 9:11:35 PM
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JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

G'day time for a new topic, and before you ask, no I have never been to a jam, but have played at Church once during worship. Yes I am a fussy guy when it comes to genres, and usually like Hillbilly music, and the true western sounds in country music, Gospel, and a bit of Celtic.

So yep in saying that, in Australia those kind of genres aren't so popular and you will more find people playing bluegrass instruments usually leaning more towards pop-folk and putting a twist on a rock song, so it's a different approach to backwoods bluegrass instruments used in a more pop culture style, then what those in backwoods America would be familiar with.

Anyway putting that aside, so you go to a jam or maybe decide I am gonna play with the Worship team, how do you work out progressions if you aren't familiar with the song, yes someone might tell you what key they are playing, and you go okay, so I can make a start from that, but how do you know what chord they play next?

If it's a basic 3 chord I-IV-V progression in a song, you will have a maximum 33.3% chance of getting it right, if there are more chords to it then obviously chances get slimmer, at least that's what I think at the moment anyway.

So is there anyway to predict what chord comes next more accurately instead of taking a wild guess at it?

Or would you recommend learning guitar chords or mandolin chords as well, and look at where the guitar player or Mando is playing for a reference?

Or maybe try to pick up really good sound recognition by ear, and pick up what note they play instantly. And be able to jump into and play along a few milli-seconds later to play together?

Edited by - JKabilly on 09/11/2019 21:13:48

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:10:54 PM
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10047 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by JKabilly

So is there anyway to predict what chord comes next more accurately instead of taking a wild guess at it? . . . . . . maybe try to pick up really good sound recognition by ear, and pick up what note they play instantly. And be able to jump into and play along a few milli-seconds later to play together?


Yes. That's exactly what developing an ear is all about. It's real and all of the experienced players on the Hangout have it.

It comes from listening and playing. It comes to some people faster than others. After a while, it might only take hearing one verse to be fairly certain of what the chords are.

But it's also possible to anticipate chords in real time the first time through and guess right most of the time.  There is no delay of milliseconds. The ear player keeps up with the changes as they happen. Really.

quote:
Originally posted by JKabilly

Or would you recommend learning guitar chords or mandolin chords as well, and look at where the guitar player or Mando is playing for a reference?


All the time.  Why rely only on your ear and guessing when you can essentially read the chords? Since many banjo players also play guitar, we watch a solid guitar player. I watch the guitar player for confirmation that I'm hearing the right chords and for clarification when I can't seem to get them.  It happens.

If you don't play guitar, at least learn what the chords look like.

 

But there's another way to know the chords in a jam: Ask.  People won't mind taking 30 seconds or so to run through the chords. It's better than having a train wreck.

Here in the U.S., it's typical bluegrass jam etiquette for the person who calls the tune to be sure everyone knows it. If not, it's that person's responsibility to quickly describe or demonstrate the progression. In fact, at every jam I've ever attended, the ability to explain and lead a song is a requirement to call one. If you can't do that, then the jam leader will suggest that you play along but not lead any songs.

Edited by - Old Hickory on 09/11/2019 22:18:40

Sep 11, 2019 - 10:32:53 PM
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6553 posts since 2/14/2006

This is an excellent question. I am teaching a friend of mine how to play bass, and she can't hear the chord changes yet. She has good timing, but can't do the changes really well yet. So, what I do with her is for me to play guitar and she play bass, and she watch my hand change chords. She can do that fine, but then I play the same song with my hands hidden, and see if her memory serves her well to remember where to go. I know in a jam you don't have time to practice.. but that's why it's important to practice like this so that you can build your ear training level up a notch each time.

Sep 12, 2019 - 4:04:19 AM
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Willin

USA

145 posts since 4/28/2015

A few years in and I'm finding anticipating chord changes challenging, but it is coming. No previous musical experience, no previous instrument playing and sixty years of age when I started. If I had a do over I would have devoted more time to learning my timing with music rather than a metronome. Don't take that wrong. A metronome, for me, was essential to getting timing down. I'm constantly still working at it. But as was mentioned, beginning to train my ear could have started earlier in my learning.

I drill now a lot more with Strum Machine through chord changes than a metronome. It's STILL taking daily work, but it is coming, slowly.

Geoff Howald gave me a CD set early in my playing. It was Bert Casey's Acoustic Guitar Practice CD. He plays 22 songs, the usual suspects, at three speeds. I listen to it A LOT to bake in those chord changes. I think it's on Geoff's website for sale. Highly recommend it. I'm sure there are others.

I have a pic hanging in my practice area of the four main guitar chord positions for G I got from Pete Wernick's Bluegrass Jamming pdf. The Murphy Method DVD's have a breakout window on their jamming video's that zoom in on the guitar players hand. I think some of Pete Wernicks video's do too.

I'm a big believer in simple rote and repetition for learning, at least for me. I picked 10 songs from Bert's CD's and made a separate song list on my Strum Machine smartphone app. Whenever I have a few spare minutes I use it like flash cards to memorize those chord progressions for those 10 songs. I try to play through those ten songs in order, one each day, a few times. I find, for me, it helps commit them to memory. "They" say there are a few different basic groupings for the G C D progression. I tried to pick songs that represented each with the hope they carry over to songs that may come after those 10 backup songs are learned. Jam Buddy Chord Chart was a great tool for helping choose those ten.

All the above being rationally and methodically conveyed, I still choke when playing in front of people. But I do it anyway. Most jam members are quite kind and helpful.

Hope this helps! Remember to have fun.

Sep 12, 2019 - 4:40:26 AM

JKabilly

Australia

88 posts since 3/23/2013

Does anyone here learn a song on another instrument and then record it and try to play along on the banjo as practice?

Sep 12, 2019 - 4:48:56 AM
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Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

23184 posts since 8/3/2003

When I first started going to jams, I didn't have any idea about chord progressions or how to figure them out. A very nice jammer told me to learn a few guitar chord fingerings (I didn't play guitar) and watch the rhythm guitar player and when he changed chords, you do, too. At first it was difficult because by the time I figured out the chord, it had changed. After a while, I could change with the guitar picker, then I could feel a chord change coming although I might not get the right chord and eventually, I knew there was a chord change coming and usually knew what it was. All that didn't happen in a week or a month, but in many months. It did, however, teach me to listen and hear and play by ear.

Now I can get in a jam, hear a brand new song, figure out the chord sequence and take at least a simple break when the nod comes my way. That's when jamming really becomes fun!

You will also find that many songs have the exact same chord progression  although the melody is different.  That also helps you when jamming.  You will also figure out what I call "musical phrases" which will work with numerous songs and that makes taking a break easier. 

Edited by - Texasbanjo on 09/12/2019 04:50:48

Sep 12, 2019 - 5:15:27 AM
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2427 posts since 4/19/2008

Use the first four notes of the song HOW DRY I AM to get the idea of the aural spacial distances between the I IV V VI intervals, for example in the key of G, G C D E   That's about 95% of chord movement in the genres mentioned. BTW if you can't play or sing these pitches starting at any pitch on your instrument you will need to work on ear-training.

Sep 12, 2019 - 5:36:19 AM
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14251 posts since 12/2/2005

Good advice so far (I especially like Old Hickory's).

Let me add one tidbit to the counsel to listen a lot. When listening, don't listen to the banjo. Concentrate on listening to the bass and the singer (or lead instrument). First, identify the location of the chord changes. Next, listen to how the lead and bass approach that change - there are common "tells" that occur pretty frequently (for example, if you're on the I chord and hear the bass move to a flatted 7th, 99.99% of the time you're going to a IV chord, because that flatted 7th is leading our ears to the 3 note of the IV chord).

This skill takes time to develop, but the good news is that in most popular forms of music - bluegrass, country, pop, rock, even a lot of jazz and swing music - the same thing happens. So you can listen to a wide variety of music and help yourself develop the skill.

Sep 12, 2019 - 5:39:24 AM
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Paul R

Canada

11544 posts since 1/28/2010

In my experience, most pickers will watch the guitar players hands if they aren't familiar with the song. Being given the key will give you most of the chords if you are familiar with the chords in each key (1, 4, 5, 2, 6m, and so on). when you've been jamming for weeks/months/years, it will become more or less automatic, through experience and practice. Eventually you will be able to hear, and even anticipate, the changes.

Sep 12, 2019 - 6:51:47 AM
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3243 posts since 3/28/2008

As usual, Skip, Ken, and Sherry give good suggestions. While you'll need to develop your ear, your fellow pickers can help you out--if they have the skills and awareness to do so--by giving you cues like seventh chords and bass runs that tell you musically what the next chord is going to be. (A seventh chord makes you want to go to the chord whose root is a fourth higher. For example, G7 makes you want to go to C, or D& makes you want to go to G. Try it yourself: play G, then G7, then C.)

And in a three-chord song, if you're on the right chord to start with, your chances of getting the next one right are 50%, not 33.333...% Pretty good odds!

Sep 12, 2019 - 6:59:53 AM
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Players Union Member

pickn5

USA

1326 posts since 8/8/2012

I've never been to a jam so I know how you feel. I'll be attending my first jam on September 21st hosted by the Mohawk Valley Bluegrass Association. In preparation, I've been working on my backup playing skills, which are sorely lacking. I'm using Geoff Hohwald's Banjo Rhythm & Backup 101, which is helping me with learning the chords up and down the neck using all the chord shapes, learning to anticipate chord changes and chord progressions. I was nervous about playing with others, so I emailed the Association President explaining my situation and asking about sitting outside the jam circle and quietly vamping, working on my chord changes, and ear training. I also asked if there were other novice players and slow jams. His answer was that I should attend, play at my own pace, and if I had any questions to ask a experienced player and they would be happy to help. I'm still nervous, but, I'm also excited. Keep picking.

Edited by - pickn5 on 09/12/2019 07:06:39

Sep 12, 2019 - 7:53:03 AM
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10047 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by JKabilly

Or maybe try to pick up really good sound recognition by ear, and pick up what note they play instantly.


All of us have glossed over that one detail in our comments. The goal in developing an ear is not to recognize notes but the spaces between notes (intervals) and the flow of the harmony (chord changes).

Recognizing notes is perfect pitch, which you don't need and can't develop as an adult anyway. Recognizing intervals as they relate to melody notes and chord changes is relative pitch, the skill that every successful ear player and improviser has, even if they don't know they do.

The good news is you can learn to recognize and even anticipate chord changes. As all of us have said in one way or another, it takes time and lots of listening.  Listen to the songs you're likely to play at your jams. Thanks to YouTube and the Hangout MP3 Library, there's a free version of just about any song you're likely to need.

Here's a free bluegrass songbook (one big copyright violation, I'm surecheeky) from the Capital Area Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association. All the chords are in number form to simplify playing in any key. Follow along with the chord charts to learn the sounds of 1>4, 1>5, 5>1, 1>6m, etc.  Play those chord changes so you know what they sound like on banjo. It would be great if you could play guitar chords, but not necessary.

Then listen without any charts and see if you can find the key, recognize when the chords change and get each chord right. Play along just vamping the chords.

If your goal is to be able to go to a jam and play songs you've never played or even heard before, then you should make some type of ear training a regular part of your practice. 

Good luck.

Sep 12, 2019 - 8:01:43 AM

204 posts since 6/19/2011

quote:I also have Geoff Hohwad's "Banjo Rhytham & Backup 101 Package on DVD" and " Jack Hatfield's Backup Techniques on the Five-String Banjo".  Both of these have helped me a bunch.
Originally posted by pickn5

I've never been to a jam so I know how you feel. I'll be attending my first jam on September 21st hosted by the Mohawk Valley Bluegrass Association. In preparation, I've been working on my backup playing skills, which are sorely lacking. I'm using Geoff Hohwald's Banjo Rhythm & Backup 101, which is helping me with learning the chords up and down the neck using all the chord shapes, learning to anticipate chord changes and chord progressions. I was nervous about playing with others, so I emailed the Association President explaining my situation and asking about sitting outside the jam circle and quietly vamping, working on my chord changes, and ear training. I also asked if there were other novice players and slow jams. His answer was that I should attend, play at my own pace, and if I had any questions to ask a experienced player and they would be happy to help. I'm still nervous, but, I'm also excited. Keep picking.


Sep 12, 2019 - 8:03:31 AM

chuckv97

Canada

42699 posts since 10/5/2013

Along the lines of Rick V’s suggestion ; play the notes of the G scale on the banjo - do, re, mi, fa, so, la, it,do. (starting on G, the open 3rd string), then sing or hum them. Now just sing the 1st, 4th, and 5th notes of the scale: do, fa, so. This will ingrain the root notes of the G, C, and D chords in your mind. It’s also something you can do away from the banjo after a while.

Sep 12, 2019 - 8:04:45 AM
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3421 posts since 5/6/2004

Here's the No. 1 piece of advice I ever got from a Hangout post: In a I-IV-V song, the melody generally goes up when moving from the I to the IV, and generally goes down when moving from the I to the V.

Listen to a bunch of straightforward, three-chord songs. Listen to the movement of the song. The melody will track that movement. In a I-IV-I-V-I song, it will start on a level plane (I), then push up (IV), then level back (I), then dip down (V), then level off again (I).

I used to sit listening to songs holding my hand in front of me. I'd start with my hand level and my palm down. When I heard that upward movement, I'd point up. Then level off. Then point down, etc. Sometimes, it didn't sound like it was dipping down (I-V), but rather going around and down. That, I realized, is the sound of a I-II-V.

Sep 12, 2019 - 10:14:28 AM

322 posts since 11/21/2018

This may help...
Interval tricks for notes/recognition:
1-4 = "Here comes" as in the song "Here Comes the Bride"
1-5 "Twinkle Twinkle" in "T. T. Little Star"
If you're able, sing octave notes (low G-high G, etc.) a lot to get another feeling for when the song goes back to the I chord of a tune.
Practice singing those a lot backwards and forwards (up and down) in the car, mowing the lawn, etc.
It's a pretty simple way to start training your ear. I'm in the same situation as you, new to jams
and my eye is on the guitar players' fingers or listen for the above intervals from the bassist.

If you have a piano/keyboard instrument in your home, they provide the best visual reference for seeing as well as an auditory one which helps people who are visual learners primarily but won't help in a bluegrass jam.

Edited by - northernbelle on 09/12/2019 10:16:57

Sep 13, 2019 - 6:03:29 AM

2706 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by northernbelle

This may help...
Interval tricks for notes/recognition:
1-4 = "Here comes" as in the song "Here Comes the Bride"


Except the notes in the scale are actually a fifth up to the tonic. In key of G it's a D note to G. 

----------

As other others mentioned... lots of listening, and practice in picking out chords on fly. One good practice is try to figure out songs you hear on lots of recordings, (or just recall in your head)... try one chord then the other. Doing with your banjo, not worried about playing rolls or melody, just matching what chord sounds like it fits.

You might notice that there is also some typical ways songs are composed, structure. that phrases are often groups of even bars 4/8; and chord changes tend to come in those even points. There is also typical cadences at the end of verses/chorus that go to the 5 chord before resolving back the the home chord. Try to pay attention to the sound of going to 1 to 4 chord, and then the 1 to 5; how they are different. Listen to melodic cues, they can imply where the next is going. 

Sep 13, 2019 - 7:20:02 PM

47 posts since 1/2/2019

There are only so many chord progressions. The more songs you learn and play, the more you will see the same chord progressions used. I don't have perfect pitch - I've always wished I did. People who do can pick anything up easily. My friend has perfect pitch and whether its jazz, rock, country, bluegrass, she plays right along. It always amazes me. But, over the years, just from playing, I can now pick out chord progressions pretty easily - finally - it took long enough :). It just comes from practice, learning songs and eventually you will hear the changes.

At a jam, they will tell you the key, then maybe say, its I,IV, V or a variation. If you can't get it, or get lost in the jam - fake it. Mute your strings and smile. Everyone will think you're playing along :) I'd rather be silent than hit wrong, jarring chords and never be invited back. When I first started jamming, I would just go watch. Watch enough and you will see the same songs done. Make a list, learn them and you will be prepared and will be able to follow the progressions. It just takes time, but you will get it.

Sep 15, 2019 - 8:02:20 AM

69852 posts since 5/9/2007

In the key of G the first change is very likely to be the IV chord(C) and the chord near the end is often the V (D).
As far as taking a guess go with the IV which doesn't sound as out of place against the V as the V does against the IV.

Sep 17, 2019 - 8:19:05 AM
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2000 posts since 4/5/2006

Long story short, it takes time to learn to recognize the clues leading into a chord change.  Most of us have spent countless hours listening to recordings of songs, banjo in hand, playing along. repeatedly, until we had just that one song figured out. I's, IV"s &V's are rather easy to recognize, it's the odd ball chords that give you problems. The dominate 7th's are the easiest & most common, and like said always lead into a IV chord. Learn to hear that first. Next are the minor chords, After that comes the II chord, which will usually lead into the V chord.. 

What I found to really help flatten out that learning curve was to befriend a good rhythm guitar player/vocalist & be able to work with him/her on a regular basis. Guitar players will often play little runs "walking" into & out of chord changes. Clues.

Like anything else, priorities & commitment become a major factor. Get in on "the pipe line" Attend every jam & festival you can. Be bold, jam with pickers better than you. But don't make an a$$ of yourself while doing it. Be courteous, ask questions, but be subtile about it. No one wants to have to give a re-run/lesson after every song. A few compliments now & then go a long way towards racking up points. 

Sep 19, 2019 - 7:33:24 AM

69852 posts since 5/9/2007

Chords have different "feels".The IV (C in key of G) feels like there's more to happen and the V(D in key of G) has a feeling of impending finality,in general.

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