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Apr 28, 2024 - 3:35:26 PM
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7396 posts since 2/14/2006

Don't get me wrong. Over all and in general, I'd rather jam in a group these days than not at all. But I remember the life that jams back in the day had. Some of this "non life" jams may be dead to me because I've been doing this for 40 years.

But back then, you didn't have a neat little circle or have "turns" or automatic tuners. It was raw, and the rawness made it as special as the music. It wasn't as woke or politically correct as we are today. I loved those times. People, musicians alike, actually listened to the chord changes and the vocals and the soul of the sound. Today, when it gets your turn you call out the key because nobody can figure it out on their own, make sure you're in tune according to the tuner, because no one can tune on their own, and if you need it, someone has offered an iPod with a stand and the words to the songs (and the chord changes). Sigh. And then while you're singing yours, the next in line is already queuing up their song on their tablet.

Sorry, but it's all too true.

Apr 28, 2024 - 4:49:26 PM
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Players Union Member

Foote

USA

714 posts since 3/25/2009

I agree with much of what you said, but I do like tuners. I've been playing almost 50 years and I remember jams trying to figure who I should try to tune to. But as for woke, I recently was at a jam and did "Big Spike Hammer" only to be told by a female guitar player (a good friend for many years) that the song was upsetting to her because implied violence to women ("I'll get even some day"). I guess Pretty Polly would really be over the line! At least I didn't use the wrong pronoun for anyone(s).

Apr 28, 2024 - 5:04:49 PM
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79859 posts since 5/9/2007

So now someone has to attach "woke" to electronic tuners?...Wow!
I love tuners compared to the old days of "tune to the harmonica".
Now,when we show up at jams (3 a week) everybody's already in tune and we can jump right into the first tune.

If "woke" means saving time and aggravation getting in tune just call me "Woke and proud of it."

Apr 28, 2024 - 5:06:35 PM
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62246 posts since 12/14/2005

Nearest open mic is sixty some miles, so it's a rare treat.
And those not on stage can sit at their tables and pick along.
The key is announced, out of simple courtesy to all, including the newbies.

Some time ago, I sat near a newby (she had her guitar out) and told her that Foggy Mtn Breakdown was just 3 chords, and spoke them as the people on stage played them.
Since every previous time she's seen it done there, it was done with such excellence, she thought it must be VERY difficult.
She's been OK with it ever since.

For those of you within 70 or 100 miles of Waterford, Wisconsin, it's at Marty's on Main street, every first and third Wednesday.
6PM to 9

Apr 28, 2024 - 5:20 PM
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79859 posts since 5/9/2007

What does "politically correct" have to do with getting in tune and having fun playing music?

Apr 28, 2024 - 5:24:08 PM
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Fathand

Canada

12399 posts since 2/7/2008

I appreciate people being in tune. Tuners speed up the process.

I'd rather call out a key and any odd chords than try to play and or sing with half the people not playing in the right key til the last verse. Most people don't read banjo chords as well as they do guitar chords.

I'll agree that a person leading a song at a jam should know it and not be trying to learn it from a book or tablet during a jam. I've seen enough blank stares into books and heard enough soulless singing and playing mistakes that could have been learned at home.

In Big Spike Hammer, the "woman or hammer will be the death of" Big Bill. Maybe it implies violence against men.

Ultimately, you could avoid some public jams and create private jams with players of a skill level that fits your desires.

Apr 28, 2024 - 5:30:07 PM

Fathand

Canada

12399 posts since 2/7/2008

quote:
Originally posted by steve davis

What does "politically correct" have to do with getting in tune and having fun playing music?


I think the "woke" and PC issues relate to some lyrics. I was once told people wouldn't sing Old Spinning Wheel because the couple in the song was singing Old Black Joe.  They now sing soft and low if I sing it. Lyrics are easily changed.

Edited by - Fathand on 04/28/2024 17:31:26

Apr 28, 2024 - 5:40:33 PM
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PKM

USA

535 posts since 4/19/2011

I'm sorry but this strikes as just a random rant, longing for the way things were, and unable to cope with change for the better.
And while you're at it, lest add: Kids today can't drive a manual shift, I remember when a 2 x 4 was really 2" x 4", and in the good old day I could.... yada, yada, yada...

Get a grip. You're playing a banjo, for goodness sake ! Thats just cool, and enjoy that you're fortunate to do it with others who love the music. My grandmother had a saying, "He has indigestion, from food that is too good."

Apr 28, 2024 - 6:40:04 PM
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15440 posts since 6/2/2008

quote:
Originally posted by ilinoyer

Don't get me wrong. . . .Sorry, but it's all too true.


Don't get me wrong, but (in my opinion) it's also true that . . .

The neat little circle with turns means after each song someone's going to call the next song and that's what we're going to play because that's the rule. That replaces the old days of "What do you want you play?" "I don't know, what do you want to play?" "How about Old Home Place?" "No. I don't want to play that one." etc . . .

Electronic tuners mean more people play in tune, so the music sounds better.

Circles and tuners have nothing to do with rawness, which to me is about how people approach and play the music. If you equate raw with out-of-tune, then I believe most people are going to disagree with you.

I'm not even going touch the complaint about woke or politically correct other than to ask why you have to resort to code words rather than say exactly what you mean?

As to people listening (or not) to chord changes and the sound of the music, there are different levels of jams for people of different musical abilities. I play at plenty of advanced jams where people are expected to be able to listen to what's happening so they can hear the changes, improvise, and contribute to the sound. But, even at advanced jams, it's always considered basic jam etiquette to announce the key in advance. A brief statement of the progression (in numbers) is always appreciated. How else are people supposed to play the first chord if they don't know (1) the number of the first chord, and (2) the key of the song?  How else are people who might use a capo for a song in A, B-flat, or B (just examples), supposed to have the capo on the right fret ready to go if the person calling the song doesn't announce the key before playing song?

iPads with lyrics have simply replaced the notebooks, binders, and loose sheets with lyrics from the good old days. Actually, I still see lyrics on paper at every jam I attend. It does not offend me to play music with people who can't remember the lyrics to every song they may to sing.  Someone's silently cuing up their iPad song sheet while the preceding song is being played,maybe to save time between songs? What's this world coming to?

Apr 28, 2024 - 7:06:43 PM
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Owen

Canada

15306 posts since 6/5/2011

Cuing up for the next song???  What a novel idea!!!  wink  

I go to a couple of jams [maybe mostly classic (?) country] where more often than not the next person up seems to be totally taken by surprise: wha?  me?  huh? ... rifle thru a couple of pages of stuff ... shuffle up toward the mic ... ooops! where are my glasses?? ... key of "D"  ... start out ... nope I can't sing that high, lets try "B," ... etc., etc., etc."  I haven't timed anything, but I figure the "switch over" probably takes at least half as long as the actual playing.  

But we all manage and nobody complains.  yes

Tongue-in-cheek, I like "listen to chord changes," 'cept for some it's, "listen for chord changes" and then resort to watching somebody else's fat little fretting fingers [and deal with capos, bass runs, mistakes, etc.]. 

Edited by - Owen on 04/28/2024 19:12:11

Apr 28, 2024 - 8:06:38 PM
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doryman

USA

1514 posts since 11/26/2012

I'm trying to wrap my head around the concept of jams being too woke and politically correct these days. What, exactly, would a non-woke and politically incorrect jam look and sound like?

Apr 28, 2024 - 8:16:41 PM

4183 posts since 5/1/2003

When it’s my turn in the jam I always try to do one in the key I’m already capo’d and tuned too but I’m certainly in the minority about considering that. Jams that make me move the capo on every song driver me batty. And my Scruggs Vega stays pretty much in tune.

Apr 28, 2024 - 8:20:51 PM
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Paul R

Canada

16964 posts since 1/28/2010

I've been to different kinds of jams - still go - and some are waaay better than others.

At one regular one the banjo player beside me told me to look around. Everyone was staring at the screen and mechanically strumming. Listening? I'm not sure how many knew how to listen.

At another jam, we tend to pay attention and give each other space, ask specific pickers to play breaks, and have a great time.

The difference? Size. Apart from the level of competence (lots of basic level/beginners at the first) is the size of the jam (way fewer people at the second). The bigger the jam, the more the hassle it is. Small jams are intimate and tend to be more competently run.

We had a Bluegrass jam here that started out okay, but attracted more and more people over the years - pretty much all guitar players (and not exactly good ones) - and became a mess. It didn't help that some folks didn't grasp what a "Bluegrass" jam was about. Some of us would go into a back room for a better experience.

I often use a paper copy when jamming, 'cause I'm working out a new song. I try to avoid cheat sheets at an open mic or other performance. If you "know" a song, you don't need an aid. Conversely, if you say you "learned" a song and you are still using a sheet (or worse, a tablet), sorry, you haven't learned it. (A really annoying aspect of the first jam mentioned above, is the use of a tablet and projector. It takes a small eternity to find and project the song, and sometimes it isn't on the list, so someone with another tablet will say, "I'll send it to you." And that takes more time. Over a two-hour stretch you get to lead two songs. Ridiculous. It's not much of a learning experience.)

As for tuners, I used a choral pitch pipe for years. When I got an electronic tuner, I checked the pitch pipe and found it was flat! The days of tuning a guitar to itself or to a record are over. Lots of recorded songs from way back are not in pitch.

Apr 28, 2024 - 8:43:12 PM
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chuckv97

Canada

72289 posts since 10/5/2013

I’m still trying to find a “non-woke” jam so’s I can lead “Salty Dog Blues”…..

Apr 28, 2024 - 8:56:34 PM

86 posts since 3/10/2009

Agree with you 100%. ilinoyer. Just came back from one of those jams you described. Brutal

Apr 28, 2024 - 9:16:23 PM

chuckv97

Canada

72289 posts since 10/5/2013

If the PC police are present one could sing “I’ll be leaving some day” in BSH

Apr 28, 2024 - 11:36:12 PM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

28092 posts since 6/25/2005

Whatever you social & political feelings, if you want to play in a bluegrass jam, leave them at the door. Same goes for traditional folk music. Both genres have a lot that’s offensive to many people, because they reflect times and beliefs long gone and long abandoned. That’s the catch with tradition—whether musical or otherwise. Because it’s reflected in a song does not mean endorsement or practice. So, for the purposes of jams at least, I’m with Eagles: “Get Over It.”

Apr 29, 2024 - 4:23:43 AM
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16151 posts since 12/2/2005

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

Whatever you social & political feelings, if you want to play in a bluegrass jam, leave them at the door. Same goes for traditional folk music. Both genres have a lot that’s offensive to many people, because they reflect times and beliefs long gone and long abandoned. That’s the catch with tradition—whether musical or otherwise. Because it’s reflected in a song does not mean endorsement or practice. So, for the purposes of jams at least, I’m with Eagles: “Get Over It.”


Perfectly said, Bill!

If there's one song that I find incredibly cringe-y, and have for a long time due to the bitterness and misogyny in it, it's "Rock Salt and Nails" from the classic Rounder 0044 album (JD Crowe and the New South). Yet it's still a remarkable song!

Apr 29, 2024 - 5:57:56 AM
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814 posts since 11/9/2021

What I find remarkably different about jams say 20-40 years ago to today is that the new pickers are right there in the inner circle with the A listers. Back in the day, there was the inner circle of good pickers, then an outer circle of decent but not yet 100% there players. Then there was the outer circle of Hell, where I learned much. One jam, in Central Park on Sundays, the likes of Tony Triska, Bill Keith, Andy Statman, Kenny Kosek and that level of player was the inner circle. Present day, I go to one jam session, where almost every player takes a break, even if they have nothing special to play. Nothing like laying down a great solo only the have the next person stomp it flat with a fumbled attempt at a basic blues riff instead of an actual break.

Maybe it's my own peeve, but this is what comes from the mentality that awards every participant a trophy. You want to call the tunes, and the keys? Take breaks every song? Get into that inner circle?

Play better!

Apr 29, 2024 - 7:00:15 AM
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151 posts since 7/24/2003

I was at a jam not long ago where I crossed off a "bucket item checkbox". Michael Jackson on the banjo. Seriously ... Man in the Mirror.

It's best to go into all jams with no expectations and be really chill and open to everything.

As far as bemoaning tuners ... playing with folks who are not in tune is devastating to a jam, especially if you are sitting right next to them. Tuners are really a requirement for most people at a jam.

Apr 29, 2024 - 7:07:40 AM

Owen

Canada

15306 posts since 6/5/2011

If there's a person in attendance that appears to have some sort of mental abnormality [maybe has even been described as "crazy"?]  or I think/know that they or their family has struggled (?) with mental illness, should I sing "I've Always Been Crazy" or should I save that one for my back deck?  

I think/wonder about such things after: a) reading where round bales with rubber boots on 2x4s sticking out one end  and a hat at the other are more than a little upsetting for people who have had a relative killed in a round baler accident, and b) I believe it was a doll that had been laying about the staff room. Somebody saw fit to make a noose and hang it from an overhead beam.  One of the teachers who had had a relative commit suicide by hanging  didn't see it as particularly "funny."

Fwiw, I like IABC, and can sometimes even hear/anticipate/?? the chord changes.

Edited by - Owen on 04/29/2024 07:12:47

Apr 29, 2024 - 7:13:58 AM

260 posts since 2/7/2020

quote:
Originally posted by fish1963

I was at a jam not long ago where I crossed off a "bucket item checkbox". Michael Jackson on the banjo. Seriously ... Man in the Mirror.

It's best to go into all jams with no expectations and be really chill and open to everything.


Did the person who called Man in the Mirror pull it off?

Agree about no expectations. Open jams can be good to find new people to play with outside the open jam, but sometimes I have to disassociate from what's going on musically.

Apr 29, 2024 - 7:26:56 AM

151 posts since 7/24/2003

He did!!! It was not strictly a bluegrass jam. They play anything from old fiddle tunes to Fleetwood Mac.

My break floundered .. .but I gave it try anyway!!! Some of these non bluegrass tunes really help you open the banjo up to melodics and single string.

Edited by - fish1963 on 04/29/2024 07:27:46

Apr 29, 2024 - 7:39:11 AM

160 posts since 9/23/2019

And this is why my Concert Tone has been packed away in storage for months.

Doesn't matter how good (or bad) you are, all you're going to do is piss off other musicians and waste their time. After a while, I just got sick of wasting their time.

And also, don't lie something? Just call it woke!

Apr 29, 2024 - 8:05:37 AM

doryman

USA

1514 posts since 11/26/2012

quote:
Originally posted by wrench13

What I find remarkably different about jams say 20-40 years ago to today is that the new pickers are right there in the inner circle with the A listers. Back in the day, there was the inner circle of good pickers, then an outer circle of decent but not yet 100% there players. Then there was the outer circle of Hell, where I learned much. One jam, in Central Park on Sundays, the likes of Tony Triska, Bill Keith, Andy Statman, Kenny Kosek and that level of player was the inner circle. Present day, I go to one jam session, where almost every player takes a break, even if they have nothing special to play. Nothing like laying down a great solo only the have the next person stomp it flat with a fumbled attempt at a basic blues riff instead of an actual break.

Maybe it's my own peeve, but this is what comes from the mentality that awards every participant a trophy. You want to call the tunes, and the keys? Take breaks every song? Get into that inner circle?

Play better!


Oh, there are still plenty of jams around here with the various circles of competency you describe, especially at festivals. 

Apr 29, 2024 - 8:15:23 AM
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Players Union Member

RioStat

USA

6314 posts since 10/12/2009

I consider myself lucky that I'm a "member" of a regular group of 4-5 guys that get get together and pick a couple times a month.

Between the main 4 guys we have guitar pickers, mandolin, a little fiddle, and an upright bass players. I'm the only banjo picker (I also play Bluegrass rhythm guitar) so we normally have some good jams. Me and the one guitar/mandolin picker been playin' together off and on for 4o years, so there's some musical chemistry there, such as splitting breaks between guitar/mandolin and banjo.

We can sit there and BS a little bit, drink a beer or two, we might pick the same tune 3 or 4 or 5 times, trying out different breaks, etc..... no pressure, no rapid fire "one song after another" mindset..... If it takes us 5 minutes to capo up and re-tune a little bit, no big deal.

If Polly, or Poor Ellen Smith, or that girl from Knoxville meets their demise, no one gets upset,.......they'll be back for the next jam !

We used to go some local jams, but gave up for some of the reasons alluded to in this thread. All of us still enjoy pickin' with other people at festival campsites and what-not, but even those situations are more relaxed and informal that an "organized" jam.

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