shalt play softly when someone lifteth his voice in song, when the guitar taketh
a break, and when thou knowest not what thou art doing.
shalt play in tune! Tune thine instrument well and tune it often with thine
electric tuner lest the sound that emanateth from thine instrument be unclean!
shalt commence and cease playing each tune as one, so that the noise you make be
a joyful noise and is not an abomination. Whensoever a musician sticketh forth
his foot, as though he were afflicted with a cramp in the fatted calf, thou must
complete the rest of that verse and then cease. Thou shalt stick out thine own
foot or else lift up thy voice, crying, "This is it!" or "Last time!" if thou
hast been the one to begin the song and it hath been played sufficient times
over. If the one who beginneth a tune, endeth it not by one of these signs, then
the music goeth on in repetitious fashion until the listeners shall say, "Hark,
it all soundeth the same!"
shalt concentrate and shalt not confound the music by mixing up the "A" part
with the "B" part. Most songs, but not all, proceedeth by the ancient law: "AABB".
But, if thou sinneth in this regard or make any mistake that is unclean, thou
mayest atone not by stopping, nay, but by reentering the song at the proper
place and playing on. Thy fellow musicians will support thee in this regard.
shalt be ever mindful of the key that the banjo is tuned in, and shall play many
tunes in that key, for the banjo is but a lowly instrument and must needfully be
retuned every time there is a key change.
shalt speak gentle words of encouragement to those nourished on the milk of
bluegrass music, but not the meat, lest a harsh word turn one again to the
darkness that is pop music.
shalt not, by thyself, commence noodling off on a tune that the other musicians
knoweth not, unless asked or unless thou art teaching that tune for this is an
abomination, and the other musicians shall not hold thee blameless, and shall
strike thee from their computer lists, yea, unto the third and fourth
- Author Unknown
Some tips in plain English (from one of Peter
Wernick's most excellent
Some key participants may have main influence over the choice of songs and who
gets to do what. Be respectful of the situation. Fit in as invited.
* Instrumentalists, be mindful of when
others want to solo or do featured backup. Give them space and take turns being
featured. Don't compete!
* Regarding tuning: Wait your turn. If
someone is tuning, avoid any playing, or perhaps (if you're sure your instrument
is in tune) offer notes matching the open strings of the other person's
* In more advanced jams, often the
"classic" arrangement of a particular number is followed, including choice of
key, which instrument solos when, harmony parts, etc. However, if the classic
version is in a key that doesn't work well for the lead singer, the singer calls
the key and the others adapt.
* If you don't fit into one jam, look
for another or start another, or just stay and listen. (Note if there are
already enough of your instrument in the group, or if the speed or difficulty of
the material is out of your league.) In some situations it's OK to play quietly
in an "outer circle", not trying to be heard in the inner circle.
attention and learn from experience!
Pete Wernick, "Dr. Banjo", is renowned worldwide for his
accomplishments and contributions to bluegrass music: the hot-picking force in
several trend-setting bands including Hot Rize, respected author and teacher,
songwriter, and long-term first President of the International Bluegrass Music
Pete's website with info on his appearances,
products and a more detailed bio is at http://www.drbanjo.com