Music Jam Etiquette

Washtub Bass Player
  • Tune at The Jam: Arrive a little early (10 min.) and check your instrument’s tuning. No matter when you last tuned, it may have changed since then and in order to sound like one unit, everyone must be in tune.
  • Practice at Home: When you pick a tune at a jam, make sure you know it. Jamming means "playing together" not practicing while others listen. That just frustrates everyone, players and audience.
  • Pick Your Own Tune And Tempo: Remember playing as a group means playing as one unit. Try not to start playing a song so fast that you can’t keep good time or so slow that everyone falls asleep. Do not try to pick tunes for someone else or express displeasure at their choice.
  • The Circle Moves Clockwise: On your turn to pick, state the song and the key and any other pertinent information, like whether you’ll play an intro or ending. Find out how many people will be taking a break (soloing). The solos will move clockwise unless a better musical arrangement is agreed upon.
  • The Person Who Starts A Song Or Tune Ends It: Most of the time a song will go around the circle once. If there is plenty of time or if you are in a support type jam where the emphasis is on learning, a song may go many times around. In such a case the person who chose the song will put his or her foot up at the last playing to indicate to all that the tune is ending. As an alternative you may clearly state "last time" for all to hear.
  • When Someone Is Playing A Solo You Play Backup: Chords and rhythm help support a solo, if you can’t play the chords don’t play, only one person at a time should be playing the solo. (sometimes everyone will play the melody together but this will be indicated at the beginning of the song). Remember to play as a unit, backup should be in the back don’t try to overpower the soloist. If the solo can’t be heard the backup must play softer. Help the solo along don’t bury it. And please don’t talk in the circle while others are playing.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen: To yourself and the other members in the jam. This will help you keep in time and sound tasteful. Make sure you can clearly hear the solo or vocal. If you can’t you’re probably playing too strongly. Breathe together, remember to play as one cohesive unit and listen for the overall tone. When you achieve this, the energy will take over and lead you to greater musical heights.
  • Above All: Remember to be kind, considerate, and encouraging to your fellow musicians. Don’t take the music so seriously that it looses it’s joy and spontaneity.
  • Note Regarding Playing At Festivals : If you see people playing together at a festival don’t just assume anyone is welcome to join in. Hang back and try to establish their level of expertise. There will be different levels of musicianship around any festival. Look for a group that you can comfortably fit in with. Also it is proper etiquette to wait until you are invited to join a group. Sometimes the people you are listening to may be rehearsing to go on stage or they may just want to play among their selected friends.