Can non-musicians attend "jams"?

11 replies [Last post]
Joined: 17 Apr 2008
Groups: None
Can non-musicians attend "jams"?

Hello... my name is Jenny and I recently "discovered" bluegrass music via Steve Earle and The Del McCoury Band. I don't play any instruments, but am DYING to hear some bluegrass music, and can't seem to find any bars or venues that feature live bluegrass music around my area. Do they even HAVE bluegrass festivals in Southern California??

So, my question is.... can I come to any of these jams just to listen?

I did buy a harmonica though, and am trying to learn how to play it - LOL!!!

Thanks,

Jenny, EarlGirl, The OC, California

Commenting on this Forum topic is closed.

Jenny, I cannot think of a

Jenny,

I cannot think of a bluegrass jam I've been to recently that did not have an audience. Friends, family, interested folks. There is pretty much always a good number of people milling around and socializing.

Find a jam near you and go. Try this one - it is run by somebody I've chatted with on fiddle-l and through folkjam.org. I plan to hit it on my next visit to family out in OC.

http://www.folkjam.org/recurring-jam/us/california/fountain-valley/open-...

Scott

Joined: 27 May 2008
Groups: None
Bluegrass in Southern CA

Hi Jenny,

They DO have bluegrass in Southern CA. There is a big festival coming up on the Father's Day weekend.

Here is the URL:
http://www.huckfinn.com/

I also encourage you to check out this nice looking website run by the Bluegrass Association of Southern California and the San Diego Bluegrass Society:

http://www.socalbluegrass.org/

It looks like they do a good job of listing all the festivals in the area.

-Jess

Joined: 17 Apr 2008
Groups: None
thank you everyone for your

thank you everyone for your suggestions! The Huck Finn Jubilee in Victorville sounds awesome!! Also, I got a ticket to see Emmylou Harris with Ricky Skaggs and The Del McCoury Band at the Orange County Fair in July!! Hope to see y'all soon, where the grass is blue! Jenny

Joined: 23 Apr 2007
Groups: None
I participate in two jams a

I participate in two jams a month that are spectator friendly. Sometimes there is a fine line between jamming and performing under those circumstances. As a spectator it is important for you to let things unfold and just enjoy what you hear. However, I have been involved in jams where the spectator begins to insert themselves in the jam by way of conversation and suggestions for songs. That in itself isn't too bad and sometimes even welcomed but it can also be disruptive and negative. Be mindful of the ebb and flow and you'll be more welcome.

I also participate in a "friends" jam that almost never has spectators and we like it that way. It's just us playing for each other, trying out new stuff and enjoying each other's company. Anyone who brings a guest, spouse, date or what have you are mindful that those folks are there by invitation. It doesn't always work out. For example, a few years ago a good friend and brought a companion who felt compelled to critique each break, each song and at one point actually brought the jam to a halt by saying "that's not how it goes". Our friend beat a hasty retreat after that.

It depends

If the jam is in a private house, then you are probably only welcome if you are associated in some way with the participants, like a party.

If the jam is in a public place like a tavern or pizza place, you are most likely welcome, but you should probably buy something from the hosting venue.

Lately I've been going to a couple that are pretty public, one at a park and the other in a large practice room at the local university. In both cases it is perfectly OK to have non-musicians listening it. Applause is not necessary. A few questions are OK, but remember that the participants are to have a good time, and not really to entertain or educate.

Erich
----
http://vrteach.org/banjo/

Joined: 18 Jul 2007
;Hi folks

I was going to join the group and "googled" the vfw club. That's when I discovered that I'm from Rockford Il. Your Rockford is more than 500 miles away. Oh well, maybe someday I'll make the trip!!!!

Ann

Joined: 1 Dec 2012
Groups: None
Can non-musicians attend "jams"?

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A true jam is a chance for musicians to play with other musicians who may do things differently (for better or worse) and offer an opportunity for you to stretch, or to show off what YOU do that THEY may not have heard before.
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Pretty much every actual jam doesn't mind an audience, though you have to keep in mind that the musicians are there primarily to interact with themselves, and not with an audience.
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That is, of course, exactly opposite from attending an actual show.
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As most jams, nobody minds if you request a song, though whether they give it a try or not may be more up to question than at a show, depending on who's at the jam, and how close to knowing it they think they are.
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You just need to be a little bound by jam etiquette, even though you're not participating.
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That means don't mix right in with the musicians, if they have a circle set up... the circle is only for players, and those who can play on whatever level the jam is running.
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Also, don't talk or make other noise while the music is playing, and don't talk to the players unless they seem to be inviting it.
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Even after a song is ended, a player may be mentally warming up for the next one, or trying to play close attention to what it will be, so he can get the key, and maybe a short description of the chord flow.
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Not that you have to avoid talking to them at all costs, but hold the amount of conversation WAY down. Don't talk long or often.
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This all assumes that the jam is in a public place... a lot of them happen in people's houses, and everything applies there too, except that you won't even know they are happening unless someone you know is playing in one.
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Those welcome audience also, but it's generally family & friends of the musicians only.
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One of the things about Bluegrass is that it isn't danceable, like types of music that came before it. It was essentially invented by Bill Monroe in 1949, a development of the Appalachian music he grew up playing.
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It was developed specifically for people to sit down in front of a stage and listen to, or to sit in front of a radio and listen to.
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Cloggers dance to it, but they'll dance to nearly anything...
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There probably is no other that genre that welcomes pure listeners more, at jams and everywhere else.

BTW, stay out of the circle, if there is one, but the other side of the coin is that you can try to sit right outside of it.
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When you do that, and the singers & musicians are good, you get to hear it in it's purest form, with no Electronic Improvement.

With Bluegrass, you get to hear what the players hear when they're on stage, rather than the approximation of it that comes through loud speakers, or what you hear in a pure acoustic show from 30 or 40 feet back from the stage.
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No amount of "Unplugged" into a microphone can touch it.
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I LOVE playing small, intimate shows without even microphone out in the trunk of my car! It connects you with the audience when they are few and close-up.

Joined: 1 Dec 2012
Groups: None
Can non-musicians attend "jams"?

It would be interesting to know how things worked out for you with the harmonica, since your original post was four years ago...
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Bluegrass is a highly "Defined" genre, moreso than any other I've ever even heard of.
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That includes instruments.
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The Harmonica simply is NOT a Bluegrass Instrument.
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Neither is accordion, piano, any kind of brass, woodwind, steel guitar (or another electric guitar), drum, dulcimer (either kind) or autoharp, etc. Dulcimers and autoharps, & spoons (bones) are used in Old Time music, which Bluegrass was developed from, but they don't work in a Bluegrass mix.
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It's an Acoustic String Band genre, and if you aren't playing guitar, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, banjo, or dobro, you're playing an instrument that isn't acceptable for Bluegrass.
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So if you took a Harmonica to a Bluegrass Jam, I'd have to wonder what kind of luck you had with that.
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Colorado and California really play a lot of Not-Bluegrass and call it Bluegrass, and in some cases it's because they don't know the difference, so you may have tried it and not gotten bad results in Southern California.

Joined: 2 Apr 2009
Groups: None
Don't mind

I've never minded there being an audience at a jam -- assuming that it is allowed (agreeing with the post about it sometimes not making sense if at a private home or something).
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What has irked me several times is when non-musicians decide that they have to do something to be noticed. I've seen them get up and recite poetry, or have long discertations on what they did on their vacation (I'm not kidding!), when the purpose of the jam was solely music, with a little food and laughing thrown in; not just some kind of nebulous get together.
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There's one jam I attended regularly where the exhibitionists amoung the non-musically gifted set decided that they had to strut their "stuff". It got to the point where the ratio of music to nonsense was so low that I just couldn't justify the gas and time to attend it.
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To a lesser extent, another annoyance are the folks who don't play an instrument and cannot sing, but try to do the latter anyway. Well, at least they are trying to be musical, so it is understandable; even though it means gritting your teeth and/or plugging your ears.
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No, it's the ones that clearly do not have music on their mind but want to take over a music jam (that is clearly a music jam, and not just some kind of get together), that can really be annoying. I've never hosted such a jam, but I've always wondered how such a host could deal with the situation gracefully but firmly. ("Please remember that this is a music jam. Take your 45 minute talk about what you did on your vacation to another venue!" ;)
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Most of us at a purely musical jam (to coin a phrase) are not exhibitionists. We're not there to show the world that we can play or sing music and they cannot (it's often not true anyway!). We get together because we love the sound of the music and the fact that we can actually be a part of making that wonderful sound. I don't think some of the aforementioned non-musical exhibitionists understand that.

"The Harmonica simply is NOT a Bluegrass Instrument."

I guess that explains why Flatt and Scruggs, who are simply not bluegrass musicians, included it on some versions of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," which is simply not a bluegrass tune. Oh, wait...

Joined: 14 Oct 2008
Groups: Jersey Jam
Defining what is actually a "jam"...

... can sometimes be a flexible thing. As they say in Real Estate: location, location, location!

Upon cruising the music stores of my in-law's town in Florida and discussing my obsession w/ guitar & mandolin, more than one suggested that I needed to check out the "Tuesday night bluegrass jam" at the civic center. Since I had my mando with me (even if not really a BG diehard) that sounded pretty good.

I chose to leave the instrument in the car until I got a feel for their format and general ambiance, which was fortunate because... It really wan't a "jam" at all; it was a "performance", with 6-8 local musicians (mostly v. competent amateurs) up on the stage and a hundred or two in the audience on folding chairs. They even charged a minimal admission to cover the cost of the hall, maybe $3 or so. So yeah, LOTS of non-musicians attended this one!

It was a fun time, but I was REAL glad to not have walked in with an instrument!

- Ed H.

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