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Lesson # 36, June-July 2005
By Warren Yates
How to Join a Jam Session
Let’s say you just came up on a jam session in progress and you want to join in. There are several bands playing and you are looking to see where you can fit in. How do you get in without upsetting everyone? First, you must understand the nature of the bands or groups of people gathered.
An established band has their music worked out and every space in the song is set aside for the members of the band. There is no room for an outsider unless you are world famous or a special friend of the band and in that case, the outsider will only play for a short time. It is best to approach these bands as a listener to see if you can read their expectations. If you don’t get invited, you are better off to just be content to listen. If they are receptive to outsiders, it's because they know that it is jam session environment, now you need to let them know what you can do. Lean in enough to be seen and to show them that you are ready. They will have to decide to let you have a try at it by allowing you to take a break. You will know because they will be playing lightly and they will be all looking at you. If you can pull it off and they like it, you might get another chance. Keep doing this until they start to ignore you. That is a sign that you are no longer welcome.
I once walked up with my bass to a band that had no bass player to see if I could play with them. I did not get a real good reception even though I could play their songs and they had no bass player. I felt that it was my spot now because it was working and I was there first. Soon the band took a little time off for a break and scattered so I left. When I got back, they were playing again with another bass player. The fact was that their bass player was late getting there so they had to get rid of me as nicely as they could.
Some people are there as a band, others as pickers anywhere they can find a place, some are there to sell something and some are there to be seen. If you ease into it and read the people’s faces, they will give you enough body language for you to find your place. If you take a friend that you play with, people will approach you the same way. You can use the same body language to tell them what you want. It is a good thing to help where you can especially if it is a kid wanting to learn.
Strings Sticking in the Nut Groves
I once did a story called “Tuning Up” which talked about tuning your instrument from flat to sharp or low to high. This is done because the string tension is different above the nut as it is over the fingerboard. If a string is tuned too high and you adjust it down slightly, then the tension is less above the nut and when the string breaks the friction in the nut grove the string will drop in pitch. If you add something to the groove to help the string to slip, the string will even out the tensions more easily. Many people use a pencil lead because it is a type of graphite. I have found a material that is much better and is slick. It is bowstring wax. Not a bow like a fiddler would use but like a hunter would use with their bow and arrow. This wax can be found in most hunting supply stores. You can apply it with a pointed toothpick and wipe up any extra that might be seen. It will almost completely fix that problem.
Playing the Guitar with Banjo Rolls
If you are a banjo player and do not play the guitar, you might be surprised just how close you really are to playing beautiful music on the guitar. The banjo has a fifth string that is used as a drone which is used to loop rolls. On the guitar, the same motion can be used to alternate bass notes with the thumb. With six strings rather than five, your first and second fingers can pick more combinations of strings on the high end. Try playing a rhythm using the guitar and apply what ever banjo rolls fit. Click here to view a video clip of this process and see what you can do with it. The guitar piece in the sample is the beginning to a song that I wrote called, "In a Little Country Church".
Good Luck with your picking! Warren Yates
Take a look at the "Practice Anywhere Banjo".
(c) Copyright 2005