jamming unknown songs
September 14, 2019 at 3:00 PM #76662Nancy BitterParticipant
Can anyone please tell me how some folks can jam to songs they dont even know??? I can chop or play single notes here and there if I know what key they are in.(they will usually say) Like: Key of A. I know it will most likely be A…D….E. But some people just move quickly up and down the strings. I try to follow but by time I get to where they are at they are long gone onto the next part of the song. Grrrrrr I tell myself not to get discouraged and I admire folks who play off the cuff. But when I ask how they know where to go they usually just say “I dont know, I just play” Really???? What kind of answer is that?September 14, 2019 at 5:41 PM #76664fiddlewoodParticipant
How often do you do this? Is it part of your daily practice?
It’s a bit like anything else: if you don’t work on it you have small chance of accomplishing it…the more you do it the easier it should become, but like always, it doesn’t happen overnight.
listen for highs & lows, and things you recognize in the melody.October 23, 2019 at 12:31 AM #78061goettjpParticipant
I became adept at this by … wait for it… jamming alot to tunes I didn’t know. It was painful.. to the others in the jam. But they really encouraged me.
What I do now is determine the key (ask early) and lay back and try to play the melody as the singer sings. QUIETLY, cuz you don’t want to step on their notes with your “guessed” ones. While you’re “prepping” your fingers to play something close to the melody, pay attention to the chord progression. An odd 6m or 2m can make or break your “solo.”
Let a couple other instruments take their break first, while you re-enforce the tune in your head/fingers. When you’re ready , jump in, and play double stops wherever you can.. especially the drones. People expect the fiddles to have that drone-y sound, and that will dazzle them, even it’s the simple ones. Also, flatting the third, and sliding up to it, will give your improv a bluesy feel. I almost never play over a G chord with a straight B note… I slide up from Bb-sorta…..
Finally, learn a ton of fiddle tunes in different keys and STEAL, STEAL, STEAL licks from them. If I’m trying to improv on a song in Bb, I try to remember the trills and stops in Daley’s Reel. If the song is in D, there’s a ton of fiddle tunes in D with catchy licks you can use….
Rinse, repeatOctober 23, 2019 at 5:54 AM #78066JBoundsParticipant
I don’t really jam with people but I can tell you by learning tunes alot there are always patterns I will hear.
That’s what helps me learn a tune a little faster. It’s like, hey I’ve heard that phrase or something similar before.October 23, 2019 at 6:53 AM #78071cricketParticipant
I’m guessing that like John says, the people you see playing away at jams are finding common patterns they can jump into. I don’t know, though…if it’s BG jams…they play some hard stuff at the ones I’ve been too. But one thing I just do in my own little amateur world by myself, is if I wanna play something I haven’t played before, I do have to “know” it, which means I could hum it. If I hum a few notes, then try to play them back to myself on the fiddle…then hum some more, play those, etc., seems that’s the way I learn…wouldn’t work much in a fast-moving jam in the key of B or something, but it might be a start to get the feel of how things tend to go. Maybe just keep going, as Goettip suggested…keep on attempting until it just clicks…depending on what the jam is like, that might take a while.October 23, 2019 at 8:14 AM #78078
I’m so happy that I took the time years ago to learn all the key signatures. Once I had those down it became so much easier. When someone said “Here’s a tune in E”, I instantly knew that there were 4 sharps: F#, C#, G# and D#. (It was simple to remember the sharps progression by reciting Fat Cows Go Down An Easy Bank.) I had learned that the E chord consisted of the notes E G# and B; the A chord had the notes A C# and E and the B chord had B D# and F#. An E scale was: E F# G# A B C# D# and E.
By memorizing the notes on the fiddle strings, it became so much easier to play along with folks at jam sessions.
In fact, I used to practice in the keys of A Flat, E Flat, etc. just to be ready in case. Not too long ago at a Country music jam session a fellow had his guitar capo-ed at the second fret and played “Folsom Prison Blues” in the key of F# (using E-shaped chord). He looked at me to take the first break and I was able to do it without a hitch. Thank goodness for music theory training. 🙂October 25, 2019 at 7:13 PM #78145AngelaParticipant
For me, it’s a combo of what everyone has said. It took me awhile to get my ear trained. Knowing the keys and chords helps narrow down the choices. And eventually your fingers start to know where to go. The first step for me was listening and trying to play along with recordings.October 25, 2019 at 9:09 PM #78147
Learning the names of the notes in each 1, 4 and 5 chord in each key is very helpful. Then, learning “common tones” steps it up another notch.
For example, take the key of G. The notes for a G major chord are G B and D. The 4-chord notes are: C E and G. The notes for the 5-chord are D F# and A. So the note G is found in the 1-chord and the 4-chord and the note D is found in the 1-chord and the 5-chord. So if you are playing a G note and the chord changes from G to C, you could continue playing the G note and still be playing a consonant note. You could play a D note within a G chord and switch to the 5-chord and still hold the D note.
Then you can start taking common tones like a G and a B note from the G chord and hold them as the chord switches to E minor. Or hold an E and a G in a C chord and move to an A7 chord. etc. Or an F# and A while holding a D chord and move to an F# minor chord, etc. The possibilities are truly endless.October 28, 2019 at 6:14 PM #78261AngelaParticipant
Nancy, I think you’re the one who told ME about these….but maybe it was someone else….Megan Chowning has some awesome instructional videos that are helpful for this. Check out her playlist on her Youtube site: https://www.youtube.com/user/fiddlemeganbOctober 29, 2019 at 7:12 AM #78274cricketParticipant
That site looks interesting! Gonna have to check it out later when I get some time to look it over. Thanks for the link, Angela!October 29, 2019 at 8:05 AM #78277
Angela, Megan is a solid fiddler. I’ve enjoyed listening to her for quite some time now. Thanks for the link. Somehow I had become unsubscribed with her site but now I’m back on again. 🙂October 29, 2019 at 10:45 AM #78285goettjpParticipant
I attended Megan’s FiddleStar camp once. A little lite on the jamming, but the instructors were outstanding, and it was almost 1-on-1. We had Justin Brannum, Nate Lee, Deanie Richardson and Matt Combs when I was there.
Nate is now with Becky Buller Band, Deanie’s with Sister Sadie and Matt was the house fiddler at the Opry, I think.October 29, 2019 at 6:22 PM #78308Nancy BitterParticipant
I am working on Take Me Back To WestVirginia by Larry Sparks. (new). If anyone can tell me the A licks in this song it would be helpful. Thanks
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