First, you should understand a bit about how traditional musicians interact with each other – the culture of traditional music.
If you are playing in a bluegrass, Southern, New England, Quebecois, or other “west of the Atlantic” music setting (called a “jam” or “jam session”), it is expected that you may add harmonies or variations at will. If you would like several different instruments or musicians to “take a break” (play the lead in their own style once through) you convey this information to them by making eye contact and “handing off the tune” to them by the look on your face, a nod, or hollering “mandolin” or “guitar” or the name of a singer – whatever. While this person has the lead, you and the other instruments play harmonies or chords quietly in the background. At the end, you (who started the tune) will play it once more through, and then indicate the end by raising, sticking out, or wiggling your foot. Be sure to read the Ten Commandments of Jamming!
If you are playing with Irish musicians and stick out your foot, they will probably not even notice it. In this setting (usually called a “session”) the end of a tune is indicated by eye contact or by having already agreed on the number of times to play the tune through. Also, it’s quite common in an Irish Session, to play sets of tunes – two or more tunes one after the other with no break between them. Harmonies and variations are not the main focus in this style of music, where playing in unison is much more common. So don’t be adding in your own twist on things unless you are asked to do so.
The best advice for playing music with others is to sit back and enjoy until asked to join. Then play a tune or two, and assume you are finished unless the other musicians insist that you stay. You can learn a LOT by listening and watching!
Well, you can play it in a contest:
Amanda on stage at the National Old-Time Fiddle Contest in Weiser, Idaho
Sarah and Kodria show off their awards
. . . at the State Fiddle Contest in Salem May 2000
You can jam with Grandpa
Grandpa Jake, Peter, Joe and Sam playing old time tunes. Want to learn the 10 Commandments of jamming?
You can play on a street corner
Kate, Peg, Joe and Elizabeth
… or behind the grandstand between sets
Matt and Bryan share the good times.
You can play on stage for an audience of thousands:
On stage at Kiwanis Kapers, March 2002
You can perform on an outdoor stage in the sunshine:
. . . at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker, Oregon
You can jam in a parking lot:
Casey Willis, LeRoy Troy, Charlie Acuff
Want to learn the 10 Commandments of jamming?
You can put on a concert with your friends:
Peter, Hanneke and Casey at “The Star” Theater
You can have a barn dance with live music:
All join hands and circle to the left
A dance in the back of Rose’s store – when no barn was available
You can have a jam in the front yard and invite all the neighbors:
Jamin’ at Amanda’s house — Want to learn the 10 Commandments of jamming?
You can play all by yourself, just because it’s fun!
Along the Oregon Trail
You can go professional and play in the bright lights!
Casey on stage with “Country Tonight!” Voted the “Best Live Country Music Show in America” three years in a row
You can arrange for a workshop with one of your favorite musicians:
Kara, Amanda, Lauren Anne, Seth and Kate with Kevin Burke
Hannah, Kellee, Sarah, Kodria, Matt, Ben, Russell, and Bryan with Daniel Slosberg