I mentioned yesterday that when novice take up a bluegrass instrument, their dream is to make music with others in a small group—a jam session. Old time music players and jazz players call them that too. Folk musicians call them hootenannies, though the focus there is on singing along or perhaps an open mic.
Bluegrass wannabes often get that way by being in close proximity to a jam. The more skillful the jam, the more likely the spectators will get the bug. Here’s an example chosen nearly at random, a hallway jam at the annual IBMA conference featuring my boss Pete Wernick, ace fiddler Michael Cleveland, and a pretty good guitar player. Pete wrote the song, but the others have never heard it—at the start you can hear him running through the chord changes for the others, who jump in with no other preparation.
I bring it up because even though I’ve hardly listened to music at all the past couple of years, much less bluegrass music, when I came across this video and clicked on it I felt the same old thrill.
Here’s an example of a mid-level jam—the players are fairly skilled, and they know that as fun as it is to pick, the singing is the heart of the music. (The guy at center is not holding his ears to block out sound, but to hear better how his harmony is blending with the rest.)
Strangely, below is the only video I could find of a beginner group jamming at one of Pete’s camps (there are lots of camp-finale performance videos, but those don’t really feel like jams). I mainly wanted to show that even rank beginners can get together and make music for their own pleasure.