Bluegrass Jam Etiquette

Musicians participating in a jam co-operate to create music and have fun. Sometimes this can be tricky, because by its very nature a jam is an event that happens on the fly.

There is no one set of rules that fits all jams, and not even all bluegrass jams. Here are three good online articles about jam etiquette which you may find helpful:

Pete Wernick's Bluegrass Jamming Basics

Bart Veerman's Jam Etiquette

Southwest Bluegrass Association Jam Etiquette

If you've looked at these, you'll see that there is quite a bit of variation between them. What's common, though, is that the participants in the jam should treat each other with respect and that everyone should be given a chance to participate.

Sometimes the location or circumstances of the jam control what happens. A jam at someone's home, or a series of sessions organized by the same host, for example, may have specific rules set by the host which everyone follows. Jams at campsites at a festival, where there are several going on at the same time, may end up being sorted by speed or skill level, or with some being mostly instrumental and others all singing, as people wander from place to place and stop where they feel they will fit in.

Jamming at the club - the Circle Jam

At a venue like our club meetings, where the numbers and participants in the jam vary a lot, the most effective type of jam is the circle jam. Here's how that works, and some general etiquette:

Etiquette for players in a circle jam

Leading a song or tune

Show respect for others, whatever their skill level

Written by Anne Delong - others may have differing opinions!