We meet each third Tuesday of the month from 3-5 PM at the Yuma Foothills Branch of the Library located at 13226 E. South Frontage Road; Yuma, AZ.
Our winter and spring meetings there will be October 16, November 20, December 18, 2012 and January 15, February 19, March 19, April 16, May 21, 2012.
In the traditional old time world, a jam or session is where musicians, in this case the fiddlers, get together to play together. Emphasis is on the “together” as we play ensemble – that means there are no “breaks” or “solos”, no microphones, no sound systems and no performance. We play together all the time. Sometimes we take turns around the circle, sometimes not.
Sometimes it will be more workshop and learning a tune or two at a slow to moderate pace, other times the experienced fiddlers are going to dominate and there will be tune after tune up to speed. Often both things happen the same week! If you know the tune we are playing, you play along blending with the group. If you don’t know the tune, you may decide to listen until you have the basic tune then join in best you can keeping your volume low enough that you can hear while you play.
If you are asked to teach or lead a tune, you should play it slow or in parts until the group gets it then we all play it together. We can play one tune for as long as 5 minutes or more to get a good feel for it. Don't be surprised to hear the workshop leader call out, "Seven more times!"
In the Old Time Tradition, fiddlers and banjo players often retune our instruments for certain keys or tunes which means we will stay in one key for more than a couple of tunes.
If you are listening close, you will realize that there may be several versions of the same tune being played as each fiddler brings their history to the jam. Sometimes the versions agree, other times they clash. By listening to each other as we play a remarkable blending happens as we adopt each other’s notes until often we end up creating a “group version” of the tune and are playing in concert with each other. Sometimes in unison (everyone playing almost the same notes), other times in harmony (with different players playing different but compatible notes).
The guitars, banjos, bass and other instruments in this type of gathering are the supporting characters that bring body to the music. Simple chord progressions and bass runs for the guitars, basic “boom boom” bass notes for the bass.
Lead lines and fancy pickin’ just doesn’t cut it here. If that is what you are looking for, this probably isn’t the place for you.
If you can follow a good chord progression, you are a welcome and quite valued member of the jam. In some cases, the chords may even be provided for you to start.
Again, as above, if you don’t know the tune, you may decide to listen until you have thebasic tune then join in best you can keeping your volume low enough that you can hear while you play until you are sure you are adding to the group.
Clawhammer Banjo also adds a lot to this type of music and those folks usually play the melody within the chord structure but again, they tend to go with simple vs. fancy. When we have one or more of those you will find we tend to stay in one key for a while, as they often have to retune for different keys. It is a courtesy that we will maintain as old time traditional fiddlers often do the same.
For these gatherings, songs are not often done though there are a lot of “fiddle tunes with words” where the primary focus is still on the tune though a member or two may know and throw out a verse now and then. HOWEVER, as this is a learning environment, those who are interested in teaching the fiddlers how to play some special pieces (such as some of the great old Bob Wills tunes or other old country favorites) so they can play along with you. In that case, you are going to mostly be helping the fiddler get the tune, as opposed to leading a song the whole way through.
This is about fiddling and fun. It’s about enjoying and playing Old Time Fiddle. It’s about more playing than sitting. About the fiddlers being fiddlers - playing together and spreading the tunes. It's about getting better, together. It’s about the fiddle.
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This page last updated October 18, 2012 and is maintained by Dan Levenson Old Time Music