Tips for Jam Survival

by Steve Eulberg

The Summer Festival season is fast approaching (can you feel the buzz of excitement in the air?)  Many of us set aside our winter rhythms and venture out to play music with others in new settings: out of doors, at picnics and cookouts, at public parks, at the beach, at festivals, at week-long learning opportunities.

Some of us are also a little anxious about these meetings because we're not quite certain how we will survive when jamming with other people whom we don't know!

So here is your opportunity to help!  Send us your best JAM SURVIVAL tips or stories and we'll publish them on this blog, and/or use them in lessons on

Do you have little things you do that help you enjoy a jam?  Learn as much as you can about a new tune?  What are the best tools and tricks that you know of?

You can write me here in the comments or send them to:

Or you can make a video of your tip and upload it to youtube or vimeo and send us the link.

Or you can make an audio recording and upload it to soundcloud and send us the link.


1 comment

Pam Deemer

Know the chords, major and minor, for the keys of D, G, and A. These are the keys most dulcimer and even old time and bluegrass jams will use, often because of they are favored keys for the fiddles. (If you have the 1 1/2 fret, learn the chords in the key of C. Singers like that one.) If you can't find the melody, you can strum the chords and provide a rhythmic background. In relation to that advice, work on your strum patterns. Learn chords for the keys of G and A without using a capo. If you misplace your capo or don't have one, at least you can provide chord accompaniment, if not melody. Don't be afraid to ask what key is used. Songs you have learned on the dulcimer in D, in old time and bluegrass jams may be played traditionally in another key. If you are having trouble catching the chord changes, watch the guitar player. Even if you don't know the fingering for guitar chords, you'll know when the chord in the key changes. In a good mixed jam, tunes are played a lot more than three times. You'll eventually catch on to the sequence of the chords.
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