The 10 Jamandments

As a public service, below are the “unofficial” rules of a bluegrass jam.
By Larry Carlin

I.      Thou Shalt Tune Thy Instrument.
~ Electronic tuners make this easy.Bluegrass Trio

II.      Thou Shalt Keep Steady Rhythm.
~ Count beats if necessary.

III.      Thou Shalt Take Turns Choosing Songs.
~Announce the key. Vocalists always choose their key.
~ Choose a song you can complete.

IV.      Thou Shalt Not Speed.
~ Start songs at a reasonable tempo. Speed up according to abilities.

V.      Thou Shalt Signal Who Has The Solo.
~ Follow a pattern when taking solo leads.

VI.      Thou Shalt Listen To Others.
If you can’t hear the lead, consider yourself too loud.

VII.     Thou Shalt Welcome Others.
~ Include everyone in your jam. Help everyone sound as good as they can.

VIII.     Thou Shalt Not Steal Other Musicians From An Active Jam.
~With time, players move around anyway.

IX.     Thou Shalt Try New Material.
~ Original & different tunes are OK occasionally.

X.     Thou Shalt Be Considerate Of Pickers  (and Others).
~ Explain when you’re rehearsing, not jamming. Help beginners.

3 thoughts on “The 10 Jamandments

  1. Is there a song book you guys use? I have not been to one of these yet but I am excited to join you guys.

    Answer from Josh:

    I couldn’t tell you where to start! People bring music, mostly from having played (no music), sometimes fake books, sometimes just things they’ve picked up. Come with or without music and you can still learn by just jumping in with a group and doing the best you can!

    Depending on your instrument and musical interests, you could check out Amazon and search for a fake book on the genre you are interested in. Most at the potlucks (in my opinion) tend to be bluegrass or folk focused. I’ll list some fake books that I have used in the past below. There’s also some acoustic jazz, Django, Moroccan, Irish/Celtic, Hawaiian, …. Anything that can be done acoustically that people bring is fine.

    Here are some titles that might be helpful…
    Bluegrass Fakebook (Casey)
    The Folksong Fake Book (Hal Leonard Corp.)
    Fiddler’s Fakebook (Brody)
    Mandolin (or Banjo) Pickers Fakebook (Brody)
    The Real Book (Hal Leonard Corp)

    That would be the start of a truly awesome library! Some would say that reading music just gets in the way of learning the tunes!


    1. Granted, you can learn all kinds of good stuff without reading music.

      But just think of all the additional good stuff you can learn if you *can* read music.

      For example, let’s say you are learning bluegrass. As you progress, you might hear a fiddle tune you really like, but there might not be tablature for your instrument, and you might not be able to find anyone who can show you how to play the tune.

      In that case, you might be able to find your tune in musical notation. If you can read a little music (it’s really not that bad … certainly not for fiddle tunes (in contrast, try Beethoven 🙂 ) then you can learn the tune.

      And, then, *you* can be the one that saves everyone else that time and effort, if you so choose.

      Of course, bluegrass is a relatively technical style. The biggest obstacle to acquiring skill is lack of practice. Even Pete Seeger (*The* Uber Folkie), in his famous banjo book, extols the virtues of practice, and uses a reasonable blend of tablature and music notation.

      Just sayin’ …


  2. After jams where inexperienced jammers acted as if it were a singalong, I’d add an 11th: Thou shalt not double the vocalist. Yea though thou knowest a song and hast been known to sing it, if another leadeth the song , refrain from singing with the lead singer. Thou mayest sing on the chorus, forsooth, only if thou canst sing a bonifide harmony!

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