Jam Etiquette


For Acoustic Circle Jam:

  1. Name that tune. Clearly announce the name of the tune, the key it is in, and the type or time signature of tune in case the name itself isn’t clear e.g is it a waltz, jig, foxtrot, 4/4 etc. This is necessary and courteous to your backup musicians and helps other musicians build their repertoire.
  2. Let the performer set the tempo. Players who are new or still learning a tune may need a slower tempo than the song’s established beats per minute. Wait for them to set the pace -don’t speed them up as accompanists or other musicians. Tune up outside the circle.
  3. Tune up before you join the circle or leave the circle to retune. Otherwise, it is distracting and time consuming.
  4. Be ready when it is your turn. Consider bringing along a list of possible tunes so you already know what song to play, its name and key when the mic comes to you. Time is precious in a large circle and we aim for multiple turns.
  5. Feel free to pass. Not everyone feels ready or comfortable leading a song. You could invite someone to play with you if that increases confidence.
  6. Know how long a turn lasts per song. Our acoustic jam circle sees one turn as being three complete times through on a song. If it is written as AABB, then three times in that format, and the same for ABAB formats. If the circle happens to be very small on a given evening, then four times through is acceptable.
  7. No personal sound equipment at the circle. Only those musicians designated as lead guitar or bass accompaniment are to be plugged in or assigned a separate microphone to assure clear backup sound comes through.
  8. Be kind, be supportive. Some of our players are just testing their new musical skills, or have health issues that may affect dexterity, so tunes may not sound as polished as the performer intends. Encouraging words extend a welcome and help build confidence.
  9. Be “scent-sitive”. We ask that people avoid wearing perfume or aftershave as many are sensitive or allergic to fragrances. Being “scent-sitive” also means attending to good personal hygiene before joining the circle.
  10. Sound considerations. Positioning the microphone close to your instrument when it’s your turn will maximize the sound for the whole circle. Conversely, if you are playing along and have a particularly loud instrument, see if there are any ways to reduce your volume to some extent so the others, including the one with the microphone, are not overpowered by your sound.
  11. Tune selection and chord charts. Come prepared to play with tunes that reflect a range of proficiency and share some common ground. Jam circles benefit from hearing new tunes, and supplying chord charts for accompanists is always welcome. However, jam circles are not the venue for individual showcasing at every turn. Jam “busting” can occur when none of your selections are known, or their speed and complexity excludes other players. A courtesy is to ask if anyone else knows your selection if you suspect it is not a common tune.

Additional Guidelines for Open Mic Jam Format:

  1. See Acoustic Circle Jam guidelines - most also apply in this setting as well.
  2. Sign up for your turn and be ready when it comes. Our open mic jam features singers as well as instrumental performers, whose order of performance is written on a board near the stage. Be ready by the stage area as soon as the MC says your turn is next. Your instrument should already be tuned and ready to play.  Adjust the position of the dial on the key signature stand to the key you will be performing in, or inform the MC if he is present.
  3. Number of turns. Performers generally get two songs on the first time through the list of performers and one song on the second go-round. If it is a particularly busy night, the MC may assign one song per turn.
  4. Number of performers. You can have as many friends on stage with you as will fit in front of the microphones, which is often the choice of fiddlers, but same rules apply concerning number of tunes per turn.
  5. Instrumental breaks: - limited to one instrumental break per song.
  6. Playing backup: there is a core group of experienced backup musicians who play through the night on stage each week. Other musicians may join a performer as additional backup IF they have been invited to do so.

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