Welcome to Calgary Acoustic Music Jam (CAMJAM). We are an acoustic music jamming group. The 2 key words here are Acoustic and Jam.
The first term is Acoustic: We are acoustic. This infers no amplifiers. In general, we are unplugged. There are a few exceptions to this rule that will be covered in one of the discussion forums.
The second term is Jam: CAMJAM is a jamming group. You need to be comfortable enough on your instrument to play along with others without stopping. We are not all professionals and support a wide variety of skill levels. And yes, the voice is an instrument. CAMAJM adheres to Jamming Etiquette which is covered later in this document. Jamming is like a conversation. If we all talk at once trying to make the same point it becomes noise.
There are conditions to join CAMJAM.
1. Be able to play well enough to jam along with others. We support a wide range of skills but we are not a teaching organization.
2. There are no anonymous CAMJAM members. All members must provide full contact information to the main organizer. This is a safety issue as some jams are held in private residences.
3. There is a $20 / Year fee to cover the cost of the Meetup Site. Any extra will go to special jams or a year end BBQ to be decided by the members.
4. We are a meetup group. You must attend a Jam to Join. You may fill out the questions and request to join. You must supply your contact information before attending a jam. You must pay your membership fee and attend a jam to become a full member.
5. Understand and adhere to Jamming Etiquette
6. Help to find jamming locations. These locations do not need to be large. If you have a space that holds 4 chairs, that is good enough for a jam. Meetup groups are run by the members. Success depends on participation. Do you know of a community hall, church basement, coffee shop, etc. that might be willing to allow jams to occur?
7. No Shows are an issue. Jam space is limited and meetup has an automatic waiting list feature. Not showing up or dropping out shortly before a jam prevents people on the waiting list from attending. No Shows may be bumped from future jams if there are people on the waiting list.
What We Want to Achieve
• A rich musical conversation.
• The magic that lifts the music beyond what we could possibly do ourselves.
Structure of the Jam
1. Set up a circle of armless chairs, facing inward.
2. Tune the instruments.
3. Have someone start with a song. Everyone else play and sing to support the song and this person.
4. Move around the circle in order, with each person asked to present a song.
5. Prior to starting your song, tell people the title, the key and any unusual chord changes and / or chords.
6. It is OK to pass, if you do not want to present a song. If you are passing, let the jam move on from you. This is not the time to request a song from someone else, or to pass your turn to anyone other than the person whose turn is next.
How to Make the Magic Appear
• Listen the music into being. Listening to each other’s music with an open heart and open mind enables the music to soar. Don’t let playing or singing along distract you from listening.
• Support the person who is presenting the song. Listen to how the song is being presented, and support that interpretation, not what you remember from a recording. Play your instrument under that of the song’s presenter. Sing under the volume of the presenter, usually singing only on the choruses.
• Keep up the flow of music. Decide on the song you are going to do, and find it in your music manual before it is your turn to present your song.
• Play songs that others can follow. Straightforward 3 chord songs are best. If you have to give a long explanation of the chords / chord changes at the start, you may have chosen a Jam Buster song.
• Make space for other players. Open up space in the song you are presenting for solo players if you can. Usually solos follow the pattern of the “A” part of the song. When someone is playing a solo, play your instruments quietly enough that you and others can hear it.
• Focus on the musical conversation. Visit verbally with the other jammers before the jam, and make sure there are breaks to visit during the jam, but don’t block the flow of musical conversation with too much talk. If you really want to chat move away from the jam circle and let the others play.
Some Thoughts About Jam Ground Rules
There is no “right” way to jam. Find a way that works for you and the people you are playing with. Generally, make sure everyone has a chance to play and be heard, and find ways to enhance the musical conversation between the players.
If you play with people regularly, you will develop your own ground rules. Outline these to any guests so that they can fit in to the musical conversation you are creating.
Roles in a Jam: How to Make the Music Flourish
The Song Presenter
When you are the person presenting a song, your role is to start and lead the musical conversation.
• Decide on what song you are going to present before it is your turn in the jam. Locate the appropriate page in your song binder; think about what key you play the song in, etc. before it is your turn to play.
• Tell the group the name of the song, what key you play it in, and identify any surprising chord changes, patterns or chords, before you start to play.
• Start the song strongly, setting the tempo clearly for the other players.
• If you want people to sing with you on the chorus, invite them to do so. Same thing with singing on the verses.
• If you want a solo player to play a break, invite him or her to do so at the appropriate time. Most solo breaks will follow the pattern of the “A” section of the song. Make space for other solo players to do a break, if you wish and it fits the song.
• Give people a signal when the song is ending, end the song with definition.
The musical role of the Other Players is to support the song and the song presenter.
• Listen. Nothing lifts the music better than attentive and open-hearted listening.
• Play under the “Song Presenter.” Play your instrument with less volume than the Song Presenter, building sound underneath what he / she is doing.
• Lock into the Song Presenter’s tempo and emphasis. Let them establish this clearly before you play with much volume. If they falter, let them adjust by backing off your volume and then lock in again.
• Try to play somewhat differently, but in alignment with the Song Presenter. Use a different picking pattern, capo to achieve a different tone, find musical spaces the Song Presenter is not filling.
• When someone else is playing a solo, dampen down the volume so everyone can hear the solo.
• If the jam is fairly large, let your instrument rest every now and then and just listen, making space for others to play and be heard.
Other singers can support the song and the singer by adding voices and / or harmony.
• Listen. Make sure you are singing the song as it is presented, not the song you remember from a recording.
• Unless invited, sing only with the chorus. Let the Song Presenter express the song in his / her way.
• Sing under the Song Presenter. Sing with less volume than the Song Presenter, building sound and harmonies that support their voice.
• Some songs have a call and response pattern. Respond in these songs, sometimes with words, often with vocal rhythms and honks.
When you are a non-participant at a jam, your role is to enjoy the music and not get in the way.
• Sit apart from the musical circle. The circle is intended to enhance the musical conversation.
• Refrain from verbal conversation. When you want to talk with someone, please do so outside of the hearing of the jammers.
• Refrain from making requests. Let the Song Presenters choose their own music, unless they ask for requests.
Here are some guidelines for estimating your skill level”
LEVEL 1: You are new or relatively new to your instrument. You may be able to play basic chords or scales slowly. You want to learn the basics of the instrument. You have very little experience playing in a group with this instrument.
LEVEL 2: You are competent with basic chords and/or basic scales. You can keep rhythm and/or play basic melodies and/or sing and play at the same time if the song is familiar. You generally need the chords or melody to be written out in order to play along. You have some experience playing with others.
LEVEL 3: You are reasonably comfortable with most chords, basic major and minor scales, and can play at an appropriate tempo for songs. You are aware of time signatures, song keys, and know that there are chords called 6th, 7th, 11th, etc. even if you can’t play them all. You are comfortable maintaining good rhythm and are willing to take breaks while jamming with others, even if the breaks don’t always turn out the way you planned. You may be hoping to take your playing up to the next level of performing with a group or band (beyond jamming) and you want to further improve your technique and speed.
LEVEL 4: You are skilled on your instrument and have a good understanding of musical concepts including scales, arrangements, harmonies and some improvisation. You play lead and back-up with a steady rhythm and can play skillfully with others. You know there is life further up the neck on your instrument and have some capability in that world. You have performing experience, can hold a tune, and can harmonize.
Sensitivity to Fragrance
Sensitivity to fragrance poses serious health risks, indoors and out. Colognes, Aftershaves and Perfumes should not be applied prior to any jam. There are a number of CAMJAM members who are allergic to fragrances. There are a number of CAMJAM members with lung issues that can flair up when exposed to fragrances.
While not everyone has problems from fragrances, there are increasing numbers of people whose health is negatively impacted. This includes those with asthma, allergies, migraines, sinus problems, rhinitis, chronic lung disease, and those with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. For many fragrances are a barrier to accessing work, social activities, and even health care.