Bluegrass Jamming Signals
Although at first glance, it may appear that everyone in
a good jam session knows exactly what to do at all times,
in point of fact usually there is a leader who is organizing
the jam session, and the musicians are all communicating among
This communication is normally done by eye contact and a
series of nods.
It is quite normal for the lead singer to control a particular
song, but the leader may be anyone. What the leader generally
does is choose when each player (and each instrument) will
get a break. Normally if you want a break, you should make
eye contact with the leader. If you cannot find the leader,
make eye contact with someone.
When the leader is ready to give you a break, he will make
eye contact with you. If this happens and you do not want
to take a break, shake your head. If you do want a break,
nod and take the next solo. In general, if you do not make
eye contact with anyone, the group will assume you are just
playing around the edges, and will not give you a break.
In jamming, I always live by the old Ted Turner saying, "lead,
follow, or stay out of the way," only I reverse it to
"stay out of the way, follow, or lead." I always
offer to get involved (using eye contact), but if my offer
is not accepted, I stay out of the way. If my offer is accepted,
I follow the leader, and play the role assigned to me. Only
if there is no leader will I take the leader role.