If you have never approached a jam session before, you may
find it a very intimidating situation. When you first come
up to a jam session, particularly if you dont make eye
contact, you will mostly be ignored. This does not necessarily
mean that the jammers do not want you there, but rather that
they think you just want to play along. Playing along (that
is playing backup appropriately and tastefully at all times)
is a perfectly acceptable activity, and is great practice.
In general, I always play along for a while as I size up the
jam session. Many bluegrass jammers love to get involved with
new people and are very friendly, but if you look like you
want to be left alone, they will generally leave you alone.
After you have sized up a jam session and decided how you
might fit in, offer to get involved either by suggesting a
song on which you can sing or play lead, or by making eye
contact. If I am ignored (which can be because I am not wanted
or because the other jammers dont yet know how I can
fit in), I will often jump-in one time. This means
that I will step forward and take a break when I get a chance,
even though I have not been invited. This immediately shows
the others what I can do, and makes my offer to participate
very clear. Usually, after I jump-in, I am included in the
session. If I am still ignored, I go somewhere else and find
a better deal.
Another thing to watch out for is that after you are included
in a jam session, you should not hog the session.
This is all too easy to do, since often you have been waiting
sooooo long and you can do sooooo much. Good jam sessions
are good for everyone, so if you are having a good time, try
to make sure the others are as well. This is not always possible,
of course, because sometimes the available pieces simply cannot
be fitted together. However, one of the most wonderful things
about bluegrass is the deep sense of community and even love
which is shared by the participants.
Be considerate and open, and you will inevitably be welcomed
to that community.