Let’s play together! Storybook Farm invites players of all ages and abilities to come jam with us on the farm – third Tuesday of each month (June through September). We will post a song list the month before so you can listen to and prepare to play with us in advance if you wish. Feel free and email us suggestions at [email protected] – or sign up for our mailing list to receive an email each month about upcoming jam sessions with song lists.
Tips on how to prepare for your first jam session:
- TUNE – your instrument (using a digital tuner). Tune often and learn to tune quickly.
- CHORDS – Learn the G, C, D, and A chords, or notes that go with those chords (view here on guitar, ukulele & violin )
- STRUM – practice changing chords without looking with keeping a consistent rhythm pattern. It is important to not speed up or slow down, but keep a steady pace. (view common strumming patterns here)
- PRACTICE – play until you can switch quickly between chords at a steady pace. 5-10 minutes a day for a few weeks leading up to your first jam will make it much more enjoyable for you at your first live jam session.
- WATCH – try to follow chord changes watching a guitar player (watch video of chord changes and try to follow along)
Goals for a better jamming experience:
- Anticipate chord changes, so you can play them at the right time. Memorize the chord patterns for a few songs if you can to make joining in easier and build confidence.
- Sing while you play. This will help you play the correct chord at the right time with a consistent rhythm. Practice at home playing a song from start to finish with no pauses.
- Listen to the songs you will play and sing along until you know the lyrics and melody by heart. Avoid relying on a written version as possible.
If you can stay in tune, play the correct chords, and stay on beat you can jam! We want this to be a positive experience for all – give everyone a chance to shine and be encouraging to those around you.
A few more notes:
Most bluegrass, and traditional folk/country songs use three-chord structures, often referred to as 1 4 5. The numbers are like placeholders for notes of the scale of whatever key you’re in. In the key of G, for instance, the first note of the scale is a G. The 4th and 5th notes are C and D. So G, C, and D are the 1, 4, and 5 of the key of G.
Pick a song you want to sing. Try a key (for a generally easier start, try G or D) play the chords, sing together, and see how it goes. If the chords don’t match up with the range of your voice, try changing the 1, 4, and 5 chords into the other key and see if it works better. Freely strum and do what comes naturally with your right hand.
Remember, your goal is to play:
• without stopping
• from start to finish
• without having to look at your instrument
• without looking at the chord changes on a page or from another person
• without looking at the words on a page
Memorizing the chords to songs will help your ability to hear when chord changes are supposed to happen, an important ear skill. Soon you will start to get a sense of when it sounds like the chord is going from 1 to 4, or to 5, and back to 1.
Most songs start on 1, and nearly all end by going to 5 and then 1. Trial and error is the traditional way bluegrass musicians find chord changes. A chord tends to sound correct when it includes the main notes of that part of the melody. Play with it and have some fun! With time you will get what our kids like to call “the magic” – meaning your ears will intuitively know how to find the correct chords or notes when playing a song. It is fun!