The Stony Brook Friends of Old-Time Music is made up of musicians from all parts of New Jersey, and the surrounding states. We are a group of people from different backgrounds (a community) who share a common interest in Old-Time music. We’re all at different levels of ability, but everyone manages to find their own comfort level with the music. The main thing is to play some tunes and have some fun! Even if you’re not from the area, but are passing through or visiting and would like to have a tune or two, don’t hesitate to contact us.
There is no real organization that you need to join or pay dues to, just practice and come and have fun.
The Ten Commandments of Jamming by L.P.
I. Thou shalt not ever forsake the beat.
II. Thou shalt arrange thyselves in a small circle so that thou mayest hear and see the other musicians. Thou shalt listen with thine ears to the songs and attempt to play in accord with the group; also, open thine eyes betimes to look about thee, lest there be some visual sign someone is endeavoring to send thee. Thou shalt play softly when someone lifteth his voice in song, when playing harmony, and when thou knowest not what thou is doing.
III. Thou shalt play in tune. Tune thine instrument well, and tune it often with thine electric tuner, lest the sounds emanating from thine instrument be unclean.
IV. Thou shalt commence and cease playing each tune together as one, so that the noise ye make be a joyful noise, and not a heinous tinkling that goeth in fits and starts, for that is unclean, and is an abomination. Whensoever a musician sticketh forth his foot as though he were afflicted with a cramp in the fatted calf, thou must complete the rest of that verse, and then cease.
V. Thou shalt stick out thine own foot or else lift up thy voice crying This is it !, or Last time ! if thou hast been the one to begin the song, and it has been played sufficient times over. If the one who began a tune endeth it not by one of these signs, then the tune will just go on and on, like the Old Testament, until the listeners say, “Hark ! It all soundeth the same.”
VI. Thou shalt concentrate and thou shalt not confound the music by mixing up the A part and the B part. Most songs, but not all, proceedeth according to the ancient law “AABB”. But if thou sinneth in this regard, or make any mistake that is unclean, thou may atone – not by ceasing to play – but by reentering the tune in the proper place and playing on.
VII. Thou shalt be ever mindful of the key the banjo is tuned in, and play many tunes in that key, for the banjo is but a lowly instrument, which must needs be retuned each time there is a key change.
VIII. Thou shalt not speed up or slow down accidentally when playing a tune, for it is an abomination. (See commandment I)
IX. Thou shalt not, by thine own self, commence noodling off on a tune the other musicians know not, unless asked or unless thou art teaching that tune, for it is an abomination, and the other musicians will not hold thee guiltless, and shall take thee off their computer lists, yea, even unto the third and the fourth generation. Noodling between tunes should be kept to a minimum.
X. Thou shalt have fun and play well.
Some more Etiquette stuff from various sources
a. If you are new to a jam, be aware that some key participants may have main influence over the choice of songs. Be respectful of the situation. Fit in as invited.
b. However, beware of “experts”. They often mistake their opinion as fact. If you have a helpful comment intended for a particular individual, please do so politely and in private. Most people will gladly accept a helpful comment. (True experts are often the quietest people in the room.) – And, a word to the “experts”: This is a jam, not a performance. It’s supposed to be fun.
c. Regarding tuning: Wait your turn. If someone is tuning, avoid any playing, or perhaps (if you’re sure your instrument is in tune) offer notes matching the open strings of the other person’s instrument.
d. If you don’t fit into one jam, look for another or start another, or just stay and listen. (Note if there are already enough of your instrument in the group, or if the speed or difficulty of the material is out of your league.) In some situations it’s OK to play quietly in an “outer circle”, not trying to be heard in the inner circle.
e. Just because you can play loudly doesn’t mean you should. Louder usually doesn’t mean better. The role of a jammer is try to make the GROUP sound better, NOT to play louder than the person next to him or to show off. If the group members have to tell you to back off, you’re likely to be insulted and may be less likely to return to that jam. (If that does happen, just say “oops, sorry” and play at a lower volume, i.e. repent and sin no more). It’s also possible that they’ll say nothing, but THEY will stop coming to the jam. Many good recurring jams have been terminated by jam busters.
Pay attention and learn from experience!