Patrick writes:

I picked up a copy of your jam etiquette flyer. Enjoy your tips a lot – Something is really bugging me though.  I’ve been playing mandolin about 4 years, and I am fairly serious about it – I’m probably somewhere around advanced – not sure.

Anyway, the monthly jam I really enjoy is the jam I started with.  My wife and I go, and we feel we’re pretty well accepted – except I don’t feel I get enough breaks.  I’m too shy really to complain.  I flip a lot between “man I must still suck pretty bad”, to “they can’t hear me and so they forget about me”, or “he just wants to hot dog”.  Anyway the dynamics are a big question mark to me, I really don’t have a clue – I only get three or four breaks on a 3 hour session (except my songs of course).  I am reluctant to just force a turn and feel that’s bad karma.


I don’t have a simple fix for this, but I have a few ideas for you to consider.

Maybe you don’t play loud enough. In open jams, it often takes some volume to be heard, and until players earn the respect of having other people pay attention to their solos (and quiet down a little out of respect), sometimes volume helps get attention.

The usual strategy for “getting breaks” is to play some good stuff on backup (doing tasty fills, not too much, but just in the right places — this sort of displays your musical competence), and when a solo opportunity is coming up — that is, just as the chorus is ending — look up at the lead singer as if to say “call on me”.

If you’ve already been doing the above, there could be various other reasons for the snub. Anything from personality problems to “never liked mandolin” to … you name it.

Another tack to take would be to talk with one or more of the people who usually lead songs, and in a private moment just mention you’d like to be called on more for solos. That takes a bit more social nerve to do, but it would probably work. Or if you let the discussion range to “I wonder why I’m not called on”, you may be able to fish out whatever the reason(s) might be for your not getting asked. That kind of discussion can be ticklish, so try to keep your defenses down, and don’t leave the person you talked to feel the conversation went poorly if they tried to give you some pointers. Mostly just say “thanks” and then chew on what you may have learned.

Best of luck. Let me know how it goes. I’m sure you can solve the problem somehow.