• Music should be fun.
  • Do what gets you the most musical fun the soonest. Easy is good, as long as the music is good.
  • Learn chords and basic timekeeping first. Start by playing along with 2-chord songs, then 3-chord songs.
  • Practice jam skills at home. Play/sing from a songbook, play along with recordings.
  • Keep it slow at first, about 70 beats/minute.
  • It’s easy enough to be in tune, so work on staying in tune.
  • Soloing is not necessary for jamming. Soloing is more successful once jam skills are learned.
  • No reading chords from paper in a jam. Read guitar player’s left hand. Normally no need to call out chords.
  • Jam in a circle. 4-6 people optimum for bluegrass, 8-10 questionable, if more, better to divide groups.
  • Ear skills are necessary for bluegrass, tab and music reading skills are not. Cultivate ear skills.
  • Learn about bluegrass basics, and work on the basics at first.
  • Learn the typical ground rules and protocols.
  • Respect bluegrass sensibilities and traditions.

Go for liftoff

  • Learn to control your backup volume.
  • Practice singing enough to carry a tune and sing in a jam.
  • Learn the number system for help with following chords, transposing, etc.
  • Learn choruses by listening/singing. In short: at most only one book open, for lead singer to read words.
  • Learn to reinforce the pulse effectively.
  • Learn “placeholder” soloing.
  • Learn more chords to allow for more different songs, and different keys.
  • Make a point to help others stay on track.
  • Learn capo fundamentals.
  • Learn “filler content” soloing.
  • Learn to find melodies and base simple solos on melodies.
  • Memorized instrumental solos are generally too hard and “iffy” to work well in novice jams. But OK to try.

For extra participation and respect

  • Learn to lead songs.
  • Learn to take good-sounding solos, including kickoffs.
  • Learn to sing harmony, and work toward being able to improvise harmony.

For respect and the success of the group

  • Work around others’ limitations and preferences.
  • Share the spotlight and showing off.
  • Bring good material to the jam that you can lead.