- 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.