In spite of the 10 inches of snow that had fallen in the Virginia-West Virginia-Maryland area, a number of hardy souls braved the icy driveway of Picnic Hill in Frederick, Maryland, to jam Sunday afternoon. Four banjos (Kathy, Tim, Pam, David), one mandolin (Kristina), and two guitars (Gen and I) made merry music for two mellifluous hours in a toasty warm, holiday house that featured plenty of cookies!
Highlights included Kristina debuting her mandolin break to Daybreak In Dixie while Kathy and David played it on banjo, Tim adding a beautiful baritone part to the duets Kathy and I were singing, David doing some tasteful banjo backup (especially on Purple Robe), Pam and Tim (from Baby Banjo Camp, as Tim calls it) nailing the Big Three: Banjo in the Hollow, Cripple Creek, and Boil Them Cabbage Down, and Gen, who is cute-as-a-button, sitting there like a champ playing chords on her guitar for the whole two hours. What a group!
Pam and Tim each took a banjo lesson before the jam and the Very Important Thing that emerged at both lessons was this: no matter how good you can play your songs at home, playing along with the guitar changes things! For one thing, it highlights tiny timing errors. Not holding that eighth note long enough? The guitar will spotlight that miniscule glitch in a heartbeat. Not hearing the song "right" in your head? Playing along with the guitar will pound that downbeat into your head. As Pam put it, when you are playing alone at home there are no distractions. (Okay, no musical distractions!) But when you add guitar to the mix, it can be a huge distraction because all of a sudden here is this other sound that you have to take into account. And what I realized is this: the guitar actually changes the way the banjo sounds in your head. Until you have integrated the guitar sound into your banjo playing, you don't really "hear" the tune, you don't really "know" the tune. The guitar pulls it all together. That's why when you play along with the guitar for the first time, your banjo playing sounds so different. To this end, if you are working with the DVDs, be sure to practice playing along with the section that includes Casey or Chris or an off-camera Red on guitar. As I keep telling you, our Slow Jam DVD is a great way to practice playing along with a whole band. Learning to use the Slow Jam DVD may take a little practice, but hang it there. It will really pay off.
And here's a funny thing (only slightly jam related): It turned out that the house Red and I stayed in at Thanksgiving (in Charlotte, N.C.) was the home of Pam's sister! Nobody realized that connection at the time--it only emerged much later. Incredible! It is a small world, after all! (And gosh, I'm so glad I emptied the kitchen trash and made up the bed before we left!)
Jams This Week:
Tuesday, December 17, Winchester, 7-9
Wednesday, December 18, Winchester. 7-9
No Sunday Jam.
Then our next jam will be Tuesday January 7, 2014, and Wednesday January 8. 2014.
Then it's Portland Banjo Camp January 10-12. And the All Women Jam in Portland on Thursday, January 9. Spots are still open. See you there!