Bluegrass Jamming Resources

Updated: Nov 17

I didn’t grow up around bluegrass and country music. I came to love it in college while studying music education and had to develop quick, efficient, ways of learning the repertoire as an outsider.

Here are some of the resources that have helped me along the way:

Bluegrass Jamming Favorites YouTube Playlist

Pete Wernick, Banjo player of Hot Rize, is a fierce advocate for getting people together to jam. He put together a free playlist of OVER 100 tunes that he believes are great for Bluegrass Jamming.

It's an incredible resource that is easy to take for granted- I'm the first to admit it! I've made my way through about 50 of them, and want to spend some time with them all.

JAM Songbook Songs YouTube Playlist

This playlist is a great accompaniment to the JAM Songbook by Pete Wernick and Liam Purcell which is available in print OR PDF. The book is chock full of easy 2 and 3 chord songs that are labeled by the Number System so that they can be easily transposed.

A common pitfall of many song books is that the songs are written in specific keys- often they way they were recorded (by high male tenor voices) This makes it harder to sing if you don’t fit that voice type (low/middle ranged male voice or middle/high range female voice).

The JAM Songbook is a finely-tuned resource for any bluegrass education program, and our bulk pricing ($5/copy for orders of 5 or more books) makes it cost-effective for them, especially compared to the effort and expense of developing and printing their own handouts.

  • Along with 39 bluegrass songs in the largest possible print, there’s useful instructional material (chord diagrams for all instruments, jamming guidance, an explanation of the number system, and a simple transposing chart.

  • Online playlists for all songs in the book (live video and audio), allow students to learn the songs by ear – a rare and helpful feature. No music reading needed to learn the songs!

  • Chords are shown in numbers only, allowing students to choose their best singing key and to get familiar with the number system.

  • Photos of kids in the JAM program jamming are seen throughout the book.

  • My co-writer Liam Purcell, from Deep Gap, NC, got his musical start in the JAM program at age 6, and is now a bandleader and multi-instrumentalist on scholarship at Berklee College of Music – and a recent winner of IBMA Momentum awards!

  • The book contains plugs and descriptions of both JAM and the Wernick Method. The book’s circulation helps publicize both programs.

Attend Jams and Join your Local Bluegrass Organizations

I went to every jam I could when I was first learning- slow or fast, there was always something I could learn. Take notes, or add songs that you hear to a personal playlist in real time, then listen to those songs on the way home or on the way to the next jam.

The best way to find a jam is to Join your Local Bluegrass Organization and see if they have public jams listed, or contact the organization and let them know you are interested. Don’t have a local bluegrass organization- maybe you could start one! I noticed that every state around me had one but mine, so I created the Connecticut Bluegrass Association to help connect people!

Bluegrass Jamming Basics is a great resource for learning about the etiquette of a jam.

Jam Skills Checklist can give you a sense of whether you are properly prepared for a jam

List of Two Chord Songs can give you songs that are sure to be successful in a jam. Pro tip: It’s better to start with simple, easy to follow, songs, rather than complex ones, even if they are your favorite and you know them really well - it will be more fun if people can follow you!

Learn to Read Guitar Chords - Every other instrument can play chords in a variety of ways- so watching the guitar player can be an easy, quick way to learn a song on the spot.

The Jam Survival Picky Fingers Podcast can be a great listen on the road or while doing household chores, as would this lesson with Marcel: "Always Do These Things at a Bluegrass Jam"

Three Approaches to taking a solo - Having a prepared solo in your favorite key is one thing, but you will find more often than not the need to "fake" a solo on a tune that maybe you've never heard before or a key you haven't practiced it in.

Vocal Harmony Tips Ever wonder how great harmony singers seem to effortlessly find that “missing note” and blend so perfectly in a group? You'll find tips and tricks here.

Here's an 360 interactive video that you can use to see a live bluegrass jam in action. Click and drag the screen to watch different solos/nonverbal cues.

Looking for instrument-specific Resources?

Fiddle Tips and Inspiration

Vocal Harmony Tips

Bluegrass Guitar Inspiration

Mandolin Tips and Inspiration

Banjo Lessons and Inspiration

Country/Bluegrass Fiddle

Learn the fundamentals of bluegrass fiddling as well as advanced concepts/transcriptions from famous players like Bobby Hicks

Bluegrass Guitar

Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar Lesson: How is it different from Country, Rock, and Folk? Basics of strumming pattern, chords, and the "Do's and Don'ts" of playing. G, D, C, Chord voicing included. Bluegrass Guitar Lesson using examples from "I'll Fly Away" Strategies for not just finding the notes, but also the TIMING/Counting of common Bass line runs in your Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar Playing How to add variety to the boom-chuck rhythm pattern in a way that is exciting and tasteful.

Bluegrass Mandolin

Lessons on Double Stops, Scales, How to Take a Solo on the Mandolin

Singing, Ear Training, and other Fundamentals

Backing Tracks that are highest quality for each genre

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