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Suggested Rules for the Open Jam

These rules are based on the ones listed on Rules of the Jam page but that one seems to be designed for private jams. This modified version is my attempt to create a set of rules for open jams. Feel free to send suggested modifications to

Rule 1. Jams are fun. They are not practice. Make it fun. If you have to, work hard to make it fun. If it isn't fun, don't do it.
Rule 2. Jams are the time to make mistakes. In a Jam you can experiment, screw up, fall down, drop your axe and otherwise make a fool of yourself. The flip side of this is that you have to be tolerant of others who are screwing up. In any case good manners should be as important here as in any social situation.
Rule 3. Jams are for beginners as well as experts. Although you can make some rules as to minimum competence, these should be rules like: Must know how to play in different keys. Must know the changes. If you are an expert, teach the beginners, don't condemn them. If you are a beginner, it may be better not to play anything if you are not sure of the key or the changes.
Rule 4. Everyone gets a chance to solo - if not in every song then in every set for at least one verse. If a solo is good or needs a second time around then it should get a second verse. A great solo deserves a third shot, but a great solo leads to something and should end of its own accord by the third verse. Even the drummer and the Bass player need to solo from time to time. (Well, maybe not the Bass player.)
Rule 5. Everyone plays. If there are lots of people, then maybe not all at the same time. Too many harp players sounds like bagpipes. Too many guitar players sounds like hell. A good jam has lots of participants. It is the job of the jam host to get everyone up at least once.
Rule 6. Don't solo unless its your time to solo. It's harder to play a good rhythm line along with the other people not soloing than to solo. Playing rhythm requires coordination and a good understanding of the music. Harmonica players have the hardest time playing rhythm, but harmonica rhythm sounds great.
Rule 7. Don't "Dixieland". Don't add embellishments and ornamentation to the song needlessly (unless it is a Dixieland song, and even then there are rules.)
Rule 8. Don't step on someone else's solo. Lay back and let another wail. Your time will come. There's nothing worse than trying to sing or play and have someone else playing a solo against you.
Rule 9. Learn the music. If its Blues, get all of the classic, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, etc. Be familiar with the literature. Know where the stops are.
Rule 10. If you are not soloing, turn down. Don't play loud. In jams there are usually more than a few people. The combined loudness will make total volume levels so high that the softer instruments and players will not be heard and the overall sound will be muddy.
Rule 11. Call the song. If you are going decide which song to play next, then describe it. Make sure everyone knows the changes and the keys. Example: "Slow shuffle blues in E, fast to the 4, stays in the 1 in the guitar solo. The singer will signal the stops in the intro." Make sure that your cues are clear and definite.
Rule 12. Don't play unless you have been called up to play. Don't sit in the audience playing along with the current band. Don't jump onto the stage unless you have been called up. Don't grab the mike between songs to make announcements or testimonials.
Rule 13. Applaud. Be happy. Reward positive behavior. The jam isn't about you, it's about US. Make everyone feel they've done a good job. Even the worst player has to be better in the last song than he was in the one before. Everyone can get better, even if getting better means that he hit 2 notes right out of 100 instead of 1 note right. After your spot stick around and support the players who follow you.
Rule 14. Don't break the law. Firing up a doobie in the bar is a good way to get the bar shut down. If smoking in bars is not allowed in your municipality then don't do it. You could cost the bar a huge fine or, in some cases, get them shut down. The bar is your host. Treat them with respect.
Rule 15. Mix up the musical styles. Don't play slow shuffles in E all night. Play some fast boogies and a few rock classics. If someone is into SRV, let him play a few. If someone else is into Rev. Gary Davis, let him lead a few. The beauty of Blues and Jazz and Rock is the variety. Don't play just one kind of song. But - see next rule.
Rule 16. If the open jam has specified a type of music then respect it. Don't expect to play country songs at a blues jam. Don't come to a metal jam to play folk songs. The host may relax these rules in some cases but don't abuse this.
Rule 17. If you declare a song, lead it. You become the Jam leader. You should point to the next soloist and give them plenty of time to lead into the solo. Point to them in the turn-around. You have to yell "Stop" at the stops so everyone can stop. You have to make the winding motion with your finger straight up when you are winding up the song. You have to try and quiet down the loud players and buck up the shy players.
Rule 18. Watch the leader. He'll tell when to solo, when to stop, when to wind it up and when you are too loud.
Rule 19. Let the drummer call the beat. He'll use his sticks and count off the beat. Don't do this yourself. The Drummer and the Bass players are the backbone of the music. Let them lead you. If you are a drummer, drive the song. Don't let the guitar players do your job. They will let the beat wander all over the place. You have to keep it steady. Don't let anyone speed you up. If you are a Bass Player, please keep the drummer straight.
Rule 20. Take a break. Go outside and smoke a cig. Talk to the pretty girl in the corner. Let someone else be the star for a set. The Jam should take a break every three songs to let someone else a shot at stardom.
Rule 21: Bring your own axe. Don't borrow a guitar or (yuck) someone's harmonica. Drummers should bring their own sticks. Harp players, bring more than one harp - don't make the band play in G all night.

Don't bring your own amp. Use the ones supplied. Setting up extra amps causes slowdowns, sound problems and clutters the stage. If you are a singer or harp player bring your own microphone only if the host allows it. Drummers should use the existing kit unless the local rules specifically allow cymbal and snare changes.

Rule 22: Do not come on stage while someone is playing and set up your instrument, It's distracting to the current jammer and can cause technical issues. The time to set up is between songs.
Rule 23. Respect your host. If the bar sells food then buy it there. Don't sneak in your own meals. Buy your drinks at the bar. If the bar fails to make a profit the open jam won't last long.

Follow the rules, both the legal ones as well as the bar's own rules. If you don't like the rules, find another jam in another bar.

Tip your server.

Don't throw up in the bathroom. Don't start a fight. Just use your common sense.

Rule 24. Practice at home. Bring a new riff or song or idea to the Jam each week. Make each jam better than the last. Don't put your axe in the case after the jam and leave it there until the next jam. Get better! Don't bring the same three songs to the jam week after week. Mix it up a little.
Rule 25. Don't wait until you are on stage to tune up. Bring a tuner, or borrow one, and tune up while waiting for your spot. When it is your turn you should be able to walk on stage, plug in and start playing. The jam itself has a rhythm. Don't break it.
Rule 26. Make a new rule. Go to a jam and figure out how it could be improved and tell me about it. I'll add the rule here.

Special rules for singers:

Rule 1. Don't expect everyone to know your songs. Buy a good cheat book and be familiar with the melodies of all the songs in it. Don't be ashamed to sing out of a cheat book.
Rule 2. Leave your friend at home. I don't know why, but singers always have friends who are absolute jerks.
Rule 3. Allow plenty of time for all of the players to solo before you end the song.
Rule 4. Bring your own microphone if it is allowed. Invest in a good one. Microphones spread germs. (I'm not kidding)
Rule 5. NEVER EVER play those little plastic eggs or a tambourine or other rhythm instrument unless you are a percussionist. These things are instruments like any other and require knowledge, skill and practice to play correctly. If you don't know what to do with your hands or how to stand when you are not singing, you are not a good singer yet. Watch some good singers and see what they do when the band is soloing. Watch how important their hand motions are.
Rule 6. Don't touch the mic. Adjust the mic stand once at the beginning.
Rule 7 Don't speak to anyone in the audience. Don't ask "can you hear me?". You are there to sing. You are not the MC.
Rule 8. Sing out! Jams never have enough singers. You can make the song great.
Rule 9. The best songs for Jams are sing-alongs or call and response. Get the audience involved. Don't be a star - share the spotlight with the group. Sing "Mojo", "Sweet Home Chicago", "Hoochie Coochie Man (Woman)", or "Fools Night Out" and get the audience and band singing along with you.
Rule 10. Sell the song. Don't stand still and sing. Move! Singing is much more than noise from your mouth. Dance, if you can. Your voice reflects what your body is doing. Blues is emotional by definition. Make your whole body reflect that emotion.
Rule 11. Lead the band. In a song with a singer, you are usually the leader. You call the stops and choose the soloists. If you aren't going to lead the song, make sure some else does.

Special rules for Guitar players.

Rule 1. Turn the volume on the guitar down.
Rule 2. Turn the volume on the amp down.
Rule 3. Turn the volume on your effects down.
Rule 4. Play softly.

Specal Rules for Drummers

Rule 1. Keep it simple. Complicated beats make it hard for everyone to play.
Rule 2. Avoid use of the cymbals. Not every turn-around requires a crashing blitz of brass noise.
Rule 3. Bring your friend. For some reason the goofiest drummer always has the prettiest girl friends.
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