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One Bassist per Jam

Discussion in 'Bluegrass [DB]' started by Jared Houseman, Apr 25, 2019.


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  1. Jared Houseman

    Jared Houseman

    Jul 5, 2018
    Does anyone else feel like there is an unspoken rule that there can only be one bassist per jam? Of course this applies to small jams but also to jams with 20-30 people. I don't go to jams if there's already a bassist and if i show up to a jam and there's another bassist ill fake chops on a mandolin or we'll take turns.

    Is this common practice or am I just being paranoid?
     
    Max George likes this.
  2. SteSte

    SteSte

    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    I live in Italy and i confirm this behavoir.
    It depend on who own the bass, some are really interested in sharing the bass and they are very gentle approach involving other bassist but sometimes this is not happening and this is very sad.
    It happen also that with lot of horns waiting to play bassists are soloing in every song, more than one time.
    Both is Ego, one of the most big problem in life and of course in music.
     
    DrayMiles likes this.
  3. That’s got to be bluegrass specific. But why?

    Back when I went to jazz jams regularly, we were usually three to five bass players plus the opening band’s bassist. I can’t think of any reason why this should be.

    Best
    Sidecar
     
    HateyMcAmp and Dudaronamous like this.
  4. Jared Houseman

    Jared Houseman

    Jul 5, 2018
    I don't really know either. I'm not the only one who feels like this as I've seen other people sit out if there's already a bassist
     
  5. neddyrow

    neddyrow Captain of Team Orange Jacket Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2011
    Cortland, NY
    my guess would be that the bass is more like the drums in jazz. do you have more than one drummer in a jazz jam?
     
  6. Of course. Usually there's several players of most of the common combo instruments, plus the occasional rare bird like chromatic harp (they don't usually come in groups :) ).

    Best
    Sidecar
     
  7. Wait a second, are we talking playing at the same time??

    Then of course it's pretty normal (as in- happening exclusively) only one player per rhythm section instrument (bass, drums, piano, guitar), while there can be (and will be) busloads of horns.

    Best
    Sidecar
     
  8. I thought the general rule in jams is once the house band has played their one set, each "jammer" plays 2 songs on stage, then get's off to let another person of the same instrument play. House band members making sure the rotation happens in a proper manner.
     
  9. BobKay

    BobKay Supporting Member

    Nov 5, 2012
    Estero, Florida; USA
    That is accepted bluegrass etiquette. I’ve been playing for years, and have always followed that practice. The reason is simple: in a jam with a couple of banjos and maybe a resonator guitar or two, it is hard for everyone to hear the bass. And if they play different bass lines, or if one is rhythmically challenged, it is confusing for all. I always offer my spot to another bassist if one appears.
     
  10. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Tallahassee
    wait thats crazy so you basically can't go to a jam session because the house band will already have a bassist, and they'll be stuck there for the night? crazy
     
    Fredrik E. Nilsen and HateyMcAmp like this.
  11. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    I'd agree, only one bassist in a jam...

    For jam players who know how to follow a bassist for tempo and rhythm, it's impossible to follow two bassists unless one is playing arco all the time (which is really not very trad-bluegrassy but could be interesting depending on arco skill level).

    Many of the bluegrass bassists that I know (including myself) also play more than one other instrument well enough to support a jam, so if there's already a bassist they'll switch off depending on whatever other instrument is least obnoxious in duplication.

    A lot of people say mandolins can provide the needed tempo and rhythm foundation (chops) for a jam, and they can in the best of circumstances, but if other jam players don't know how to moderate their volume, the mandolin will not be heard.

    For jam players who don't know how to follow a bassist, well, it often doesn't matter much anyway. In that kind of jam I'll often play banjo instead of bass (even if there is no bass), because the banjo is loud enough that I can control the jam's tempo and rhythm when necessary. But in that kind of jam, if there's already a good banjo player who can control the tempo and rhythm, I'll play the bass, otherwise mandolin or dobro.

    Trying to lead rhythm and tempo in a jam with either a bass or a mandolin (chops) can be quite frustrating if other instrument players don't know how to follow a bass or mandolin rhythm lead and/or don't know how to moderate their volume.
     
  12. I'm going to go on record here and say that a 20-30 person jam, needs no more jammers, bassist or otherwise.
     
    AGCurry, bassfran, martinc and 6 others like this.
  13. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Yup, it probably is time to split into separate jams at between 12 and 15 people. But sometimes another jam location is just not available.
     
  14. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    Not in a bluegrass context and with much smaller numbers, but if more than one bassist shows up we rotate after a certain number of songs -- basically just taking turns. The real complications arise when there are major discrepancies in the skill level among the various bassplayers.
     
    Holdsg and BobKay like this.
  15. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    At least out here in the west (USA) the description above would be an "open mic".

    For most bluegrass jams out here, there is no stage and there is no house band. There's just a bunch of people sitting down (or in some cases politely standing out of the way of others) in a circle enjoying a casual bluegrass jam. Most bluegrass festival campsites jam that way, most home or venue bluegrass jams also jam that way.

    And while there may be multiple bluegrass instruments other than the bass, there is typically only one bass.
     
  16. Yup. I rarely go to a bluegrass jam unless I know that I’ll have a chance to play bass for a few hours.
     
    james condino likes this.
  17. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    One of my treasured memories, when I was a Young Sprout, was being on the stand with another, more experienced, jazz bassist. The call was a blues in Bb (prolly TENOR MADNESS or some such) and Tommie would play a chorus behind the soloist and then hand it off to me to play a chorus behind the soloist and that went on throughout the whole tune. It was an Important Lesson to try to match his deep swing feel, note choice, interaction with the soloist, all the while making sure that tempos didn't falter and every transition between us was seamless and the line never became disjointed or unrelated.
     
  18. Jared Houseman

    Jared Houseman

    Jul 5, 2018
    Results: it seems to be common practice, I've been following it for years, I was just making sure it's not a local thing or something I made up
     
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Connecticut
    Nothing wrong with rotating.
     
    Holdsg likes this.
  20. turf3

    turf3

    Sep 26, 2011
    It looks to me like the OP was referring to bluegrass.

    In all the BG jams I've been to, it's one bass at a time. We either switch off, or one of us plays a different instrument the whole time. A lot of people who play bluegrass bass have only come to it because you always need a bass, but they would really rather be playing something else; so it's more common than you might think that I get to play bass the whole night and the other bass player plays their actually preferred instrument. But at any rate, common sense and thoughtfulness are key here.

    I don't do a lot of jazz jams but the general rule there is also one bass at a time.

    Most bluegrassers develop the ability to play other instruments than their primary, at least at a somewhat functional level. That's where I am on guitar and ukulele (which can chop like a mandolin, but you won't constantly be asked to take a solo). There are any number of bluegrassers that play at a superior level on multiple instruments.
     

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