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What are some common beginner jam tunes?

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As a newer player, one of the challenges I had going to jams at festivals last year was simply not knowing tunes that were being played and having to muddle my way through learning them while playing in a group.  They were beginner jams and it was encouraged for everyone to participate and play the bits they could figure out, try to read hands, learn by ear,  strum an open D chord, or mute the strings and be percussion otherwise 😄

I wrote down a few tunes that came up repeatedly:

  • Old Joe Clark
  • Liza Jane
  • Spotted Pony
  • Wildwood Flower
  • June Apple
  • Forked Deer
  • Whiskey Before Breakfast
  • Cherokee Waltz
  • Southwind

I think it would be helpful to have a list of common tunes that come up often for beginners.  If others can add to this with more that would be great!

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Common jam tunes vary greatly depending on what part of the country you're in.  I've lived places where half of your list are complete unknowns and Old Joe and Liza Jane are looked down upon as too simplistic...

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3 hours ago, NoterMan said:

Common jam tunes vary greatly depending on what part of the country you're in.  I've lived places where half of your list are complete unknowns

I can definitely understand there being different traditions in different places.  I didn't know any of them on that list when I started playing a couple years ago.

3 hours ago, NoterMan said:

and Old Joe and Liza Jane are looked down upon as too simplistic...

I was thinking mainly for beginners starting out.  Or do you mean they're too simplistic even for beginners?  If so, I've got a long ways to go 😄

I'll change the title of the post to reflect it's aimed at beginner tunes. 

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I think a great "beginner jam tune" is Boil Them Cabbage Down. It's also good as a sort of "icebreaker" for confident players who have never before played together. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss is another great beginner tune for jamming. I'll post a few video links in the video-links forum. 

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Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Frere Jacques, and Hush Little Baby are good songs for beginners.  If a beginner plays another instrument, then these might be too simple.  But if a beginner has never played an instrument before, I don't think any simple song is too simple.

Dave

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19 hours ago, Carla Maxwell said:

I think a great "beginner jam tune" is Boil Them Cabbage Down. It's also good as a sort of "icebreaker" for confident players who have never before played together. Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss is another great beginner tune for jamming. I'll post a few video links in the video-links forum. 

Thanks for these Carla!  Fly Around and June Apple are about the level I was thinking of.  Boil Them Cabbage was the first song I learned at a dulcimer workshop and it's definitely a great first song to get started with.  The kind of songs I'd like to know more of are "jam staples." - songs that get played at jams often, but not too difficult.  Maybe whatever the next step after beginner is 😃

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9 hours ago, dholeton said:

Go Tell Aunt Rhody, Frere Jacques, and Hush Little Baby are good songs for beginners.  If a beginner plays another instrument, then these might be too simple.  But if a beginner has never played an instrument before, I don't think any simple song is too simple.

Dave

Thanks Dave, these are definitely some good ones.  They're some of the first ones I learned and are definitely great starting points.  What would be some that would be a "next step" that would be played at a jam, but still not too difficult?

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1 hour ago, Admin said:

Thanks for these Carla!  Fly Around and June Apple are about the level I was thinking of.  Boil Them Cabbage was the first song I learned at a dulcimer workshop and it's definitely a great first song to get started with.  The kind of songs I'd like to know more of are "jam staples." - songs that get played at jams often, but not too difficult.  Maybe whatever the next step after beginner is 😃

You Are My Sunshine and Buffalo Gals are great ones for confident beginners/intermediate players to jam with. 

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Arkansas Traveler is another good one! I'm sitting here listening to my husband playing it on a jocimer while a friend plays a fiddle and they are jamming!

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1 hour ago, Carla Maxwell said:

You Are My Sunshine and Buffalo Gals are great ones for confident beginners/intermediate players to jam with. 

 

30 minutes ago, Carla Maxwell said:

Arkansas Traveler is another good one! I'm sitting here listening to my husband playing it on a jocimer while a friend plays a fiddle and they are jamming!

Thanks for these suggestions, I'll give these a shot😃   I've been working on Spotted Pony lately.  I heard it at the first jam I went to and loved the tune.  I was able to learn it drone-melody style in DAA a few months ago.  The last week or so I've gone  back to learn it in DAD (melody across strings at speed can be tough) and also learning to play it with chord-melody now.  It's definitely pushing the edge of what I'm ready for.

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1 hour ago, Admin said:

 

Thanks for these suggestions, I'll give these a shot😃   I've been working on Spotted Pony lately.  I heard it at the first jam I went to and loved the tune.  I was able to learn it drone-melody style in DAA a few months ago.  The last week or so I've gone  back to learn it in DAD (melody across strings at speed can be tough) and also learning to play it with chord-melody now.  It's definitely pushing the edge of what I'm ready for.

I love the Spotted Pony tune! When I was learning to play the dulcimer, I actually found Spotted Pony to be hard to jam with others, after playing repeatedly on my own. It was probably my inability to keep up with the speed of everyone else's playing that was the problem. Whoever you jam with, make sure they are patient and fun to play with, especially while you're learning! :classic_smile:

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Using a book like Steve Seifert's Join the Jam is a good way to learn all these tunes. There are others who have published jam tune books. Perhaps we could compile a list of the books that have jam tunes.

Ken

"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

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On 2/8/2020 at 10:15 AM, KWL said:

Using a book like Steve Seifert's Join the Jam is a good way to learn all these tunes. There are others who have published jam tune books. Perhaps we could compile a list of the books that have jam tunes.

These are great resources!  I have Steve Seifert and Dave Haas' jam books that I picked up at Kentucky Music Week last year.  They definitely help a lot. I think it's a great idea to compile a list of these as references so people can know what's out there. I wasn't aware of them until I saw them at the festival.  They're definitely great to have at jams and cover a lot of the tunes.

What I think would be a good supplement for someone starting out would be a list of songs that are likely to be played in slower jams.  I find I enjoy the jams more when I know a couple of the songs and can play along without trying to learn everything on the spot.  I do enjoy learning new songs and there's definitely something to be said for being able to read hands and play along. I'm still working on those skills 🙂  I'm going to try to make a list of songs this year at the jams I go to as I'll still be doing slower/beginner jams and maybe that can help others who are just getting started.

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On 2/8/2020 at 1:54 AM, Carla Maxwell said:

I love the Spotted Pony tune! When I was learning to play the dulcimer, I actually found Spotted Pony to be hard to jam with others, after playing repeatedly on my own. It was probably my inability to keep up with the speed of everyone else's playing that was the problem. Whoever you jam with, make sure they are patient and fun to play with, especially while you're learning! :classic_smile:

Speed is definitely something I have to work on.  Especially with chord-melody style 🙂 I still have a lot of practice to put in.  I mainly join the slow jams or beginner jams at the festivals I go to.  There is a local dulcimer club in my area and I would like to join them some time.  

I've attached a recording of my attempt at Spotted Pony in chord-melody style.  I recorded it this morning on a dulcimer that I built last year.  It's such a fun tune to play!

Audio recording 2020-02-09 10-34-00.aac

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On 2/7/2020 at 9:36 PM, Admin said:

Thanks Dave, these are definitely some good ones.  They're some of the first ones I learned and are definitely great starting points.  What would be some that would be a "next step" that would be played at a jam, but still not too difficult?

Good job on Spotted Pony.  It's okay to play a song slow, speed will come in time.  I like to play some songs at what I call "singing speed".  Arkansas Traveler is an example of a song I play but it is still a little fast for beginners even at singing speed (search YouTube for dholeton Arkansas Traveler on dulcimer if you want to view my version). 

 

Looking at Stephen's Join The Jam, I'll suggest some tunes that might be the next level for beginner players.

Angelina Baker

Boatman

Buffalo Gals (I don't here this one played often at the club, but I play it often)

Cherokee Shuffle

Grey Cat On A Tennessee Farm

June Apple

Rosin THe Beau

Sandy Boys

Southwind

Sugar Hill

Westfalia Waltz

Wildwood Flower

Many of these are tunes that are often played in the Monday morning jam at the Appalachian Museum.

Dave

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4 hours ago, Admin said:

Speed is definitely something I have to work on.  Especially with chord-melody style 🙂 I still have a lot of practice to put in.  I mainly join the slow jams or beginner jams at the festivals I go to.  There is a local dulcimer club in my area and I would like to join them some time.  

I've attached a recording of my attempt at Spotted Pony in chord-melody style.  I recorded it this morning on a dulcimer that I built last year.  It's such a fun tune to play!

Audio recording 2020-02-09 10-34-00.aac 606.61 kB · 2 downloads

Nice playing! Your dulcimer sounds great, too! Practice will definitely bring speed, if you want it. Go ahead and join that club in your area! The regular members will most-likely be happy to have someone new, that's how it was when I was hosting club meetings in Tennessee.

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