Imperial Dam LTVA Bluegrass Jam

Boondockers Bluegrass Jam

… see you again Fall 2023

Why a Bluegrass Jam?
Bluegrass music is participatory and making music with others is more fun than picking on your own.

All levels of pickers are welcome. Bring your guitar, uke, fiddle, mandolin, dobro or bass and come pick with us. Bluegrass, Bluegrass-adjacent, Country, and Americana.

Need a song or two to get started playing bluegrass?

  1. Wildwood Flower
  2. Bury Me Beneath the Willow
  3. Banks of the Ohio
  4. Glendale Train
  5. Dooley
  6. In the Gravel Yard
  7. Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss Me
  8. I Still Miss Someone
  9. Catfish John
  10. Little Cabin Home on the Hill
  11. I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
  12. I Shall Be Released
  13. Tom Dooley
  14. Old Home Place
  15. Ain’t Going Down to the River With You
  16. Tall Pines
  17. You’ll Get No More Of Me
  18. Tomorrow Is A Long Time
  19. Blue Collar Dreams
  20. Will the Circle Be Unbroken

What is a Bluegrass Jam?

These three terms are often used interchangeably.

For our bluegrass jam we use #3.

  1. Open Mic – a group of musicians back up anyone singing or playing for an audience.
  2. Open Stage – typically individuals or small groups taking turns playing one or a couple songs for an audience.
  3. Bluegrass Jam – a circle of people playing music together adding their instrument to the song or an instrumental. Some sing and lead a song; some lead an instrumental tune or take an instrumental break; some play rhythm and chord changes. These jams provide opportunities to enjoy your instrument and voice without performance pressure. 
    • Music stands, binders, fake books, tabs and/or iPads with lyrics and tabs are welcome. If you have committed song lyrics and chords to memory, great. If not, no worries. Bring what you want and lead your songs with confidence. 🙂
    • Leading a song moves left around the circle.
    • It’s ok to pass if you don’t want to lead a song.
    • Breaks (the instrumental lead played by one instrument) also passes to the left. It’s ok to pass on taking an instrument break.
    • All players manage their volume so singers and instrumental breaks stand out. 
    • Bring a chair or stool.

Your First Bluegrass Jam


It happens. You have practiced a song; nailed the vocals; perfected the chord changes; but it all fell apart at the jam. This is a bluegrass jam, not a performance. It’s ok.

Bluegrass Jam Etiquette

Pete Wernick from the prominent bluegrass band “Hot Rize” pulled together this bluegrass jam basics / etiquette.

Jam Busters

It happens. You love a song and want to play it at the jam. It’s your turn to lead a song and as you start describing the chord progression you get back blank stares because the chord progression is complex, no one has heard the song before or it’s not in a bluegrass style.

Songs that break the flow and vibe of the jam are jam busters.

People and behaviors can also disrupt the flow of a good jam. Mostly this circles back to good jam etiquette.

Nashville Number System

The Nashville Number System is a quick way to share a song’s chord progression among musicians.

Bluegrass Lyrics and Chords

Finding the Key you Sing In

Chords for songs are usually in the key of the original artist. If that isn’t your vocal range, it will be difficult for you to sing the song. If you find you are flipping your voice between singing high and low, the song is definitely in the wrong key for you.

Any song can be sung in any key. Changing the song’s key to fit your vocal range is easy. Transposing chords or use a capo to find a key where your low notes are not “gravelly” and your voice does not strain to sing the high notes. Simple. 🙂

Note: Fiddle tunes without singing are typically played in the key in which they were originally written. 

Warm Up Your Voice

Common Bluegrass Chord Progressions

One feature of bluegrass music is the simplicity of chord progressions, typically three or four chords. Different songs can share the same chord progressions (PDF).

And… common chord progressions are not unique to bluegrass. 🙂

Other Useful Stuff


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Jam Photos

Imperial LTVA 2023