Boondockers Bluegrass Jam

Imperial Dam LTVA Bluegrass Jam

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 and sing Bluegrass, Bluegrass-adjacent, Country, and Americana music with us.

What is a Bluegrass Jam?

Three terms are often used interchangeably… they’re not ๐Ÿ™‚

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 two songs for an audience.
  3. Bluegrass Jam – a circle of people playing music together. Bluegrass circle jams provide the opportunity to enjoy your instrument and voice without performance pressure. Each picker adds their instrument to songs led by others and can choose to lead a song or not. You choose how you want to participate. Some people some play rhythm and follow chord changes on their instrument; others lead a song; some sing harmonies during a chorus, some lead an instrumental tune or take an instrumental break.

Seating at a Bluegrass Jam

For those playing music:

  • Bring a chair or stool
  • Music stands, binders, fake books, tabs and/or iPads are welcome. If you’ve committed song lyrics and chords to memory, great. If not, no worries, bring something so you can lead your songs with confidence.
  • All players manage the volume of their instrument so singers and instrumental breaks can be heard.
  • Leading a song moves left around the circle.
  • Itโ€™s ok to pass if you donโ€™t want to lead a song.
  • Breaks (the instrumental lead played by one instrument) also passes to the left. Itโ€™s ok to pass on taking a break.

For those Watching a Jam:

  • Bring a chair or stool and sit in the circle around / outside those who are playing.
  • Bring a beverage if you want one.
  • If you’re smoking or vaping, please leave the circle and stand downwind.

Your First Bluegrass Jam

We’re friendly. Come pick with us. Here’s some background info.


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. Itโ€™s ok.

Bluegrass Jam Etiquette

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

Jam Busters

Songs that break the flow and vibe are jam busters.

If it’s your turn to lead a song and you get blank stares when you describe the super complex chord progression or no one has ever heard the song you called… it’s a jam buster. Call for another song and keep the music flowing.

People and behaviors can also disrupt the flow of a good jam. Most times this comes 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

Other Useful Stuff


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Jam Photos

Imperial LTVA 2023