Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Question of Etiquette

Hello, throughout my journey, I have kept a journal with chord changes, licks etc. At a jam, will I look like a clown referencing it? what about if it’s inconspicuous and doesn’t impede the flow of the jam? Any opinions would be welcome. Thanks!

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Here’s my honest take/guess… in most jams, the vast majority of folks wouldn’t care a bit. A few folks might look down their noses and a few might look up to you in appreciation of your preparation. There will be circles where there the norm is more one way or the other. If it is your preference to use it, use it (unless there is some sort of “house rules” that oppose it). No one else is negatively impacted except for the possibility of being so in their own minds.

Just my thoughts…


Mike couldn’t have said it better. Unless the jam forbids it, do whatever you need to do to be at ease and play your best. Most jams are all about having fun anyway.


I see more and more folks (and now myself included) use the iPad to reference songs/words at jams. I’m trying to have the words memorized when it’s my turn to sing, but I sometimes need to get the first word of a line to continue.

At outdoor jams at festivals this isn’t usually the case, so I’m realizing I have to have my own “in my head” list of songs. I’m thinking I should have 10 instrumentals and 10 lyric tunes. Does that sound reasonable to you all?

I have to laugh as I often have to use my fingers and count out what chords will be used, what notes are in a key, what is the second or seventh, etc. That’s got to look dopier than referencing your journal! I think it makes you a student, eager to improve your skills. No one of worth will look down on that.


Welcome to the forum, Don!

I’m not the most experienced with jams, but I’ll third what Mike told you.

In addition to that, I’ll also say that if I’m in a jam where people look down on me for trying to do my best - and that includes notes of chord progression/licks - then I see no problem no longer being a part of that jam group. But I honestly see very few people being like that, especially in bluegrass.