General Basics for Circle Jam Etiquette
Follow the leader. The leader of the song should control the tempo and the tone of the song.
Leave the circle if you want have a conversation with others.
If you want to lead a song, first prepare to lead it by knowing the chords and the words. (You can look at a cheat sheet if you can play the song well while still interacting with the other musicians.) It is OK to play simple 3-chord songs with simple 4/4 or 3/4 timing. Not everyone can play songs with a lot of chords.
You are playing too loud if you have to strain to hear the person playing an instrumental lead or the person leading the song.
In a circle jam, everyone in the circle is invited to take a turn leading a song. It’s OK to pass.
Not every song needs to have instrumental breaks. Some are just good singing songs and should be left that way.
If you are a singer, do not sing or talk through instrumental breaks. Listen to them. They are an integral part of the music.
As a common courtesy, limit vocal verses to 4.
If you play a dominating lead instrument, like a fiddle, don’t play on all of the verses; do not play at all when a guitar picker is taking a lead since you will likely overpower the picking.
If you are the primary rhythm guitar player, do not play a lead part unless someone else in the group can carry the rhythm. Fancy picking is not a requirement for good music, however solid rhythm always is.
Tune your instrument to standard pitch (A=440). An instrument that is in tune with itself may not necessarily be in tune with another instrument and can make an otherwise good jam sound terrible. Unless you have absolute perfect pitch, use an electronic tuner to tune. If you cannot afford to buy one, and someone offers to loan you one, borrow it! If the jam has already started and space is available, go to another room to tune. Do not tune in the middle of someone’s song!
When the song is over quit playing! There are times you want to practice a new lick or progression just learned in a jam, but people who constantly pick their instruments between songs make it difficult to start a new tune.