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The Journey Back to Jamming

It's been several months since I've been to a local jam session. Since my son was born in September, it's just been too difficult to find the time. One of my goals this year is to get back to playing with others, preferably in the next month or so.

The thought of playing my banjo in a group again fills me with a bit of anxiety. By nature, I'm not the most outgoing person. Couple that with the feeling of being way out of practice, and you have a recipe for the nervous nellies.

As readers know, I've spent most of my music-playing time this past year learning the fiddle. However, I still don't feel confident enough to play it in public. Besides, there are plenty of fiddlers around and not enough banjo bangers to keep them honest.

It seems high time I get back to woodshedding tunes on the five-string to get myself back up to speed. I like to practice by playing along with recordings. Last night, I was reminded of the handy Old-Time Jam Machine, an online source for backing tracks, which allows you to play along with recordings — minus the instrument you're playing.

The site has fiddle, banjo and guitar tracks for many common tunes, and you have the option of playing with fiddle and guitar, fiddle and banjo, banjo and guitar or just guitar backing. If you haven't tried it, I highly recommend it, especially to those who are nervous about attending their first old-time jam session.

My first jam of the year is coming soon. It'll feel good to feel part of the local old-time community again.

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