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Tunes to Know for Jams

edited June 12 in Repertoire Posts: 49

Hey guys! Wondering about what all tunes to have ready for jams. So, is every tune in the Robin Nolan Gig Book a good idea? I have the Django Fakebook too and there are a ton of tunes in there. What tunes are always played and need to know tunes? Any input for this is very appreciated. Thanks and Blessings. Matthew



  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 257

    If you want a starting point, you might try here. 24 tunes that @Jack even gives a suggested order of importance based on frequency and level (no surprise, Minor Swing is first). You can't go wrong in knowing these tunes. I'm sure people would add to them....i.e For Sephora is one I like but isn't on here. Some of the Nolan Gig Book tunes are a bit less likely to show up in jams...i.e. Moppin up the Bride(?) but that is a great resource for some of the others that aren't in this DiJ reference.

    There will almost certainly be a tune called at a jam that you don't know. Starting with these should mean you can not only participate right away but hopefully train your ear to hear some of the typical chord progressions. If you can play Daphne, you should be able to play Swing 42, Belleville, or other rhythm changes tunes with just a quick key change as necessary. A quick chorus to listen and looking at someone's fingers should get you set up to join right in.

    This question comes up a lot...I'm sure if you have a search through the forum, you will find a lot of others' opinions on this matter. Good luck!

  • edited June 12 Posts: 49

    Thank you for your response! That was hugely helpful. Thank you.

  • KlausUSKlausUS AustriaNew Dupont MD50, AJL
    edited June 12 Posts: 34

    One example of a list of songs played at a jam session, includes a couple of the usual suspects.

  • My approach to tunes in jams, based on just being polite to others :

    Larger Jams:

    1. I only call a song if I have the chords and melody memorized myself.
    2. I don't call a song outside the genre of the jam. I call what I expect others probably would know.
    3. I avoid calling songs that might too long, such as Blue Drag, in a jam of 6+ people.
    4. I avoid calling songs designed for soloists to show off, such as most waltzes.

    1-on-1 Jams:

    1. May be ok to call experimental rhythms on well know songs.
    2. May be ok to call a new song that neither person has played, but you want to try.
    3. This is the scenario where I like to do waltzes.
    Jon Austen, Portland, OR
    playing since 1997
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    edited June 12 Posts: 1,104

    Funny to see these change (or don't) over the years

    here is a list from 2005

    here is a list from 2015

    The lists here are still pretty good, and in 2025 people will still be playing the same ones. 😁 Beware, there are some tunes that weirdly come into fashion and everyone is playing them, but then they disappear just as quickly again (e.g. Dream of You).

    Reinhardt has recorded something like 500 tunes, but most players do <10% of them, so just learning the top 10 can serve you well for quite some time.

  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 257

    Beware, there are some tunes that weirdly come into fashion and everyone is playing them, but then they disappear just as quickly again (e.g. Dream of You).

    I love the fun melody on that song but I can see how it might get stale.

  • Posts: 49

    So far everyone's top 10 are all included in the 24 tunes to learn from @Jack mentioned earlier. I downloaded it, music and tab, printed it and made a binder. I already know some of them. Added with the tunes I already play, Autumn Leaves, There will never be another you, all the things you are, blue bossa, etc.. it should give me a great base to hit some jams. Always appreciate you guys, this forum is solid gold for me!

  • Posts: 27

    it’s always fine to sit tunes out that you don’t know at a jam. I always make sure to make note of the tunes I can’t follow at a jam and learn it. Do that enough times and you have a great jam repertoire. Jam repertoire can also be very regional and especially so if it’s a long running local jam where many people play the same tunes together regularly and are more likely to agree on new less common tunes. I wouldn’t worry about be jam ready, as long as can play a few songs well enough, you can sit out of anything you don’t know and call the tunes you do.

  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew Martin Tremblay Grand Modèle Busato
    Posts: 209

    For my curiosity's sake, I kept track of the songs that were called during the 33 jams I played in here in Madison in 2019. Here are the top 25 including how many times they were called out of 33 jams. As @King_Cardboard mentioned, jam repertoire can vary by region. I think they can also vary by skill level of the group. We are not very high level players (i.e. professional musicians or people who went to music school) in our group, so we tend to play "easier" songs at slower tempos than people usual play them at.

    Wim GlennmatthewkanisBucoPassacaglia
  • edited June 12 Posts: 49

    I live in Wadena, MN 6 hours or so from Madison. There are jams there? Good turnout? Where and when? Thank you!

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