"A great idea for beginning bluegrass musicians to improve their playing and learn proper jam etiquette." - Jim Jesson, Publisher of Bluegrass Canada.
'The Slow Pitch Jam Songbook/CD Volume Five: The Songs of Flatt & Scruggs' is now available! Please go here to order any or all volumes.
The Pacific Bluegrass Slow Pitch Jam
The Pacific Bluegrass Slow Pitch Jam usually occurs on the first Monday of each month from September through June, at the ANZA Club, 3 West 8th Avenue, Vancouver BC. The programs consists of songs from the Slow Pitch Jam Songbooks. See the Calendar section for details.
Slow Pitch Jam pickin' tune of the month for January is 'Foggy Mountain Breakdown'.
Started in 1996 by Sue Malcolm and Bob Underhill, the Slow Pitch Jam is a unique opportunity for beginners to learn the basics of jamming. A structured setting, patient and knowledgeable leaders and safety in numbers is a perfect way for beginners to experience the sheer joy of making music in a group.
Jay Buckwold, BC Bluegrass Workshop Director says: "A large room is divided into sections with all the guitars together and all the mandolins in one area, and so on. Sue leads the jam and they display the words and chords to the songs. Each song is explained as to timing, breaks, etc. and played in slow time. Although it is designed for beginners, intermediate and advanced players drop in to help out and sometimes we have as many as 80 people playing together. When its time for the banjo break, all the banjos take the break. It feels good - when you make a mistake, nobody notices."
Maybe it was Sue Malcolm’s friendly style and infectious goodwill, or just the great social atmosphere, but within two days at the 1998 BC Bluegrass Workshop, half of the participants were hanging out at the jam every night.
Watch The Video
CBC Television's 'Living Vancouver' show came to the ANZA Club back in January 2008 and did a short (3:30 mins) documentary on the Slow Pitch Jam. (Thanks, CBC!) Click on the triangular 'start' icon to start the video.
Other Background Information
Senior Living Magazine published an article in their February 2011 issue about Sue and her music teaching. You can read it online HERE.
You can look at some great pictures taken by Colin Goldie of a Slowpitch Jam HERE.
Comments from Workshop Participants
"Well, I just attended my first slow pitch session. Boy, that's a lot of fun. I usually play folk music, but I think bluegrass offers a good alternative. You don't even have to know much to start, which suits me just fine, and the ones that do know how to play have the opportunity to do so. I can't wait until the next session." ... "Sue is a great instructor and a wonderful person besides." ... "They're geniuses. What a wonderful way of teaching people how to play music." ... "The Slow Pitch Jam was fantastic - the most fun for me came when Sue took the effort to let us know which chords to play and when." ... "The Slow Pitch Jam was a great idea - I never would have played with others without this kind of structured jam." ... "Great for beginners. Also, it’s a mixer, socially." ... "A vital part of the program." ... "Sue was very structured & patient." ..."The slow pitch jam was a godsend and kept me from feeling I was too far behind. I loved it!" ..."It proved that I AM capable of making a reasonable sound when other players are nearby. Sue takes the terror out of playing along with the group."
A Recent Endorsement
Montana Rockies Bluegrass Association President Phyllis Erck recounts her initial jamming challenges. ”I’ll never forget the frustration and humiliation I felt when first learning to jam with others. One time I remember watching the tears dropping onto the cover plate of my dobro as I attempted to take a break (solo) but was paralyzed with fear the instant it came around to my turn.”
Slow Pitch Jam to the Rescue!
I had my first great jam experience at the Sorrento Bluegrass Workshop in British Columbia. Workshop organizer Sue Malcolm years ago recognized that there are lots of people like me who really want to play bluegrass, but don’t have enough experience to jump into a hot jam. Her solution was to create the Slow Pitch Jam. From Sue’s website: “Slow Pitch Jam is a unique opportunity for beginners to learn the basics of jamming. A structured setting, patient and knowledgeable leaders and safety in numbers is a perfect way for beginners to experience the sheer joy of making music in a group.”
After a few hours of slow pitch jamming, I learned that a bluegrass jam does indeed have a language and rules!
While they can seem rigid at first glance, this common bluegrass language and ”jam etiquette” allows bluegrass musicians to jam with folks from all over the world, even if they’ve never met before. That night I made connections with friendly musicians, and off we went to start our own little jam. I had a blast.
Since then I’ve returned to Sorrento several times. This summer I took a class with Jeremy Freeman from Surrey BC. He plays killer Bill Monroe style mandolin and says. ”It would’ve taken me years to learn what a few slow pitch jam sessions taught me. The slow pitch jams started me playing bluegrass and showed me a whole world of music being played.”
My Sorrento campground neighbor, bass player and vocalist Kathy Ferguson from Parsons, BC says “Slow pitch jams are so good for learning repertoire and etiquette and get you well prepared for jumping into those late night cross-border encounters of the good kind.”
You can read the whole article (posted January 02/12) HERE.
To read reviews of the workshops and songbook/CDs, go HERE.
The Slow Pitch Jam Songbook/CD Volumes One - Five
People have been asking for materials that they can use at home and with friends, to learn bluegrass songs and practice playing along. This is a fantastic resource for beginning/intermediate players of ALL bluegrass instruments. It's much like having Sue come right into your living room and guide you gently through every one of these easy three-chord songs. The books have become so popular as a learning resource that bluegrass clubs in BC, Alberta and Washington State are using it as the basis for their weekly jams. You can learn to play by ear, in any key with the Nashville Number System. All the songs are sung and played in a slow, learnable style. It's all you need to get started in the fun world of jamming, bluegrass style.
The cost of this valuable resource is $20.00 Canadian plus $3.00 Canadian for shipping & handling. You can order right on this page through PayPal, using your account with them, or any major credit card. There is also a special price for ordering all five volumes.
In The Stores
In the Vancouver area, there are two retail outlets for your shopping convenience. Their prices may vary.
♦ On the east side: Bone Rattle Music at 2012 Commercial Drive (at 4th). 604-251-2663 or www.bonerattle.com.
♦ On the west side: Rufus' Guitar Shop, 2621 Alma Street (at 10th). 604-222-1717 or www.rufusguitarshop.com.
SLOWPITCH JAM SONGBOOK & CD FIVEPACK
Save $20 when you buy all 5 volumes at once! That's five books for the price of four!
SLOWPITCH JAM SONGBOOK & CD VOLUME FIVE
On My Mind
Hot Corn Cold Corn
Head Over Heels [MP3] Is It Too Late Now
Cora Is Gone
Down The Road
Why Don’t You Tell Me So
Jimmy Brown The Newsboy
I Wonder How The Old Folks Are At Home
The Good Things Outweigh The Bad
‘Till The End Of The World Rolls ‘Round
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
Take Me In Your Lifeboat
Volume Five was released on February 1st, 2016. In honour of Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs and The Foggy Mountain Boys, this volume features songs written by or closely associated with Lester and Earl. It features Sue Malcolm on vocals & guitar, Don Fraser on guitar & resophonic guitar and Devon Wells on banjo.
SLOWPITCH JAM SONGBOOK & CD VOLUME FOUR
On And On
Dark As The Night, Blue As The Day
Cry Cry Darling
It's Mighty Dark to Travel [MP3] Blue Moon Of Kentucky
I'm Going Back To Old Kentucky
Little Cabin Home On The Hill
Rocky Road Blues
I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home
Sitting Alone In The Moonlight
My Sweet Blue-Eyed Darling
Volume Four has thirteen songs all written by or associated with Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass music. It was released in 2011, the 100th anniversary of his birth. Along with Sue on rhythm guitar & vocals, this volume features the award-winning Garry Stevenson on lead guitar & mandolin.
SLOWPITCH JAM SONGBOOK & CD VOLUME THREE
I Wonder Where You Are Tonight [MP3] Letter From My Darling
Blueridge Cabin Home
The Wandering Boy
Pretending I Don’t Care
Sunny Side of the Mountain
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
Plus alternate tracks for each song, without lead instruments.
Volume Three has ten classic bluegrass songs played in slow time, with 2 versions of each song; with and without lead instruments. Musicians featured on the CD are: Sue Malcolm on rhythm guitar and vocals; Garry Stevenson on lead guitar and mandolin; Tyler Carson on fiddle; Jay Buckwold on banjo; Paul Bergman on upright bass; Don Fraser on dobro and Dale Rasmussen on harmony vocals.
SLOWPITCH JAM SONGBOOK & CD VOLUME TWO
Roll In My Sweet Baby's Arms
Worried Man Blues
Blueridge Mountain Blues [MP3]
Ocean of Diamonds
New River Train
Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor
Gotta Travel On
Columbus Stockade Blues
My Long Journey Home
Don't This Road Look Rough and Rocky
Nine Pound Hammer
I'll Fly Away
Volume Two contains twelve bluegrass standards, chording information, instructions on the Nashville Numbering System and jamming etiquette. With Sue Malcolm on guitar & vocals, and the great Bob Underhill, singing and playing guitar & mandolin.
SLOWPITCH JAM SONGBOOK & CD VOLUME ONE
In The Pines
Bury Me Beneath the Willow
Who's That Knocking at my Door?
Gold Watch & Chain
Your Love is Like a Flower
Little Darlin' Pal of Mine
I'm Blue and I'm Lonesome
Blue Moon of Kentucky [MP3]
Keep on the Sunny Side
Can't You Hear Me Calling?
Life is Like a Mountain Railroad
My Walkin' Shoes
Will the Circle be Unbroken
Volume One contains thirteen bluegrass standards, chording information, instructions on the Nashville Numbering System and jamming etiquette. With Sue Malcolm on guitar & vocals, and the great Bob Underhill, singing and playing guitar & mandolin.