Every Old-Time music jam I’ve ever been a part of does one thing the same: they don’t change keys very often.
If you’re playing in D, you stay in D for a while. Maybe for an hour, maybe two, maybe the whole dang day if you’re at a festival. Then you move. Probably to G or A (or cross, which are G tunes played in A, or vice versa). C is played in sometimes, but it’s just D tuned down a step. That’s kinda it, in my experience, aside from the occasional modal or minor thing. Nobody plays Old-Time in B, E, or F, which I imagine is because they are awkward on fiddle and banjo which are the predominant instruments 🤷♀️.
So when I sit down to practice, I do the same thing: pick a key, stay there. That’s also why I imagine the amazing Old-Time tab resource Tater Joes is organized like this:
To compliment this, I made Apple Music Playlists for A, D, and G. I found copies of the songs (sometimes multiple versions), that are on Tater Joes in these lists and also on Apple Music and also in the correct key.
These took me forever to make because the search on Apple Music is pretty limited/basic. Boooo! Make advanced search! There are a number of songs totally missing because I just couldn’t find anything workable on Apple Music. I ain’t mad about it, it’s a miracle I found 80-90% of it as a was able to for such a wildly unpopular genre of music.
But now I can take out my Banjo, and basically shuffle one of these playlists and play along to it knowing that any song it picks will be in the key I’m ready for. And if I need help figuring it out, Tater Joes has the tab right there.