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The local jam...

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ron a
May 28, 2010 5:20 AM GMT

Hi folks. I wanted to share my personal philosophy of jams and the benefits a player can reap from them. Please add your inputs and experiences in this area.

1. Do the local jam

Jamming at a local establishment supports the local economy, promotes music as a form of live entertainment and puts a smile on peoples' faces

2. Jam night helps you make connections.

Musicians from other bands, owners of other business, and people who work on commitees at work go to local jams looking for talent to play gigs, do studio work, ring in the new year at the work party...etc.

3. Jam night makes you a better musician.

You can't help it. Playing with strangers introduces you to musical styles, and ability levels you won't see in your living room. Mistakes will be made, no editing is available, humans will interact as a unit or they may not. Being able to "play with anybody" requires skill and grace. Remember when somebody showed you that grace and let you play inspite of your own lack of chops? Jam night can be a complete blast for everybody when approaced correctly. I call my lead guitar player "amp DAD" now because he stayed later than i did tonight. Why? He was hooking up young players with his own tube amp instead of going home. His wife waited patiently.

4. Jam night is a good place to test your gear.

Why pop your new stuff on a live audience when you are being paid to sound great? Practice live on a stage at jam night and learn the quirks of your gear. All gear has "sweet spots" and "danger zones." Find them at jam night by playing your guts out on the PA for a couple songs to establish credibility. Then go into the new gear and have fun figuring it out for a few songs. This is how I have figured out a briefcase with harps and a digitech pedal gets the job done with a one hand carry rig. It's also how I learned to cup a beta 57 straight into a PA.

5. I see no down side to jam night.

Friendly audience, wide variety of music, lots of different musicans to play with, more practice time, potential gigs...what's not to love?

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Comments (16)

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May 28, 2010 2:18 PM GMT
walterharp Replied:

i second that

May 28, 2010 6:00 PM GMT
ron a Replied:

There is a 17 year0old bass player here who has already toured with a band. He is a jazz musician who also loves funk. Honestly, I've never heard a bassist play at his level until WAY later in life. In fact, very few do, even then. He has been called by Nashville bands playing here in Kansas City to sit in when their bassist drops out. He's that good at the age of 17 and a great kid to boot. He has a future in music that began before he was even 13....that's when he went on the road the first time after being discovered playing in the school jazz band. He is already working nearly full time as a professional musician during the summer. He plans to make that permanent after school. His parents have actually considered moving to Nashville on recommendation from someone down there who plays with him. Anyway, he got his start playing in the house band here several years ago, under a different owner. From there..on jam night, he was discovered and suddenly became the hot ticket for bass. Everybody around here knows who Chase McRoy is. He even has a cool name.

Last night he asked me for harp lessons. It was humbling, but encouraging at the same time. He said he wants to learn to play like me and has been trying for several years on his own. He also insisted i play when he went up. I had already played for awhile and had come down to sit with my wife. He was very insistent that i play with him up there. It was cool.

It is good for your self-esteem once in a while to hear someone else thinks you are better than you think you are. Especially if it's an accomplished musician. He is also a regular in the host band at the jam and plays there on Sunday's after church as well (it's an outdoor deck at a restaurant.) I am definitely bringing my Bass when I give him! This is the sort of thing that happens at jam night. He was discussing my harp playing with a country band that stayed later one night...I got this from his good buddy who's also a friend of mine. I wouldn't mind doing a country side-project at all. Connections are possible. We are meeting a potential lead singer for our band at the jam to "audition" him live. Jams are good stuff.

May 29, 2010 1:34 AM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Agree 100% My band started with me meeting the guitar player, then the drummer at a local jam.

I'll add:

6) Jam night teaches you how to listen to others - the most important skill in making group music.

7) Jam night teaches you what it means to run a band. You can't just pop up for 24 bar solos when its your turn. You need to know and communicate key, form, groove, remember to hand solos around, know how to start, know how to end - that's a lot to learn.

And a comment - the better and more popular a jam, the more likely it is you won't get to play each time. Please - don't throw a hissy fit. It is NOT your right. Even if you signed up earlier than the pro they let get up. Enjoy the people and music when you're there.

The most successful, long-lived jams have to serve the musicians, but they better serve the audience and the bar too. That means it is the jam master's job to do his or her very best to maintain the highest possible quality music, night after night. THAT is what keeps people coming back. (Otherwise the ONLY people who come will be musicians (and that one, DDA gal) - and they don't comprise a big enough audience to sustain a jam.

*DDA: drunk, dancing alone.

May 29, 2010 2:04 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

If you are going to support live music, it's also important to go to people's gigs. Do not just got to jams. In many instances, the jam host has regular gigs. Support them. They will appreciate it and it'll keep you from being labeled as a guy who only comes out to the jam.

If the host has a tip jar, drop some folding cash into it. If you are using their stuff, it's a nice thing to do. If you aren't using their stuff, you are still using their stage. It's important to always be nice.

May 29, 2010 2:42 PM GMT
Kingley Replied:

I agree with Joe.

May 30, 2010 5:30 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

The only down side to jams night in my opinion is getting stuck just doing them and nothing else. I cut my teeth at jams and thanks to the awesome ultruism of some of the organisers I was encouraged to keep coming. So I would recommend Jams to anyone. I also formed bands with people met at Jams. But when you are at the stage of wanting to do paid gigs I think the Jams can be a bit of a trap.

1. Despite all your effort a Jam will very rarely show you in your best light.

2. Publicans some times wrongly equate jams with amatures and that can make it hard to get gigs in the same area. Why would they pay for something that people can see for free.

3. If the only place you get to play each week is a jam it can get you down. You can feel like you are not moving forward. It isimportant, I think, to persue other avenues during any given week including just meeting up with mates for a play.

4. Make sure you sometimes get others to be sidemen (or sidewomen)for music you want to play or singand not just be a side player foreveryone else or people will thing that is all you do.

But Jams are great fun and an awsome learning tool.

May 30, 2010 3:23 PM GMT
BlowsMeAwy Greg Replied:

Chris - I agree with everything you said. In particular if you perform in a band, you can REHEARSE and therefore do much more interesting material with breaks, key changes, unusual structures, etc. Most of the tunes I do with my band fall into that category.

But I still love playing at jams because of the spontaneity, and the reduction in pressure on me - I like "just" being a sideman sometimes. And I get the opportunity to play with some really great musicians. For those that aren't in a band but want to be, jams are a GREAT way to find musicians of like mind who might want to put a band together.

BlowsMeAway Productions
Bluestate on CDBaby
Bluestate on iTunes

May 30, 2010 6:09 PM GMT
Eric S Replied:

Maybe I am just unlucky or picky, Down side to a jam.

The same songs over and over loud,

Same people sitting in on more sets, when they want.

Abuse, messing with your Equipment, your playing time. 12 bars and go

Keeping secrets like keys of songs, yes I know you should be able to figure it out with out input, but its the inclusive and exclusive nature and the feeling you get,

However I have to say that I have meet the nicest people at jams and open mikes, It is like playing pick up basketball on a playground, what Gump said "you never know what you get."

The learning curve is steep and emotional. For me a love, hate relationship.Differant places differant feelings, sometimes the same place differant feeling.

May 30, 2010 6:47 PM GMT
ron a Replied:

Last night I went to hear a band i learned about at the jam host. One of the band members has been leading the jam lately and his band played at the jam host's outdoor deck. They were really good. It was classic rock and southern rock covers with a few blues and country thrown in. They did four hours of very entertaining music. I'm glad I met the guy at the jam and heard about his band. Unfortunately, the way i learned was when we asked him to sing lead for our Oh well. His wife told me last night.."you never know"'s not impossible.

May 30, 2010 6:56 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

The other big downside to open jams is that it is the easiest way to get into a lot of really bad musical habits to the point where they can become heavily ingrained and very detrimental to you as player and musically can stunt your growth. Eric and Chris are showing the cold, hard downside realities of jams. There are some that may have a lot of pros, but most open jams don't and even the house band's musicianship can leave a lot to be desired, but the special invite AKA snob jams usually have more pros or better players overall and the musical experience is often better and the crap that may be tolerated in a lot of really god awful open jams won't be tolerated.

May 30, 2010 11:06 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

Yes Bob you always take your chances when it comes to jams. Sometimes you are subjected to hours of aural torture to the point you dont know if you are any better yourself. But that is always puncuated by the gems (and not always by the experienced Musos). I still love jamming and the people you meet at them. I think that sometimes people have too high an expectation of what a jam nightis going to do for them. They are what they are andoften not much more in my opinion. And don't get me started on band competions.

Jun 01, 2010 2:27 AM GMT
walterharp Replied:

chris, what is your experience with band competitions... i know you said don't get you started, but what???

Jun 01, 2010 9:49 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

Well since you asked Walter,

In the 90's I was an oringinal band in Melbourne. We werent bad if perhaps a little self indugent. We did compete in afew of band comps. One really sticks in my mind where we were the second last act up and played pretty well to a good reception. Anyway the MC gets on stage and says "That was good but that the best is yet to come!"No lie he actually said that.The last act played and won.I was suspisous because I had seen that act win at another comp with the same MC. So I checked it out. The MC worked at a music shop that was organising the comps and lo and behold was managing the band. You live and learn.

Imore recently have seen that there is a company that perpetually runs Band Comps world wide but with many warnings about it on the web. I dont think they could all be sour grapes.

Jun 01, 2010 9:56 AM GMT
Chris C Replied:

BTW Walter, last year in July I went to NZ south island and had some reallyfun jams in Duneedin and Queenstown. Christchurch was a little dissapointing as far as jams go.

Jun 02, 2010 12:49 AM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

I have a open invite and a place to stay in Denmark anytime I get over there from a jammer who showed up one night when over visiting his son and I set him up with my amp, pedals and mic and dialed it in for him. He was pretty good too. Lots of energy but not over the top.

'Playing nice' has it's benefits.

ain't busted but I'm badly bent

Jun 02, 2010 2:10 AM GMT
Joe L Replied:

The best way to avoid playing the same stuff over and over is to take leadership and learn to lead a few tunes. The first few times it hurts a little, but after you come to the realization that you are calling the shots, it's not so bad. Pick a couple of easy tunes and give it a go.

I've even gone so far as to learn a couple of basic shuffle patterns on the guitar and have told the guitar players to just play that rhythm pattern. Sometimes, they don't like it, but it can be fun to turn it around on people.

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