Courses  Instructors  How It Works Plans & Pricing Resources 
x

Log In

Log In 
Don't have an account? Sign Up

Reset Password

Submit 
An email has been sent with instructions on how to reset your password.

Create An Account

Join for free, then sign up for a course

Continue 
Already have an account? Log In

Getting Ready for a Jam Session

getting ready for a jam session

Online programs like this one provide a great opportunity to learn how to play an instrument without leaving your bedroom, but for a complete musical experience there’s just no substitute for playing with real, live musicians in front of an audience. If you don’t have a band to play with, the best opportunity to experience live performance is at a jam session.

Jams are usually hosted by bars or restaurants during otherwise quiet times like Sunday afternoons or Monday nights (Google “jam sessions” and your location to see what’s around). The common musical denominator is blues, so the rhythm styles and soloing techniques you learn here in the Blues Guitar program will give you a strong foothold. If you haven’t participated in a jam before, here are a few tips on what to expect and how to prepare:

Scope it Out

The more familiar your surroundings are, the more comfortable you’ll be when it’s time to get up and play. If it’s a regularly scheduled jam, go and hang out to see what it’s like before you plan to participate. Take note of things like how the signup process works, what equipment is provided, whether there is a house rhythm section, how songs are picked and what the typical choices are. 

Get Ready

One of the big advantages of blues is that even if you don’t know exactly what you’re going to play beforehand, if you know standard rhythm feels, progressions, intros and endings you can perform a huge repertoire without rehearsal or charts (which jams rarely provide). Certain tunes like “The Thrill is Gone,” “Red House,” “Pride and Joy”, and “Sweet Home Chicago” are as common at jams as beer and pretzels, but a word to the wise: singers may change keys to fit their vocal range, so learn progressions by number and practice transposing.

Mental Preparation

Nervous? That’s normal, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nerves give you extra energy, and if you have practiced effectively your motor memory will kick in once the music starts. Close your eyes and visualize yourself coming off stage to a standing ovation and high-fives all around - whether you consciously believe it or not, picturing an outrageously successful outcome helps to calm your nerves and guide your subconscious in a positive direction.

Signing Up

Do your best to pick your optimum slot - if you play early, you get to relax afterwards and listen to everyone else; middle slots are usually the best-attended; a late slot means waiting around (and possibly getting bumped if the schedule goes overtime) and attendance might be down to just the band and the bartender. 

Plugging In

Tune your guitar, attach your strap, and have your guitar cable ready before it’s your turn to get up. House equipment varies widely and it takes a fair amount of experience to dial in a good tone quickly, so if someone before you sounds good through a certain amp see if you can copy their settings. A strong, solid attack is your best “effect” but if you bring pedals, have them ready to plug in (if possible, run on batteries so you don’t have to search around for electricity).

Rhythm Rules!

If there’s another guitar player, ask what sort of rhythm part he or she wants to play and then choose a complimentary part (avoid playing a similar part since it will sound sloppy). The first time up, it’s not a bad idea to stick to playing rhythm while you gain experience and the confidence to step out front, and a solid rhythm part will be appreciated by drummers and bass players. On that note, there are typically ten guitar players for every bass player, so if you know how to play bass you can probably play about as much as you want.

Blast Off

As a rule, blues is arranged on the spot - e.g. “shuffle in G from the five!” - so you need to know standard patterns and and keep your eyes and ears open for cues. Common signals include waving fingers (one, four, or five to indicate the chord changes), a hand up in the air (watch me!), moving in a circle (keep going!) or suddenly dropped (stop!). Just as often, however, cues are delivered with only a raised eyebrow or nod of the head, so don’t be a “shoe gazer.”

On the If of And

Military strategists say “a battle plan only lasts until the first shot is fired” and at jam sessions, the first beat can unleash the unexpected. The count-off is sloppy, the singer starts in the wrong place, the bass player adds or subtracts a chord change, the drummer drops a beat - whatever happens, just go with it. Until you’re prepared to lead the band yourself, the best way to manage in the face of uncertainty is to maintain a strong, steady presence and do your best to make everyone else sound good. 

After the Dust Settles

While you’re on stage it all goes by in a blur, so in order to know what really happened you have to record it. Listen back critically - how was the groove? Did your parts work? If something went off the rails, why? Were the bloopers as bad or the great stuff as great as it seemed at the time? Certain impressions will be burned into your memory forever - it’s fun to relive the best moments, but heart-sinking mistakes can prove more valuable because they provide a powerful motivation for improving. 

However things turn out the first time, don’t let it be the last time. No matter how often you’ve done it, playing live can be nerve-wracking, frustrating, intense, cathartic, ecstatic or all of the above, but there’s simply no other experience like it.

Keith Wyatt teaches blues guitar online at ArtistWorks. 

Learn more about blues guitar lessons at ArtistWorks

Comments

X