The Do’s and Don’t s of Jamming with a Band
What is jamming? I’m going to explain mainly about if you go to club that has a band and they’re doing a Blues jam night, you sign up on their list and are called up to perform one or two songs with the band. But these ideas really work and can be applied everywhere. Even if you want to join a band.
FUN- First and foremost is to have fun, have a good time. This is not a guitar player competition. Keep the right attitude and do your best to be musical and play things you feel good about. If you’re somewhat new to the process of soloing or improvisation then stick with what you know sounds good. It’s really okay to repeat yourself when you’re playing, the greats do it, believe me. And the next point will help a lot with being able know how you really sound.
RECORD YOURSELF-You can even do this on a phone. Get some backing tracks or make your own of the songs you want to play. Learn some rhythm’s and if ready learn some leads and then record and listen as if you were the audience. Did you tell a story or was it just a bunch of disconnected notes? Do you feel anything when you are playing? If you felt some emotion then surely the audience felt it too. What do you like and what don’t you like about your guitar playing.? Just like a speaker prepares for what they are going to say, you should have some licks already worked out that you know will work and be musical and be able to do variations on them. Remember, a recording don’t lie.
KNOW YOUR SONG-Be ready to tell the band, what song, the version of the song and the key? Sometimes one version is more popular than another and can be very different. Make sure the band knows what version you’re talking about. Generally you’ll play 2 choruses for the solo. That’s very general, find out the rules. Can you signal that you want to go for another? I’ve been in jams where it was supposed to be 2 solos around and they took a third but the other guitarist came in after 2 choruses. It was a bit of a train wreck. Of course always be tuned up and ready before you start playing.
DON’T CRANK UP YOUR AMP-You’re better off playing a little lower than louder. You’ll just make everyone else get louder and then it’s just overbearing. Nobody has fun when it becomes volume wars. First and foremost make sure you can hear bass and drums clearly and turn up the guitar to blend with them.
PRACTICE PLAY STANDING UP-If you’ve never played guitar standing up and you are planning to perform this way then be sure to practice playing while standing and be comfortable doing it. If you raise you guitar up a bit, it makes it easier to play. Try it and see what you think. Check out what it looks like in a mirror. You need a guitar height between cool and can be able to play really comfortably,
LISTEN, LISTEN AND LISTEN SOME MORE-Pay attention to what everyone else is playing then adjust what you play. If someone is doing a Blues shuffle and there are 3 guitarists then play less. If you’re the only guitarist then there’s a lot more room for you to play. If you don’t know how to do this or how to lock in with the bass and drums find a good guitar instructor to teach you this.
SELF INTERFERENCE-If you go with the attitude of fun and not trying to impress it will help relieve the pressure of performing. But I know from experience that we can have many negative, doubtful thoughts in our minds as we’re playing. How could you play well if you’re thinking about hitting a bad note, or forgetting maybe some set licks you had to play on a song or just the thought that why am I even up here, I don’t belong here. Or comparing your playing to someone a lot better than you and they have about 3,000 hours more practice than you. One thing I can guarantee is you won’t be able to play well with all that static in you mind. Clear it out and just listen to your notes as you play them. Play a little slower and choose your notes. Always, just do your best. Audiences can tell when someone is trying to do their best or if they’re showing off and trying to act like the second coming of Stevie Ray Vaughan.
RESPECT THE STAGE-This a big world but very few can get up on a stage and play/perform from a quality standpoint. It takes a lot of practice, a lot of know how and a lot of experience doing it. Doing it so it becomes like breathing. The greatest entertainers always make it look so easy. And it is easy to them because they’ve eliminated all the things they don’t want to do and do all the right things. How you practice is how you perform.
PRACTICE IN A MIRROR-There are many reasons to do this. One is to check and make sure your shoulders are not up around your ears and creating tension. A lot of public speakers practice in the mirror so they can see what their presentation looks like to others. Try to naturally work out some facial expressions or body gestures to go with notes you’re bending or trying to emote. Many of the greats did this. With all the video capabilities many up and comers film their rehearsals and evaluate. It’s even in a movie documentary about Michael Jackson. It just helps so you know how you’re presenting yourself. Do you look comfortable? Does your body and face say what the music is saying? Even trying this just a bit will make you a better performer.
I know from teaching guitar and performing for so long that almost every one who picks up a guitar either secretly or openly wants to play music with a group of other musicians and also play in front of
audience. Most guitar players even the greats suffer from performance anxiety. If you try these ideas and use them, you will be able to get up with a band and perform. I’ve helped many guitar players over the years to conquer this. Then it becomes fun and will become a much better guitar player than if you never did it. These ideas worked for me as I used to have panic attacks on stage years ago. Now it’s a joy to play music for others and for myself. If you need help with this reach out to me.
Keep playing and have fun,