Preparing For Your First Jam Session

I still remember the feeling I had the first few times I ever jammed with my friend who was a drummer.  Both of us were still learning to play.  Neither of us was that good at our instrument.  In fact I had never even taken a lesson and he only had only learned a little bit in school.

We only knew a couple songs in common and neither of us actually knew the entire songs.  But that didn’t matter.  We were making noise and doing it together.  The vibrations from the rattle of the 2nd hand drum set and the cheap dirty feeding back guitar parted the hair on our heads and rattled our little brains.

It was exhilarating and inspirational.  It sounded so good (to us) that we had to tape it at the next jam.  We would play it time after time, and again and again until our parents could no longer stand it.  But we still didn’t get a good take.  So much for our demo.

“Wait!” we said “we needed somebody who owns a bass”. They didn’t have to know how to play it, just own it.  After all we had only been playing for a month or so anyway.  It would just take them a week or two to get as good as us if they practiced harder.  That would make our recording sound better.  Then we could get gigs and girls, then a record deal, then fame and fortune.  Yep, we had it all figured out.

I hope your first jamming experience gives you the feeling I experienced with my first “band”.  Nobody ever gave me any tips on how to go about playing with other people.  I just had to do it by trial and error.  So here’s a few tips on how to get started for your first jam session.

1)  Choose players with the same ability level as yourself.  This way you can grow together as musicians and improve along with each other.  Don’t let your jam session to turn into you teaching someone a lesson.   Don’t frustrate someone else by slowing them down and making them wait for you to figure out whats going on.  Don’t let your jam session become a licks trading session.  Finding an appropriate match of talent level is best for everyone.

2) Choose players that you have things in common with. Common musical interests are a must for beginning jammers.  Knowing the same songs or at least pieces of them will make things progress quicker.

3) Listen as much as you play.  You will learn to appreciate what your friends are doing musically plus it will keep everyone together, which is the point of jamming. “Musicians that play together stay together.”

4) Set goals for the next jam session the prepare for them.  This could mean adding new songs, the goal of writing a song together or just getting a better mix of your sounds.  This keeps things fresh and gives everyone something to look forward to.

5) Don’t be too critical or competitive with one another.  A jam is not about showing off or who can play better.  Its about supporting one another and helping each other improve as you go.

As you get better you will become comfortable and talented enough to play with musicians that are better than you.  Then you will be ready to take to the next level what your first jams have prepared you for.  In time you’ll learn enough licks to have a licks trading session with other players.  But in the beginning keep it basic by using the tips I just gave you.

By the way my drummer friend and I found a bass player and a singer and were playing parties and schools by our junior year.  We went on to gigging clubs by the time we were freshmen in college, got more popular and eventually made a decent amount of money.  We both are professional musicians now. But professional music isn’t for everybody.  Our bass player is now a cop and our singer a hairdresser.  Nobody ever got a record deal.

So whether you aspire to make music for a living or just as a hobby, jamming can be fun and rewarding.  Now its time to go call up your friends and organize your first jam so I’ll talk to you later in my next lesson.

-Bob