Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Open Jam Survival Guide for Drummers

When you look in the local music listings, you’ll often see an Open Jam hosted on a weeknight at a live music venue. These can be a great opportunity to get out and play in your community. For players looking to make professional connections, a lot of these jams are run by known local musicians, and attended by some other professionals making connections. But if you’re just going for fun, they can be a chance for you to play with some really good musicians. The number one thing to bring to an open jam is proficiency on your instrument. That’s a given any time you hope to play music with other people. An open jam in a music venue is likely not a great place for a beginner to get their feet wet… but it would be a good place to get inspired to practice more! For beginners, music schools often run jams in a teaching environment. For those with more experience, an open jam can be a worthwhile playing experience. So how does it work? When you show up at the start of the night, ask a staff member who runs the jam. If they advertise it as “open” then they’ll be expecting new and unfamiliar faces that want to play. You’ll likely add your name to a list, along with the song you’d like to play. Depending on the format, as a drummer you may either be called up to play the song you selected with the house band, or you might be asked to play in the rhythm section for other players. You’ll need to be prepared for either situation.   When you show up to play at an open jam, you need to be ready for any musical situation. Especially if you’re asked to be in the rhythm section for another player or singer, you’ll need to have a general sense of how songs go as well as the ability to listen and adjust on the fly. You’ll have a general idea of whether you’re at a “blues” jam, a “rock” jam… or any number of other genres of music. It’s a good idea to have a general working knowledge of a style of music before you go out to play it in front of people, even at an open jam. Unfortunately there are no official lists of jam tunes. If you’re uncertain of the repertoire, you might want to attend a week without playing, take a note of the songs they play, and learn them enough to come back ready! All the basic qualities of a good drummer are also necessary – good time, enough technique to make the fills and grooves you attempt sound good, and a good balanced sound.   Listening is still the number one best quality of a musician, at any time. When you’re at an open jam, you have no way of knowing the relative experience level of anyone else on stage with you, and often the way songs are played [...]

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