How To Survive Your First Jam Session

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I have always been a bedroom musician, enjoying playing guitar for my own inspiration and to connect with myself (Mostly with a looper, which is by the way, an excellent tool to do that). I never thought I will write about how I survive my first jam session anytime soon. But I came back from my first jam session with last Friday. Friday. I took up my courage to respond to an ad for Jam Buddies on a local forum and meet 4 guys who’s been playing together for years. I tell myself “Not Good Enough, But I’m Doing It Anyway”. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it to be.

1. Expect To Suck

I tell myself “Not Good Enough, But I’m Doing It Anyway”. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it to be. But yes, you should expect to suck but what you’ll learn and experience is super valuable. The skill of playing for yourself and playing with others is very very different and its good to acknowledge it. You may want to say “Thank you guys for having me, I’ve been playing for a while and I know playing on my own and with others is different skills so please bear with me”. 

2. Request To Observe & Listen First

Before you jump into it, let the first few songs go before you take up your instrument. Good to request to observe so that you fit into their style than you impose your style on them. I found out that my new found Jam buddies love playing pop/rock from the 80s & 90s with some new songs here and there. Although I like more folk, blues and jazz, I fit it whatever they are playing. I took up the instrument only to play on the 3rd song.

3. Flow With The Leadership

In every song, there’s someone who initiates the song to play. For a start just flow with the leader. Try to listen to the suggestion and instructions of the leader. It’s better to flow with who is leading than to come in to suggest how you best want to play it. My role seems to be as the rhythm guitarist as the current guitarist loves to do solo instead. So flowing with the leadership, I oblige to play rhythm most of the time even when I’m not good with it. One of my greatest satisfaction was to be able to play and lay the 12 bar blues shuffle for them to solo upon. Get the joy of serving the team and being able to contribute.

3. It’s About Knowing The Song & It’s Chord Progression

You may feel bad you cannot follow the songs your jam buddies can play so well. This is mostly because you DON’T KNOW THE SONG. It’s no biggie, just come to under and familiarize yourself with the songs first. You don’t have to play every song, you may request to skip it and go one to study the song first. After that Jam session, I  got myself to go listen to the recordings and play along with those recordings. Frankly, I have never done that and saw the value of doing that before. Now that I’m playing with others I know. request to observe so that you fit into their style than you impose your style on them. I learned so many new songs and come to pay attention to songs and be familiar with them as never before.

4. Come With At Least One Song You Know How To Play

They will ask you “So what song do you want to play?”. Well, its good if you have one with the key you know how to play. If not, just decline and request to observe first. But having a song that you can play helps you be a part of the team where you can lead and they follow. I suggested “Desperado” and “La Bamba”. What’s your one or two songs?

5. You Don’t Have To Play All The Time

Don’t over do it. Choose the songs, you want to play along. If not, it is okay to take a break. Grab a drink, tune your guitar, small talk with others, compare guitars or just sit in to listen with your eyes closed and enjoy the music played. Nothing is better than having someone appreciate the music being played more than having the chance to play. Jamming is about community not just the music. Enjoy being in the group. At the end of the day, I believe Jam Buddies is about the “Buddies” rather than the “Jam”, so be good buddies. I intend to buy supper the next round to win some hearts.

6. Intend Your Homework

I had a great experience in that Jam Session with my new found Jam Buddies. We played from 10:30pm to 2am!! The session ended with one of them inviting me to join the Chat Group. And some others connected with me personally to ask other things that I was doing. I was thrilled to be accepted into the group. My first group message was to apologize for holding the group back and promised to do my homework the next time.  Yes, I intended as my homework to go through the songs played and familiarise myself with the chord progressions. I also intend to contribute by suggesting interesting songs I know how to play. The skill of playing with the group is different than playing with myself. I have learned how important it is to listen to one another, how to make a contribution and make friends along the way. Hope you enjoy this How To Survive Your First Jam Session, from my first hand experience as a newbie here. Let us know your experience and share how was yours?

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9 thoughts on “How To Survive Your First Jam Session

  1. Kenny Lee

    I’m not a guitarist but I believe like anything in life, you’ve got to be prepared to sucks at the very beginning. There’s a saying of “every master was once a disaster”. I believe you’ll need endless practice, making mistakes and not giving up to be a really awesome good musician. Your article will definitely serve as an inspiration to other newbie as well.

    Reply
  2. Ctmarquis

    I really like the approach here. The secret to success is simple. Do not expect to succeed right away…you have to fail in order to succeed.
    One of my favorite quotes is winners aren’t people who never fail, but people who never quit.
    I believe this goes well with learning to play a guitar.

    Reply
  3. Keith

    A very personal and honest assessment. I like it.
    Must be so different to go from solo guitar player to being in a band.
    Different styles and personalities, most perhaps a bit unsure and insecure about their talents.
    Warming up by listening to the tempo and style of the group will certainly help I guess.

    Reply
  4. Katie

    nice simple list to follow it is quite daunting for anyone doing there first tryout with a new band especially if you have only been playing solo

    Reply
    1. HT Post author

      Thanks for checking out the list. Yeah, playing with a group of new people can be daunting but the ones I play with are cool people. They let me be a starter jammer.

      Reply
  5. Fred

    Good little post hthiew, I need to join all the guitar guys I can find. I never wanted to play guitar when I was younger, but after I got older I got the desire. Now I don’t have the time, I only play at church once a week and don’t get time to practice, but I enjoy it .

    Reply

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