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Blues Jams... What you should know.

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Fergie Fulton, Feb 16, 2009.

  1. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    In response to a recent post and after a search i can find no Blues jam session info, or guidelines so i'll start it off and please add all your relevent points. views and experiences.

    For me, from a house player who sees and plays lots of these, and my credentials include jam session not just in the UK but Germany, France, Holland, Italy, Los Angeles and New york, but to name a few, it is my golden rule that

    "you can never be stronger than the weakest link on stage"

    Its a simple rule and applies if your the houseplayer or getting up to jam. If you outplay the weakest link you will all sound bad, you will discourage him. The idea of a jam is just that... a jam not, not to show how great you are and what fantastic techniques you have. Remember jams are regular occurances so you have numerous nights ahead for others to appreciate how good you are, so don't give it all on your first couple of tries and outplay the song and those around you. Remember if the weakest link sounds bad so you all will sound bad, if the weakest link is sounding good you all sound good, and if you are that weakest link you will be encouraged rather than discouraged by this.
    And remember, thank the houseplayer for the use of his equipment...common courtesy really.
  2. Agree on all points.
    IMO @ a jam - like nearly any situation, but more so - keep it especially simple and straightforward. You'll sound your best, as well. Sitting in on another's equipment, with players you don't know, isn't the time to pull out all the stops. The musicianship at a jam - for me - is helping a group of people who likely never played together before to sound good. So throwing in odd syncopation or sneaking in fills & such isn't going to help the others latch onto the groove.
  3. RED5


    Jan 14, 2008
    Suffolk County,NY
    I'd add; "Keep your ears open" you may know all the nuances of "Put it where you want it " or every open moment on "Sissy's Strut" But the guy who just stepped up just might be the "Allman's Guy" or the "EC" scholar., and will have no clue where you're heading with that Bflat.This especially helps the house band back it up. Listen to what's going on and play with it. oh yeah, once again? "It's a conversation, not a competition". i'm done.
  4. emor


    May 16, 2004
    And don't set your beer on an amp that doesn't belong to you.

    Call out the key, changes, quick IV, etc., before you start.

    Tell the drummer what kind of beat and tempo.

    Signal stops, bridge, tags and endings.
  5. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    Song Surgeon slow downer. https://tinyurl.com/y5dcuqjg
  6. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
  7. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    So let me ask this question ... I feel comfortable enough in my skills to be able to play at an upcoming jam this Sunday, even without knowing the original bass line the couple guitar players there have said that they are more than happy to call out the chord changes as we play.

    I have one question for you all though ... in a jam setup, with a three piece (drums, bass, guitar) if/when the guitar player starts going into a wild extended solo how does the chord structure flow? If its a 12 bar setup, should I just keep going along with the normal chord changes or do I continue to hang on and play the chord Im currently on till he stops?

  8. Usually... A normal progression. It won't be the end of the world if you switch early but it'll garner you a look or a grimace from the lead. :oops: Just make sure you telegraph the changes. Good luck & have fun! :bassist:
  9. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI

    Keep It Simple Stupid!
  10. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Great question which i hope many of the experienced players here will comment on, so here's mine.

    The situation between experienced players and jammers is the experienced player with the drummer will lead the jam, rather than the other way around. By that i mean it is controlled my the rythmn section (bass and drums).
    At most sessions it is the percieved solo or front instruments that sit on what they are given from the back, in other words a guitar, harp, sax, piano player etc can sit out the first 12-24 bars to get the feel of whats going on and play occasional to colour the song till its there big moment, with nodding their heads in appreciation at the song and looking cool, but not really known what's going on, but bass and drums can't as a rule really, they set up and create that groove.

    So what i'm getting at is hang on in there and bully the front players in to your grooves and changes as you become a stronger more confidant player. Remember if you set up a walk from say A to the D and the guitarist does not follow he's the one that will sound and look foolish, conversely if you are strong in your playing it makes it easy for all concerned as all the have to do is sit on it. As for standards, well everyone knows them and whats going on, so it's open to interpretation at the start how it should feel.

    Oh and not all cues are subtle ones, check out the link.

  11. butchblack

    butchblack Life is short. Do good. Find and do what you love.

    Jan 25, 2007
    Waltham Massachusetts
    All good points so far. I'll add learn to listen to what's going on, don't play too loud. Playing too loud is probably the #1 problem at jams. Want to make a good set better, add some dynamics. Don't call out a song with unusual changes unless you're sure that everybody knows them. Stormy Monday or Mustang Sally is usually safe, not everyone knows an 8 bar blues progression. Open jams are often a craps shoot, sometimes nothing works, other times it sounds like you've been playing together for years. That's the nature of the game. I'll also add remember that the establishment is there to make $ Buy a couple of drinks and/or some food if you want the jam to continue. At least here in Mass there are more clubs closing or dropping live music, including jams, then there are adding live music. Some $ in their pockets and they'll think positively about live music nights.
  12. I usually find starting off fairly tight and in the pocket, then branch as you get into it works well. This allows you to establish a groove that everyone can get into and find where you and the drummer lock in. Then you can start to add embellishments here and there, if it takes your fancy.

    Focus on playing tasty lines rather than showing off. Sometimes things get silly and people will goose around but for the most part just use your ears and pay a lot of attention to where things are going.

    Constantly LISTEN. There will be times when you can take the lead and direct the jam into fresh territory, times when you'll just want to pull it back or bring it up a notch and times when to follow someone else's lead. It's in your hands to decide which moment is suitable and often you'll have a few possible directions to explore, but you won't be able to make a choice that works well if you don't listen to everyone else - you're also quite likely to get some ideas to feed off and put back out there.
  13. von buck

    von buck

    Feb 22, 2008
    wolcott ct.
    Stay with the 12 bar, unless the guitar player yells "stay on the one", but other than that, just keep the 12 bar.

  14. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    Now I was trying this at home last night, something to kind of add to the movement of the piece during a guitar solo.

    Lets say the person is soloing and I know in that time from we are going to go through X bars of I and X bars of IV ...

    Normally when Im playing I usually hit the root note of the chord on the 1, but over solos I decided to try a run through the scale first walking up and the walking down and playing it in time to end each run on a tone over or under the root note for the next chord.

    Am I breaking some unspoken blues rule doing this? LOL ... I like the way it sounded and with some finger control I can keep the volume down low enough to hear the line, but not overshadow the guitar.

  15. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    If it works, it works. Personally, during a solo, especially at a jam where I don't have a feel for where the guitar player is going, I try to lay back and make as large of a landing area as I can for him. I have no idea about blues specific rules, and other people have other ideas concerning this matter, but I consciously try not to step on the soloists toes.

    IMHO, YMMV, etc........
  16. Kenny Allyn

    Kenny Allyn

    Mar 25, 2006
    Your thinking too much about it

    When the solo starts still hit that I and groove with the drummer, maybe add the nice embellishment now and again.

    What you hear playing now at home and how it's gonna sound live is very different so stay simple and listen.

    At a jam unless your playing with everyone you know and they know you and your style it can trainwreck with 4 or 5 people not knowing where your going with something.

    My singer and I still laugh about the night she and I showed up at our local jam, and she called out the old Sonny Boy/Allman Bros. tune "One Way Out". When our band plays it we incorporate a subtle time signature shift going into the chorus. I start the tune with a funky bassline that is more pushed than say the Allman version but so far so good the jammers are getting it, well me like a dummy go into the the chorus like the band does it with a walking run that shifts way behind the beat :eek:. In a flash Denise and I look at each other with that momentary look of terror as we realize we just lost the drummer and two guitar players we have never played with before!

    :eyebrow: ... Yeah keep it simple and listen, real good advice
  17. Mesa


    Mar 20, 2008
    Holly Springs NC
    Small but salient point here. Be sure to have scoped out the various jams in and around your area. In mine, there is a definite hierarchy as to which jams are suitable for particular levels of experience.
    Many label themselves as "pro jams" or "amateur jams". While the label "pro jam" is often met with significant eye rolling, there are some jams out there that are serious about playing. These tend to be strictly regulated by the person running the jam, and if you aren't known or don't have someone to vouch for you, you aren't likely to play. If you get up at one of these and can't hang, you will be embarrassed and subsequently sent back to the minors. Your sub-standard playing will generate ill will among those who have also waited for their shot.
    "Amateur jams" and many "pro jams" are much more amenable to you making mistakes, and while you'll find schmucks who give you attitude 'cause you missed a change or something, this is generally the exception to the rule. Typically, the house band is very cool and forgiving. Just don't be afraid to tell them if you are confused before the song starts.

    It's a very good idea to scope a jam you want to play, talk to some of the attendees about the local scene, and figure out if your skill level is appropriate for the environment.

    Once you're there, keep your ears wide open, play less, hold the groove, and let the guitar players strive for glory.
  18. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    Yeah the one by me is a "amateur" jam, though I seriously wouldnt classify any of the regular guys as amateur. They were cool to me last Sunday when I came out to check it out. They are cool about calling out chord changes to the songs as they are playing and everyone there really seemed to be in it for the "jam" and not just there to make themselves look good on stage.

  19. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    If your are given a "solo" this is NOT the time to interject "Teen Town"! Stay with the groove and in stylistic context, or you will rue the day!

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