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First open blues jam tonight... pointers?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Linas, Sep 15, 2008.

  1. Bingo!

    Also don't be afraid to drive stylistic direction. You will be amazed at how significantly you can change the overall feel of a jam by your choice of groove. You can get 'tight and technical' and turn the thing into a Yes/Rush-ish thing or get really laid-back and loose and bring out the Marley of it all - all within the same jam.

    Also - if the opportunity presents itself and you want to solo, don't be afraid to take a little time and let your solo unfold. I don't know about you, but I am no Victor Wooten. At first I used to shy away from even trying just because I couldn't "shred". Since then I've learned that being melodic, lyrical and creating phrases that are logical and relate to whatever melody and style have been established goes a LONG way to creating a really nice solo. So it doesn't have to be "shredding" to be impressive. It can be very simple and still be really great.

    Oh yeah - (ironically, since I am now rambling!) but LESS IS MORE!!! Don't be afraid to even pull out entirely every so often if you feel like the groove has stagnated. Sometimes holding a single whole note after you've been grooving on a syncopated line for a lot of bars can open up the feel and prompt the rest of the group to alter their tact too. This usually brings on a really welcome change and new ideas bloom in it's wake.

    But as Mojo-Man said, lock with the drummer and provide a rock-solid foundation for everyone to jam over. You will be loved and respected forever!
  2. If possible listen to the first bass players so you get an idea how it all works, what patterns they use and so on. Most likely you will handle this easily, so no problems. Just watch out for the volume levels, you need to keep the bass sound balanced with other band members and you deal with an unknown amp with unknown settings. This is why I like 3-pass eq systems on a bass when going to jams as I could control the sound from my bass itself in order to fit into the overall sound.
  3. standupright


    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    ok...cool....so if you know what the 1/4/5 is then, you can play the majority of the blues without charts.

    if the key is G, and you're starting from the 5, then you'll start off on D. picking up the feeling might be a little tricky if you have to start with everyone.....if you aren't playing a shuffle when the style is a shuffle, you will get some strange looks.

    actually, it's different styles, that can be played at different tempos. tempo/style - medium/shuffle.
  4. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Here's one: Pick a standard pattern (ostinato, motif) to use for a given song. If you're backing a vocalist, stick to that pattern while the person's singing. When the singing stops and people start to solo, vary your pattern ever so slightly, and continue to vary it increasingly as the song goes on. When the person starts singing again, go back immediately to your pattern. And watch your dynamics-- in general, be quieter when someone is singing.
    This stuff goes a long way toward making music, not just thrashing around up there.
    Sample pattern:
    Shuffle in the key of C:
    8th notes:
    C-C-(up an octave-->)C-C-Bb-Bb-G-G

    when you go to the IV chord:
    F-F-(up an octave-->)F-F-Eb-Eb-C-C

    when you go to the V chord:
    G-G-(up an octave-->)G-G-F-F-D-D

    and so on.
  5. standupright


    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    and a good standard pattern that can be used in any key would be - (continuing in the key of c for example)

  6. standupright


    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    also the shuffle pattern is like a skip/hop.

    1/4 note 1/8 note|1/4 note 1/8 note|1/4 note 1/8 note|1/4 note 1/8 note
  7. crijan

    crijan Supporting Member

    Jul 6, 2005
    Dallas, Texas
    Endorsing: JH Audio IEMs
  8. whatever you do, don't stop if you fluff a note...
  9. Yep, and jams should be sessions where you could experiment, or should so that the audience also has fun instead of hearing yet another blues song played the same way....
  10. Dennis Kong

    Dennis Kong Supporting Member

    Sep 1, 2004
    San Mateo CA
  11. 1)Make sure you have a line of sight with the rhythm guitarist's fingers. If you do go off it is much easier to follow the rhythm player than some lead player who is likely to be off. If all else fails you can at least pick up the root note this way.

    2)If you make a mistake in the first verse, repeat it every other verse. Inevitably one of the players will tell you they had never heard that version before, and they thought you had made a mistake until they heard you repeat it.

    3) As long as you're not popping them, octaves can be a strong emphasis if used wisely. Just don't do it in every song.
  12. zenman


    Jan 30, 2008
    St. Paul, MN
    You might consider going without your bass this first time to get a better feel for how this jam works. It seems all jams are just a little bit different from one another and this would give you a good idea whats going on before you commit.

  13. Linas


    Jan 6, 2005
    Well that was a bad experience. Basically how it works is the singer calls the shots. So whatever, we started to play and i was grooving no problems, and hes just like STOP STOP STOP, we need to do something slower. Im thinking WT F?? Then we start playing a slow blues progression in A. Yes i missed a couple changes, yea even the V chord, but gimme a break this is my first time at a place like this. So the singer guitarist was super pissed at the end and while im off stage having a beer after the songs, as he is leaving he bumps into me and spills half my beer. Real mature. Buddy Guy was actually there checking out music, although he seemed more interested in the football game.
  14. ...sounds indeed like an amateur jam if that happened...
  15. standupright


    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    wow....that sounds horrible. why people act this way is just beyond me.......and *** at starting and then stopping a tune to play something different? extremely amaturish and unprofessional. sorry to hear that this was sour experience. try another venue?
  16. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    You seriously think there is more than one blues establishment in Chicago with an open jam? :rolleyes:


    Yeah, that sucks. As someone who has been in the house band for more than my share of blues jams, that's complete crap. If we saw anyone behave like your "leader," we'd have thrown him out. Granted--the house bassist I've subbed for recently also does mixed martial arts and has removed at least one unruly patron by throwing him out the door by the seat of his pants and collar (after opening it with his head). It's usually a fairly well behaved crowd these days. :ninja:
  17. Sorry to hear it dude. Next time WILL BE BETTER. Heck you learned something right.

    One thing often recommended is that the first time you go to an open jam venue, go strictly as a tourist. In other words just go see how they run things. Next time take your bass.
  18. mark2741


    Sep 14, 2008
    I've been to plenty as a guitar player. I was absolutely terrible when I first started going to them, and really, even as I got better on guitar, I was hit or miss at them. I look back on the 20 or 30 times I've played at open blues jams over the years (all at the same venue and with the same house band, though I got put on stahe with other players usually), two things come to mind:

    1. I was a terrible player at first and those jams did help. More importantly, they made me realize how important it was to get out and start playing with other people in order to get better. I had been practicing by myself for years prior, without ever playing with other people.

    2. Most of the singers are a real pain in the ass. This particular jam I always went to (in the suburbs of Philly - at the Rusty Nail in Ardmore...) is run by a great house band. They are pretty smart and always put those lone singers up first, before the crowd rolls in around 10:45pm. So from about 9:30 to 10:30 it's a steady stream of these clowns who play guitar and sing (if you can call it that). You get up there with them and they don't even communicate anything other than yelling out the name of the tune, most of the time the bass player or drummer would look at me and mouth, "What key?" and we'd all have no idea. So one of will then yell to the singer, "What key?" and they'd look at us pissed off and have no idea what key the freaking song is in. That would be okay with me if they didn't always respond as if *we* were the boneheads!

    All that said....I just switched to bass this past week and am loving it and can't wait until I am good enough to get back to a jam without embarrassing myself, this time as a bassist. They really are a great opportunity for us middle-aged/older guys who are tired of the band thing and just want to get out and have a few beers and play.
  19. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    On the other hand, backing up singers who don't communicate (even about keys or tempos) is priceless experience-- invaluable for improving your musicianship.
    I've subbed on paying gigs (weddings, etc.) where the leader simply started playing each tune, and I was expected to get the key within the first millisecond and the form "on the fly."
    When you go to these jams as a bassist, they're often not about being catered to-- rather, they're about learning to cope with anything, in a situation where you can't get fired. Sort of an internship. If you have the right attitude. :)
  20. mark2741


    Sep 14, 2008
    So how did you figure out the key in a millisecond? Telepathy?

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