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Going to a blues jam tonight ... any pointers

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by lopxtc, Feb 15, 2009.

  1. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    So Ive decided to suck up my worries and head out to a local blues jam tonight. Ive only been playing now about two years and know that blues bass is what I would love to play.

    Im comfortable with the 12 bar format, and the guy running it says that he would get me up there for any real blues jamming and not some people covering well known songs ...

    Any pointers, things I should look/listen for?


  2. Pointer #1: have fun!
    Pointer #2: listen for and lock into the drummer.
  3. Right on!!! Go for it!!!!!

    Pointer # 3: do NOT let nervousness have you stay in your seat.
  4. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    +1 and...

    Pointer #3: pay attention to the bandleader and follow his cues. Play with dynamics when he brings it down and back up again.
  5. Kenny Allyn

    Kenny Allyn

    Mar 25, 2006

    It's not gonna be all laid back 12 bars trust me, so kinda let the host know what your comfort level is. I literally started playing bass live on Beale St. here in Memphis without ever playing bass in a band before. I played guitar at many a jam just not bass.

    For one thing know the number system One, Four, Five etc: and be able to do that in keys you may not have played that tune in before. My band does Stevie Rays "Pride and Joy" in the Key of A, last jam the singer called it C. A short four means it returns to the four twice before the five turnaround (Sweet Home Chicago). Usually a good jam stays in the I IV V most of the time but be aware that some songs vary that, the tune "Key to the Highway" for example goes I V IV I, and many times you will have a singer "vamp" on the ONE, around here they usually hold up one finger letting you know to hold and groove on the root note. Finally be able to know and play in minor or major keys. It matters not what kind of bass you play, so don't think you need a P bass with flats, and if you get lost just "soft pedal" or back off a bit until you catch up.

    I've done many of these and am going to one this week to audition a new guitar player singer LIVE at the jam ... so we are both under some pressure he has to give me what he wants on the fly, and my drummer and I gotta play it!

    But hey have a blast it really is a great way to get into playing live and networking ... I met Brian a drummer at a blues jam and he is now our backup drummer when and if our regular drummer can't make a gig, and he is a TB member (plays bass too)

    Me at the Memphis Blues Society Jam as guest house bassist last Summer.


    ;) ... Your gonna be fine, wish I could be there my family lives in Wentzville
  6. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Play with soul. :confused:

  7. mcm


    Oct 2, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Don't think too much!
  8. bass12

    bass12 Say "Ahhh"... Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I always ask if the form is "fast to the IV" (meaning that there is only one bar of I before the chord changes to the IV) and that's pretty much it. If the song is a minor blues (e.g. "The Thrill Is Gone"), than look out for the VI chord. If you don't know what I'm talking about (IV, VI, etc.) then just keep your ears open! Play with conviction and remember - if you're going to play a wrong note, play it like you mean it! Don't be afraid of making mistakes. When (if) you do make one, don't dwell on it, cause it's gone. Just keep playing and don't look guilty. Half the time, the only reason people in the audience know that the bassist made a mistake is because of the look on the bassist's face!
  9. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    Thanks all for the tips and words of encouragement ... been playing for about 2.5 years and wanting to start playing with others. Hard to say how I am given that I just pretty much play alone, so I want to get out and see how I can do ... figured an open mic jam night is the better way to go so I dont worry too much about screwing up since people arent paying to see a professional play :)

  10. Let us know how it goes!
  11. Tony-bobs


    Aug 19, 2008
    Spearfish, SD
    I love blues jams! The jazz combo in high school used to jam once a week just to help everyone work on soloing in an environment where you knew everyone and weren't worried about looking like a fool when the time came to really impress people. We'd play 12 bars straight for like an hour and then get pissed cuz our next class was calc. 1, nothing kills a jazz trance like upperlevel math...
  12. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    At jam sessions you have to work out, and avoid who the alligators are.......the're usually the ones with big mouths and no ears.
  13. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    Ugh well Im going to hang my head in shame ... I let myself get intimidated last night by the more experienced bass players last night. I ended up just sitting in the background for the evening playing along unplugged ...

    The crowd when I get there was small, but when the jam started up the comedy club next door let out and the crowd went from 20 to 100 in 5 mins and they called my name to come up right as the house bass player finished the opener jam. I got nervous and balked ...

    The good thing though in the end was that several of the regular guitar players apparently watched me through the night and said that I was playing along just fine with all the songs and that I could have easily held my own up there. I mentioned that being a new player my eye isnt all that good yet but that I can most time catch the chords if I can see the guitar player. Two of the regulars said that next week they will be more than happy to let me know the chord change and that I am getting on stage next time.

    I just psych'ed myself out thinking that if I could play the bass line for the song exactly like it was originally that I shouldnt be up there. The guys pointed out that unless the original artist was in the bar that odds are no one would have noticed.

    Sorry to let you guys down and not come back with a real cool story ... next time Im going to bribe a friend to come along for additional support and hopefully have a better story to tell.

  14. Just use your ears and find the groove next time. You'll find after a few minutes you'll settle in - a bit like jumping into a pool of cold water. The initial anticipation makes you nervous, jumping in can be a bit of a shock but the water's lovely once you're in ;)
  15. lopxtc


    Jan 18, 2007
    St. Louis, MO
    I was doing a good job of knocking out a bass line sitting off to the side ... but I thought maybe it was just me playing just behind the bass player on stage. Though several times I know what I played wasnt what he played, but to me still felt good.

    I probably could have done it, but I let myself get intimidated by the other guys who all had no less than 15-20 years of playing experience each. All of them though had good words of encouragement at the end of the night and a said that they look forward to younger (skill level wise) person getting on stage next time.

  16. Well, better luck next time bro. I'm still trying to work up the courage to play at one of these myself ...
  17. Just give it a go. 9/10 people are supportive of people getting up and having a blow. It's part of making music. For all you know you could have some cool ideas or a certain approach that someone else digs and gets them deeper into the music and feeding off what you're laying down.
  18. Kenny Allyn

    Kenny Allyn

    Mar 25, 2006
    Ahh well ...

    Last Jam I attended we had a very seasoned guitar player up he is pretty good but had not played in a band in some time. He called out a tune and proceeded to try to play it "just like the record" 5 people on that stage and it was train-wrecking, he did this on about three more songs and it was all very stiff and not groovin. Last song up I called it and just launched into a funky bassline and we were off and groovin and it was fun. Point is at a jam it's a just go for it thing, that's what makes it a jam that loose play it from the heart feel.

    Man ya gotta go for it, seems like you have a ton of support.
    A number of years ago we had a 13 year old kid that used to attend about all of the jams and he was really green, when he started it was all he could do to put 3 notes together, he got a lot of support from all of us, and never gave up ... got pretty good too. His name is Zack Myers you may have heard of him.

    :) ... You have my total support, contact me if you need anything
  19. Yeah man, that's exactly it. We used to have jam sessions in a bar where the pay was always chucked straight onto a bar tab (usually a couple hundred bucks) and then there were free drinks for anyway who played. Quite often we'd get up, look at each other and someone would say "Play something on drums" or "Here's a couple chords I like" or "Just play something funky on the bass" and we'd just make it up and go from there - sometimes for 1/2 an hour or more without a pause in the music, except to change players. Noone was expecting anything from anyone other than what came from them on the spot and if it worked, cool, if it didn't just try something else. Good times.
  20. bebass

    bebass Sho Me Music Commercial User

    Sep 3, 2006
    Bolivar, Missouri
    ShoMeMusic.com; Authorized dealer for Bergantino, Dingwall, Darkglass, Genzler, Phil Jones Bass, Quilter, Blackstar, Cort, Traynor, and other
    For me, blues is about FEELING the music. So relax, stick with the drummer, eye contact with the guitarist, and you'll know what to do. As someone already said remember the dynamics. Have FUN!

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