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How do you jam?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by nemo, Aug 3, 2004.

  1. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    Sorry for this maybe silly question, but here is the topic - you find yourself on stage with couple of other musicians you not play regularly with and there should be a “jam“.
    What role your bass should assume? As bass usually determines key and harmonic progresion for others it is sort of tough role in a situation where there are no rules.. Play one groove over and over, or alterning lines sort of “verse” and “chorus” or let others lead and move along?

    What is your experience?

    (Im not talking about jamming with your regular band where you know each other throughout…)
  2. Here's where listening and experience comes into play. I try to build a groove based off the drummer and the key or progression of choice and let the guitars have their way. Sometimes I take the liberty of soloing myself. I basically do what I feel is right.

    Sometimes, IMO, there are really no rules, especially in cases of "jamming." My take is not to solo too much, and to concentrate more on laying down a groove for my guitarists. When the time feels right I will change the groove up a bit, and "turn some type of corner," especially in an extented jam. I do this to keep things interesting & less monotonous.

    If this is a style you like listen to Phil Lesh, Dave Schools, and Mike Gordon, etc. for some pointers. There are too many jazz bassists to list, but you can pick up alot re: improvisation by listening studying them.
  3. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    In the case of playing with people that you do not know I would lay down a pretty funky line and groove on that until everyone is on board.

    As Cacklingjackyl said maybe change it up a bit before it gets a bit dulll or if you have a soloist who is going to play 800 bars.

    Also, make sure your communication lines with the drummer are good. If you both change it up at the same time the others will follow.

    Keep it simple.

    Good Luck.

  4. steal-o-matic


    Apr 11, 2004
    when i jam i try and keep things from straying to far from the chord progression, and keep a good eye , or ear on the drummer to find pockets in the groove for fills
  5. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    Sometimes when I jam it sounds like a comet falling from the heavens with funk warts. Other times I end up with a stale marshmellow. :(
  6. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Choose a groove, choose a key, maybe choose a chord progression and then go....
  7. CrazyArcher


    Aug 5, 2004
    My advice would be

    I havent played on any jams of this type as a bassist, only as a guitarist. I played twice with ppl I have never played with before, exept the 2nd guitarist, and it went quite well. The drummer entered 1st and gave the tempo (one bar), the bassist played 2-4 notes, and then everyone entered at full power. Our bassist didnt try to be too bold and mainly stayed on the background, though sometimes played harder.

    In short - trust your hearing and dont try to play faster than others -have patience. :)
  8. Matt Till

    Matt Till

    Jun 1, 2002
    Edinboro, PA
    I played with a kid who was terrified to jam, he just kinda let out a few notes once in a while (or quietly tried to figure out what everyone else was doing). I figured out what his problem was, he was terrified of sounding bad. You need to experiment, you won't always sound awesome.
  9. nemo


    Mar 19, 2004
    Thanks guys. Yes, thats what I‘m basically doing - lay down a groove and keeping it simple - thats what i like :D

    My only concern sometimes is - isn‘t it geting already too monotonous, is it a time for change? Well, here comes Crazyarcher‘s advice - dont try to play faster than others -have patience - thats it, let the mood evolve and be sensitive to „hints“ of change.

    I remember one situation with my other two friends. We were once jamming on small djembe-like drums (as we did many times). And we agreed before just for sake of it that one will be filling to what other two are playing, second one will fill to what the other two are playing, and third one will fill to what other two are playing.. :) (hope you got it) It started slowly but in the end it went very nice.. Who was leading? None of us, maybe something.. :)
  10. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Very good question. Being the bass player kind of makes us the boss, IMO. We can pretty much take the thing where we want but we have to do it responsibly. I've noticed that those types of jam session where nothing is discussed in advanced will usually start out with a nice groove over one or two chords (this is not a requirement). If the groove is happening and inspiring the others I will resist the urge to change it up too quickly. I try to wait until just the right time. For example, the guitar player has slowly built up his solo and when he/she gets to what seems like the peak of his/her solo and is just wailing I might walk up to the IV chord to build it even further. Then, hopefully, taking it back down to the one will be the queue to let the next person take a turn. It doesn't always happen like that but that's one possible scenario. Sometimes, depending on the other players and how well we know each other musically, the jams will start taking on a chord progression. Maybe a 12 bar blues, maybe an 8 or 16 bar thing, maybe it's an extended thing with a visual or musical queue to go to a different section, etc. The main thing is not to nervously jump around too much. Once I get a good groove going I try to only listen to the others and don't focus on what I'm playing.

    When the jam starts I usually don't have a problem coming up with the initial groove but if I do I try to focus on what the drummer is doing along with, of course, which chord(s) is being playied. E minor seems to be a favorite with guitar players. :) I will error on the side of simplicity and keep my ears and eyes open until I hear and see the others are inspired to play (and the audience is getting into it if there is one). When they're getting into it I know it's right.

    Of course, there's the whole jazz aproach to jamming where a tune that everyone knows is selected and becomes the vehicle for a jam. Or sometimes the impromtu jams morph into a tune that everyone jumps on. That's cool as long as it isn't one person forcing the tune on everyone else.

    Another thing that has been helpful for me is to pay attention to how chords sound with different root notes. When the guitar player or keyboard or other harmony instrument are playing a static chord you know you can play a different root note to make the thing sound like it's going somewhere or to give it a different sound. Or you can imply a chord progression even though the others are keeping it static. I think you have to use that tastefully, though. You don't want to necessarily force the others into a place where they don't hear going to.

    And last but not least, dynamics. They are the key. Even if the harmony is completley static, good use of dynamics can really take everyone on a musical journey.

    Just my $.02