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How to win at jam nights?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Pbassred, Nov 3, 2010.

  1. Great advice as well as many of the other posts.

    Try to sit in on some tunes with the house drummer, Lock in with him/her, make friends, buy them a drink, come back next week and repeat. If the house drummer likes you they will most likely get you back up often.
  2. Listen and Groove.

    If at the end of the tune, eveyone including yourself has perma grin.... That's a win.

    When everyone is together and giving each other room and support, you are all winning.

  3. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    I have to disagree it takes a little more than that.And it depends on the open mic.

    You can be the best player, but if your up their with a 3rd rate drummer your going to look just as band as the drummer.

    I hate open mics, but I end up doing one,I'm bring my own drummer and just me and him will jam. I have not seen any outstanding cats show up playing at these things.
  4. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Some can be that way. But if you play at a place with a good group of jammers, and a good person running it, it's a great time.

    When I lived in Chicago, there were the best Blues jams. Guys coming off the street just killing it. Out here in DC, there's one place I like alot. Sometimes, there's some duds, but the guy running it makes sure to keep a couple of solid players up there at all times to keep things from being a total trainwreck. For example, when there were a couple of junior high kids on guitar who came up, they had the house drummer and myself on bass/vocals up there to keep things together. Things went smoothly, and the audience dug it. Then later on in the evening when the big boys come up to jam, they call me back up and we have a good time. Lots of great players stop by that are regulars, and we get to know each other's style and actually lock in.

    Some places are trainwrecks waiting to happen on a nightly basis, but the right ones are a blast.
  5. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings

    As someone who's played in several house bands for jams... I'd have to agree.

    The saving grace was that occassionally I'd play with the other guys in the band on some song we hadn't done to death. Otherwise it was typically Stevie Ray wannabees who played the most amazing I-IV-V turnarounds you've ever heard. Over and over again.

    "Hey, do you know this one? It's in A"
    "I think I can handle it"

    It was even worse the last time I actually went to a jam. It's pretty lame around here, here's how it goes:

    The house band, who obviously play together, do stuff they've played a million times before. The more complicated the arrangment the better. No shortage of egos there. Then they call you up to play with whomever's on the list. They typically won't let people they know play together do so at the jam. Fragile ego much?

    So you end up with usually two or more "just happy to be out of the house" players* who are so excited to be there they forget the basics... like timing, dynamics, changes, playing in tune, etc. Afterwards, if by some accident you play something passable the house band comes back to play a song, just to show everyone that they're better.

    I wish I were making this up.

    Even more annoying is playing with people who can play and they do stupid stuff to try and throw the people they're playing with off. I like to call them the "hey look, folks... "I" know the song, the rest of the band doesn't" jackholes:rolleyes:. Again, lame as hell.

    So that's why I don't do open jams.

    *no offense:D
  6. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000

    I've seen and have been part of a few jams where real magic happened. In my experience, however, those are exceptions. In my experience, most informal jams/open mics fall into the following scenarios:

    1. One cat begins playing a song that only he or she knows (and usually doesn't even bother to tell the rest the key). A drummer can fake a decent beat. Other musicians, such as bass players and keyboardists, may be able to lay something down, but it may be miles away from what is really written for the song. It's one thing if you're playing stuff where it's alright to "fake" your way through (e.g., Johnny B. Goode, Folsom Prison Blues, etc.), but the song leader has started playing something that has signature instrumental parts, important vocal harmonies, and 900 chords. Of course, the leader will be sure to diverge from the arranagement and go to the bridge at the wrong time. Hopefully you're not in the observation car when this train wrecks.


    2. Since nobody knows anything collectively, everyone jams on some standard form, like a I-IV-V slow blues shuffle. Of course, nobody has a jazz background in which they were required to produce INTERESTING improvisation. Prepare for endless pentatonic wankery that goes nowhere over the same I-IV-V form for the next twenty minutes. Yawn.


    3. You get a string of acoustic performers. They usually are mediocre vocalists and equally mediocre guitarists. A barre chord may be the most advanced thing they play all night. By the time they are finished adjusting their capos, playing reference chords, and tweaking the preamps on their guitars, they could have played an extra two songs.
  7. James Judson

    James Judson

    Jul 16, 2009
    Love the challenge of playing with folks I have never met.

    Hate the fact that EVERYBODY knows how to play a 12 bar shuffle.

    Love meeting other musicians.

    Hate the fact that the PA sucks.

    Love the fact I don't have to drag a bunch of gear along.

    Hate the fact that most are a good ole boys club and you are not getting up til 12:30pm.

    Love the fact that you can take along your own band and test the waters.

  8. wideyes


    May 9, 2007
    Eugene, OR
  9. puddin tame

    puddin tame

    Aug 14, 2010
    I've only been to one open mic jam and it was good stuff. my city has a 'blues club' that hosts a monthly blues jam, among other things.

    the thing with something like that is that i'm 19 and I was just about the only male in there that still had his hair complete with pigment, but it was still a good time. no one besides the full bands knew any common songs so it was mostly just 12 bar blues in various keys all night, but it still sounded fresh as the players and styles were mixed up. I think it also helps that it's only on once a month and there's a lot of good players who look forward to it.

    I suppose my attitude might change if I was the house band for the 100th week in a row or something.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i hate jam nights. i used to have to do them. i would host them and hope to get some good jams going, but it ended up de-evolving into a way for new bands to audition for slots in these two bars we did them at. i got sick of it and tried to make it a real jam night, but i never could. it all came to a head for me one night...

    there was this band who came up to do 3 songs. i jumped over to keyboards, and they started "highway star" by deep purple. great! organ solo! so i start playing, and the guitarist comes up to me and says, "hey man, we do this song our own way so we'd appreciate it if you didn't play on it." i said, "ok," then i stormed off the stage, told everyone in the band and the manager of the bar what happened, then we all went back onstage after they did "highway star" and threw them off the stage. they looked really bewildered, and i said, "hey, it's jam night and you guys don't want to jam, so that's it."

    that was the last jam night we ever did. later that night i told the manager how much we hated it, and the bar was sick of bands coming in to audition, too, so they stopped it. plus the owners of this place owned the other place, and they stopped it at the other place, too. yay! no more jam nights!

    so how to stand out at jam night? respect your hosts.
  11. I know they are all different. the host plays a big part as do the guests. some level of control helps, and honestly, good players to steer the inexperienced ones. You can develop some good players from them - and it can have some great moments.

    I played house band bass for almost 3 years at one and some of the nights were priceless. I wish I had been able to record the first year. I bought my zoom H2 part way through 2nd year. I have about 40 hours of live blues jam with David Bromberg which is anything BUT boring or wankery.

    If you ask me how you win, I would say try to play your best, explore new water, be courteous, play with all the players you can (the best ones when you can) and be open minded. When you are in doubt, lay back and when you are sure play with your heart and soul.

    try to use your best foot forward, including equipment, material, styles and attitude. Dont' be pompous...there is always someone better, I don't care who you are, or think you are. Support the people learning, and applaud those who do so.

    you win when the music is good, and everyone on both sides of the stage are smiling, applauding and you feel it in your soul.

    anyway, thats what I found, believe and experienced.
    I was lucky I guess.
  12. Arranger


    Mar 9, 2003
    What he said....well.
  13. Skitch it!

    Skitch it!

    Sep 6, 2010
    As the other here chaps have posted, open jams can be detrimental and disappointing if it starts and ends as a train wreck, together with 'why is that drunk guy shuffling around my gear' (I've thought this about myself on occasion ; ) or chancers whom know they shouldn't have got up for that particular tune, wrecking it.

    Try and find out where the more experienced muso's go to play, it is better if you can pair up with a drummer and guitarist and take them along for a few mapped tracks, bounce-off's tunes like 'The Chicken' or whatever.

    As the guys above have stated, I stopped the 'all in' jams because they were too frustrating and messy, I'd much rather have been home practising than having to deal with the headache, but if you can find something more structured, then that is a cool situation for fun, otherwise it's a pain in the...; )
  14. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I usually enjoy jam nights. For me it's all about the drummer. I've been stuck with a few really bad ones, but I guess I've been lucky that there have only been a few.

    If I don't know the other players, I try to stick with the basics. Keep it simple, and try to enjoy the ride. If I'm locked in with the drummy I'm good.
  15. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    To the OP, keep in mind that for many experienced, established players who have or will respond (negatively) in this thread, with lots of time under their belts who have played these kinds of songs and styles in bands, formally, for many years, the "jam night" is quite often, going to seem to them like "amateur hour" and "the dregs" and so on and so forth. Bear that perspective in mind for what it is, and move on.

    Nevertheless, ANY jam night can be a win at a very basic level if it operates as it should- ie- to give the musicians who show up an opportunity to get up on stage and play and/or play with new/different people.

    I regularly recommend local jam nights as a way for inexperienced (and even some experienced) players to dip their toe in the water and take their own experience of music to another level, beyond their couch, basement, bedroom or garage. That there are train wrecks, occasionally, some excessive soloing and other passing moments, should be NO deterrent to giving it a shot.

    The excitement of someone coming off the stage who kinda thought they could play live, with another human on stage, when they never had before, is always heartening. That never gets old. And on the other side of the experience, seeing who are clearly, capable and experienced players take a jam situation and can really turn the moment into music, and take the music and turn it into a moment is equally refreshing.

    I am not sure I ever went to a "jam" where I didn't see some magic, at some point in the night, for either the inexperienced or the much more experienced. With the openness to see the complete picture of the value of jams and open mics and the like, you too will never come away dissapointed from one of these events.
  16. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    I would submit that the way any musician handles the train wrecks that happen occasionally in well established and practiced bands is what separates the men from the boys.

    I think you learn more about playing live onstage from being involved in 100 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moments than you would playing 100 flawless performances.
  17. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    Whatever happens in well-established and practiced bands is one thing, and you're right about that. But in this thread here, we're talking jam nights, which is a different thing. A jam, and situations like it are designed so that BOYS CAN PLAY TOO.
  18. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    I have done dozens and dozens of jam nights both as a sit in guest and as the main bassist for the night of a throw together lineup to kick things off and play with whomever wanted to jam.

    The best place I ever jammed was at Jeff Healey's in Toronto. There was a host band that not only started off and had their equipment to use, but there was professional sound and a technician and the host band kept a tight control on the jam. Players had to sign up based on arrival and list their instrument and vocals. The hosts would go in order and make sure everybody followed the rules and limit the time length and number of songs per lineup. They would deliberately put people on stage who had never played together before, which I thought was cool.

    The first time I went to Healey's, I sat around while some players took the stage and then I was asked to perform with 5 other people who I did not know and most of the others did not know each other. The jam lineup was drums, bass, 2 guitars, keyboards, and harmonica with a couple of us singing. I picked a couple tunes that I figured everybody knew and that would utilize all the instruments and we opened with Roadhouse Blues and the place went crazy. We did some other tunes and then had different lineups throughout the night. The cool part was that these were all top notch players and recording artists from Toronto and we sounded like we had played together before. I ended up getting several job offers whenever I jammed there but I live in the U.S. and sorry to say, I could not take them.
  19. I think we sat near each other in class......

    that was my point exactly - particularly.......
    I am not sure I ever went to a "jam" where I didn't see some magic, at some point in the night:D
  20. bluewine

    bluewine Banned

    Sep 4, 2008
    Back in my day, open jams were where all the hot players would show up an burn.It was productive and cool.

    Most of what I have seen around here of late has been pure crap.

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