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Jam Auditions

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by devo1, Jan 14, 2020.

  1. devo1


    May 6, 2010
    I answered a CL posting seeking musicians for a forming new band. The CL poster is a drummer and listed a few drummer influences. I asked about the intent and musical direction of the group. The response more like "we should just jam it out". From a guitar player this would be a red flag as I don't want to be a backing track for solo practice; however, his drumming influences are solid and are genres I would like to play.

    The questions is, how would you prepare for such an audition?
  2. ELG60


    Apr 26, 2017
    I'd probably let him know that I'm interested but that I would be more interested in a more structured approach in order to not waste each other's time.

    Otherwise, IMO, it just ends up as a wankfest.
    Bassdirty, DavC, snyderz and 9 others like this.
  3. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    He's a drummer. Ask him for five songs he wants to play and explain that you need to at least have a basic structure in order to jam on some songs together. Drummers don't need to worry about things like chord changes and keys, but we do. If he doesn't understand that, I would think twice about getting together. Anyone can tick off a list of influences but that doesn't make them good players.
  4. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Is it a real working band, or a "jam for the fun and love of music" ? Either is fine if it's what you want.
    I wouldn't go further until I got an answer to that.
    I'm influenced by a lot of people I can't play like. Does he have samples, or just "influences" ?
    If he doesn't know what he wants, how will he knows when he gets there?
    I don't think I'd spend a moment preparing, other than to make sure I was ready to play stuff in those genres.
    I think I'd probably suggest meeting at an open mike/jam and seeing if there's any common ground.

    I get the idea of holding off on a concrete vision until having a core set of players lined up, but I'd definitely want a better idea than that before going any farther.
  5. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    How would I approach the audition? I would look at the other musicians' lists of influences, and try to learn a few signature licks and riffs from each of the different bands. For example, if they are big Deadheads, and I sneak the riff from "Shakedown Street" into our formless, meandering jams, that's probably going to make a good first impression. Or conversely, if they start playing "Shakedown," and I pick up on the musical cue and join in, I'm probably going to get the gig.

    Last but not least, if I start playing "Shakedown" and they just give me blank stares, then that tells me valuable information about them. Auditions are a two-way street!

    But maybe that's not what is meant here. When musicians say "let's get together and jam" they sometimes mean "let's noodle around aimlessly and improvise." But often jamming just means, "let's get together and play some well-known songs, in a casual environment." The purpose of this "let's jam it out" audition might simply be, we take turns calling out songs, and if everyone knows the same songs and has overlapping musical interests, then the project is a "go." If it is this type of audition, then they are probably just looking for a bassist who has a large vocabulary of songs that they already know, and a good ear to pick up new songs quickly.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020
  6. ahc


    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    Not much you can prepare for if there's no stated goals. It sounds like on of those "try it and see what happens" situations. At worst you've wasted a couple hours. At best you've found the basis for a band. And you may meet some credible folks or contacts for the future. Or a serial killer.
  7. devo1


    May 6, 2010
    I'm gonna attend for that reason. Sounds like a guitar player will be there too. I was in my last band for six years and that group was very structured. Basically, not practicing for a rehearsal feels foreign to me now. Especially since I've been playing less since leaving the group almost a year ago.
    ahc and kjp360 like this.
  8. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    Hopefully the guitarist can call some changes to you, or give you some charts in advance. Hope it all clicks!
    devo1 likes this.
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yeah that wouldn't work for me. I'm all for a casual first meet up. But I have to have a few guardrails to keep things moving. At least pick some songs. Is anyone else going to be there? Or will this just be drums and bass? Gimme SOMETHING to work with.
  10. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Or maybe they are trying to weed out the players who need to be told the chord changes. ;)
    vvvmmm, bigswifty1, sid sonic and 2 others like this.
  11. devo1


    May 6, 2010

    There will be 3 of us. The guitar player and I are not in contact. We both answered the drummers listing.
  12. devo1


    May 6, 2010
    I'll probably prepare 2 or 3 changes. Maybe the guitar player will too.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Another way to approach this audition is to take control of the situation, reach out to the guitarist, decide together on a list of songs, and show up for the audition as a well-prepared duo with the guitarist (just add drums). It sounds like the drummer doesn't really care which songs you play, so why not pick them yourself? If you were starting your dream band, and could pick any songs you wanted, which would you choose? This could be that opportunity!

    Do you also sing by any chance?
    Oddly, five7, devo1 and 1 other person like this.
  14. I don't do "let's just jam". I want to know if they can come in prepared or if all they ever do is jam.
  15. LBS-bass

    LBS-bass Supporting Member

    That could be true, too! But it still helps to know what material they're going to play. No matter how good you are, you can't play from your head and ear if you don't know the song at all. With the exception of some really simple stuff where the changes are predictable, like 1-4-5 blues jams.
    devo1 likes this.
  16. kjp360


    Feb 11, 2014
    Lots of good advice here already that are reflective of at least a few perspectives. Jamming can be a dirty word to some and I get that...well because it can be painful when it is lol.
    I'm all for 'jamming' as long as it isn't the proverbial wank fest on a couple of changes all night as mentioned a few times above. If all present can already play some common standards and/or hear the changes it can be fun and it becomes clear who speaks the same language and who doesn't. That said, if there is time, I would ask the drummer if he would broker everyone picking at least one song to bring. If there was still time after that, share the list and prepare from there. Then hope for the best. Enjoy.
    LBS-bass likes this.
  17. gln1955

    gln1955 Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2014
    Ohio, USA
    Same here. Nothing wrong with spending some time with friends just messing around, but in my experience I've never had a band result from aimless jamming.
    Renaissance and devo1 like this.
  18. devo1


    May 6, 2010

    Ya I'll just prepare a few ideas. I wish I could sing. Unfortunately that requires a little bit of natural talent.
  19. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    To play devil's advocate, if someone shows up to an audition with a few well-prepared songs, and does a great job, it tells you they have certain skills, but then there's a lot that doesn't tell you about that player. Jamming tests a different skill set: do they know a large catalog of songs, do they have a good ear, are they a quick learner, can they play follow-the-leader, are they creative, are they good communicators, how big is their musical vocabulary, can they play different feels and styles, do they have a big ego, are they calm under pressure or do they get flustered, etc.?

    In my ideal world, a perfect audition would test the player's skill both with music prepared in advance for the occasion, but also their improvisational skills with coming up with something on the spot. Even for a band that never improvises or jams, who plays cover songs note-for-note, there are always unexpected things that happen at gigs, that it never hurts having the skill to improvise. When a musician can "hang" at a jam session, to me it is a good indicator that they have a solid musical skill set.

    I wouldn't directly equate "jamming" and "level of preparedness." A good jammer will show up prepared to the jam, and a bad jammer will show up unprepared to the jam. Contrary to popular misconception, improvisation is not spontaneous in the moment and actually takes quite a bit of preparation and study. Jerry Garcia for example was a walking encyclopedia of old-timey music. Or another example, John Coltrane would pore through the thickest music theory textbooks he could find.

    A good jammer (and yes, these people do exist!) is going to show up well-prepared for that jam-band audition. They know a lot of songs and can learn new songs quickly. They are masters of harmony, melody, and rhythm. They can play common progressions like I-V-vi-IV and 12-bar blues in any key signature. They are comfortable in the standard rhythm feels like straight eighths, shuffle, and 16th note funk. They don't mind playing with guitarists who use capos or drop tuning. They can help out on vocals or another instrument as needed. Their bass is in tune, their gear sounds good, they have reliable transportation, they show up on time and sober. They've learned a few "greatest hits" songs from each of the band's listed musical influences. If they are auditioning for an established band, they've done their homework and learned songs from that band's set list, watched videos of past performances on YouTube. These are the types of things good jammers practice how to do.

    A bad jammer shows up at the audition and says, "Let's take LSD and play feedback-drone loops!" A good jammer shows up at the audition and says, "Your bassist wanted poster says you like Hendrix. How about 'Purple Haze'? I usually play it in Eb, but I can also do it in E, if that's easier for you. Ready? 1-2-3-4."
  20. I would look at a few of the more popular songs played by the drummers he listed as influences. Other than that it doesn’t sound like much prep is necessary.
    BarfanyShart and devo1 like this.

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