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jam band frustration

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Sturg, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. Sturg


    Nov 29, 2013
    So yesterday I hosted my second jam band. Sent out the email with the tune list 6 weeks ago. The guitarists were mostly learning the songs at the rehearsal, AND playing way too loudly. This was frustrating. The singer was really good. The drummer was a nice guy but didn't seem to have prepared the songs at all. So, the only people that really prepared for the jam was me and the singer. Not sure if I want to jam again.
    What would you do?
    Why can't people practice before coming to rehearsal?
    I know it's just a jam, but is it too much to ask people to practice ahead of time?
  2. JGbassman

    JGbassman Supporting Member

    May 31, 2011
    Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    I co host a jam that has revolving "house" musicians besides the drummer, whom is the founder. It's fun playing with different players, and I usually co host 2 Sunday's a month. The first set is usually done by the house band, and after that, the players start coming up.

    Normally, it's heavy on singers and guitar players, and a sprinkling of bassists, keys, and drums. An occasional harp player will come in and we have even have had bag pipes come up to jam! But as a bassist, I will be on stage 3/4 of the night covering songs for the jammers. Yesterday everything from Taylor Swift/Johnny Cash, REM, Alice in Chains/Ratt, Allman Bros./Rolling Stones/Pink Floyd, Beastie Boys, Muddy Waters and Elvis was covered to name a few, so you better have a wide variety of songs that you are familiar with and can play well.

    The rotating musicians making up the house band for the week as seasoned professionals, and are good at their instruments. We do not have a set list, and the players will call songs for the first set.

    The players themselves have literally hundreds of songs between them they can play. You have to be good at playing songs you have never heard or played before, and make them sound good. I can normally play a song reasonably well if I've heard it before, and I will watch the guitar players hands for chords if I'm still a little off. Generally by the second verse I have the song down well enough to make it believable if I've never heard or played a song before. I'm not talking about hardcore metal or jazz, or other very technical music, this is the simple stuff you hear on classic rock or country radio over the years.

    So I guess I would find it a little silly even to have a practice for a hosting jam band. Give me a loose set if you wish, and the key. For the musicians involved with the jam band, part of the reason we have the gig is because we can play off the cuff, and do it well. We all have little flubs, but that's part of the fun. I wouldn't be too angry, unless the musicians completely botched the songs. If that was the case, I could see a structured practice if the jam band was going to have a standard set in stone first set lot play, or standards they knew they would play every time.
  3. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    If players aren't prepared, don't ask them back.
  4. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Are the songs you're choosing "jam band" tunes, or are you defining "jam" as something else? The word can be misleading or confusing, if you're asking people to meet up to jam.
  5. brbadg


    Nov 10, 2006
    I agree.
    There seems to be a discrepancy in the first 2 posts.
    I read the OP as saying he wants a jam band (which is a whole genre of music)
  6. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015
    This doesn't sound like "jam band" (Dead, Allmans, etc) but more like "Come to my house/rehearsal space and let's play these songs". I have always defined "jam" in this manner...we'll play some tunes that are not really well rehearsed but we have some competence in them or know the songs (or they are straight up blues...which is a little easier to wing).

    This stuff is frustrating OP. I think the key is in selecting those you play with. I have a steady group of guys like this. We focus mostly on the blues, but jeez Mr Bassist, can you please listen to some of these before you show up? He's good enough to wing them, but some are specific and then he gets all pissy if we extend a section with some solos or what not.

    It's even worse when you're not playing the blues. I played with some folks that called Ring Of Fire. I'm like, OK I have the chords, let's Do This. I wasn't expecting anything much, but it was a trainwreck.

    The question for you, is what do you want from this? "Rehearsal" would imply building up for a show/gig/open mic. "Jam" would imply coming together "familiar" with the tunes but maybe not polished. If this is only the second time, you need to figure out what you want and who do you want to keep. My blues jam was made up of a guy from another blues jam we did at his house that collapsed and a drummer that I used to play with at a home jam that collapsed. Bassist is from a more "serious" hobby band. We had a keys guy that wanted more than we could give so he stopped coming and just added a harp player. I don't push it too hard because I'm using it as a way to bone up my guitar skills in the blues and singing. But I will push when the feel is wrong, or two fast or something. My other band, I'm the 3rd guitar player and we have paying gigs coming up. I push much harder or being tight, good transitions, volume issues (rhythm guy is always too loud). Oddly, that band is composed of less skilled guys but more enthusiast about gigging.

    Give it a bit of time, invite back who you like, ditch who you don't.
  7. To many I've met, "Jam Band" equals "Self Indulgence" & that requires no practice or fore thought.
    obimark and Aberdumbie like this.
  8. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    When someone asks me to come jam, i don't learn songs. I come ready for a fairly improvised session. If i already know a tune or two, then sure let's give it a go. Otherwise it's a true jam, not playing cover songs.
  9. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    I agree. A "jam" is "show up and see what happens" in my mind. Is there a kind of music thats call "jam"?
  10. Sturg


    Nov 29, 2013
    After reading some of these replies, Jam is probably the wrong term. I think by "jam band" my intention was for that to mean "non-gigging" band.
    Just get together and play some covers, without the pressure or need to get songs ready to "play out" at some venue.
    But still something that is taken seriously so when a tune list is sent out weeks ahead of time, the assumption is that people will at least listen to and try to work on a little bit before getting together.
    3Liter likes this.
  11. Yeah. Call it rehearsal or call it a jam. Don't expect a rehearsal to break out at a jam.
    BrewsterRooster likes this.
  12. 3Liter


    Feb 26, 2015

    No harm in running your ad like that. Add information about how you'd like to get them "good" but not "stage ready" so a focus on doing it somewhat correctly is what you're after. You should get some interest that way.
  13. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    How much are you paying them? For me to take time out of my busy schedule to learn songs on my own time, you have to pay me for that. If it is a non-paying situation (and there's nothing wrong with that) then I am going to show up unprepared and do my best.

    Instead of putting the blame on the unpaid musicians for not acting like professionals (and why should the act like pros if they're not getting paid?) an alternate philosophy is to ask if there's anything different YOU could have done as the host. Did you provide accurate and easy to read chords, charts and lyrics? Did you prepare a set list? Did you have any kind of order for who takes turns singing, who solos when, etc.? Did you provide amenities like parking, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages so the musicians can be comfortable and focus on their performance? Did you record the jam and share it with everyone, or have a meeting to discuss what was good and what was bad, to improve for next time? Did you find something to praise about each person's performance, so they feel valued and it was worth their time to show up?

    I'm not saying musicians aren't lazy and flaky (we certainly can be) but in my opinion there is a time and place for professionalism, and a time and place to relax having fun with music as a social event. If you want the musicians to act like professionals then ask yourself are you being a good employer? (Paying them well, providing good charts/arrangements, creating a healthy work environment, etc.)
    Grumpynuts likes this.
  14. Double E

    Double E I ain't got no time to play... Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2005
    Cleveland, OH
    Without any clear goal in mind, some folks just will not focus on learning tunes.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  15. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    This is the type of band I have. We only play maybe four "gigs" a year, mostly to larger type parties at the 4th of July, NYE, etc. The fact is for a band like this, it's a hobby. And like any hobby, it's going on the backburner when life gets in the way. The trick I've found is to bring simple songs to play that are popular. Lots of John Mellencamp, CCR, some Rolling Stones, etc. Some of the newer hits are really easy to pick up. Kings of Leon is full of popular songs that go easy on the guitarist. Leave out the metal, the Metallica, Rush, Queen. Have one or two songs that may showcase a guy, like a great drum part or a guitar solo. They will practice those. The rest should be songs that normally wouldn't challenge you. That way you're a step head. For an unpaid hobby band, it means the guys have day jobs and in the current decade that means long hours and unpredictable schedules.

    The only alternative is to start a paying band. Of course, you'll still have 90% of the headache though.
    Anyway this is how we've done it and it works. Five busy guys can get proficient playing together, it just takes more time than a couple of practices.
    obimark likes this.
  16. obimark


    Sep 1, 2011
    The answer is yes. Its difficult for some people to actually practice even when there is money involved. Because they are lazy or dont care.
  17. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    "Jam Band" is a fairly well defined genre, which actually has some pretty standard stylistic conventions that often tend to require a lot of woodshedding, oddly enough. If someone asked me to come play Jam Band music I would expect something with commonalty to groups like the Grateful Dead, Allman Bros, Phish, Widespread Panic, and so on.
    jerry likes this.
  18. klokker


    Jan 7, 2009
    Steele City, NE
    OK, I learned something today. Never heard the term used in that way before.
  19. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    You can see a broader picture of that scene here: www.jambase.com.
  20. Invite a pianist (not a keyboardist) and no (or fewer) guitarists. You will be amazed how musical *and* controlled things become.
    Mushroo likes this.

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