Jam Band Woes

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Russell L, Jul 22, 2013.

  1. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    This is so frustrating. We host a local blues jam, and it has been fun, but the confusion is taking its toll. See, we have jammed together at one of the guitarist's place for some time before we ever got the host job. Just having fun and making up things. The guitarist has come up with some nice progressions, and we have all enjoyed playing them (two guitars, bass, and drums). Problem is, some tunes have more than one part, call them Part A and Part B, for instance. Sometimes we know when to change, but sometimes we don't, trying to follow the first guitarist's whims. Like tonight, he does Part A three times then Part B four times, then stars all over. But next time he does it differently. It's like that a lot at the venue. Me and the other guitarist are always wondering when to play what part. Tonight at "practice" we addressed the issue to the guy, saying that we should get some structure into things so we are all on the same page all the time. But, the guy didn't get it. He thinks we should "feel it." We implored to him that we just wanna know what to do since we can't read his mind. We said, "At least give us a signal." He says that he does, but no one is looking. Fact is, when he looks at us we can't tell if it's just a look or if it's time for the change. Sigh...

    But when he started calling me "structured" and "learned" (I have a degree in theory) that I sat my drink down kinda hard at said, "Well, that's it for me," and started packing up. He said he was just joking, though. Ok, ok, but my days may be numbered dealing with this. I want to know what to play when, that's all. So does the other guitarist. We're all like brothers, so I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I don't think it's too much to ask to just work things out so we can play properly. Sigh again...

    Don't ya'll agree? Anyone else deal with such stuff? How'd you handle it?
  2. nojj

    nojj Guest

    May 20, 2013
    Tell him you want hand signals, and work out a simple system.
  3. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Thanks, I wish even that would work. Nah, he wants us to have telepathy, I guess. There have been times when he is soloing that me and the other guitarist will give each other a look and go on to the other part on our own, leaving the guy to follow us instead.

    What's so hard about working it out? That's what I don't understand. The material is easy. But the form is chaos.
  4. jchrisk1


    Nov 15, 2009
    Northern MI
    There is no such thing as 7 bar blues. Unless I haven't heard of it because it's something the kids are playing in drop A. Blues is structured and learned. 8 bar. 12 bar. 16 bar.
  5. Octaves


    Jun 22, 2012
    He sounds like just another "musician" who wants everything his way. Get rid of him and find somebody you can work with :)
  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Even the most laid back of blues bands have cues. (I was the house bass player for an open mic blues jam night for over a decade.) The cues can be musical, hand signals, lyrics, whatever. But for this idiot to somehow think that "using the force" is the only way to play the blues is just wrong. Either he has read something stupid in a book on blues, or he simply doesn't know any better and doesn't know it.

    If he doesn't like music theory all that much, tell him he can keep playing out of key as long as he tells you what part of the song you're supposed to play.
  7. joshmat


    Nov 20, 2005
    Houston, TX
    What I've found over time is that a good jam band isn't unlike a good jazz band. The form is there but the particulars of how that form is executed change. Good cues as mentioned above, coupled with the dedication of the musicians involved to listen to each other is the key in good execution here.

    Just my $0.02. ;)
  8. stagebanter


    May 12, 2012
    He is watching bands like Phish and he wants that kind of chemistry. But he doesn't understand that it doesn't happen overnight. Phish has been playing together for 30 years and they've spent countless days practicing together for 10 and 12 hours at a stretch.

    Tell him that the chemistry will come, but that you need hand signals for now. We use hand signals in my band, but we're slowly evolving.
  9. There you go.. you, the other guitarist, and the drummer cue it up and move on the part B. The other guitarist just follows. If he's soloing, it can be better this way.

    Also blues is usually, 8, 12, 16, 24 bars. The other sections that can be put it are often in a form of AABA.. eg. 12, 12, 8, 12. Sometimes a verse may be 16 bars, followed by a 12bar progression for solo... But it is all easy to do, create, follow. Not the 7 bar blues, or the 11 bar blues... those are "special"... ;-)

    Sometimes.. it is cool to just bend it..

    check this one out..
  10. EddiePlaysBass


    Feb 26, 2009
    Tell that to Champion Jack Dupree :D

    To the OP, find another guitarist.
  11. mcarp555

    mcarp555 Guest

    Jul 14, 2013
    I agree with Russel L and longfinger; the rest of you work it out, then leave him to follow. When/if he starts to complain, ask why he can't "feel it" like the rest of you.

    I had a guitarist who used to look at me and sniff like he had a cold; an effective signal that the audience wouldn't pick up on. In another band, we had a guitarist who would cue us at the end of his (long) solo by playing a particular riff that we all learned to recognize.

    If this guy can't work out something similar for you, at least you can make it look like he's the one who screwed up.
  12. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    He can't just nod?

    Why can't he just nod?
  13. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    The Guitarist has to cue you. If he wants an improv jam, that's fine, but cues are a must. That's part of being a musician.

    Time for the guitarist to be a big boy and deal with it.
  14. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Exactly my point! If he just makes eye contact we can't tell if he's cuing us or not. He's a great player, but his musicianship is lacking. Other guys have come to sit in and given great cues to all, no problem.

    Thanks for all the replies, folks. I've tried to also understand that myself, being a "trained" musician in classical music and jazz, might be different than some guys who have never studied like that. I need cues. Otherwise, I'm clueless as to what to do when. But that's not a fault on my part. It just means I have studied. I don't know why it's so hard for the guy to understand that we only want to know what's in his head. Oh, and the stuff he has come up with isn't necessarily blues, but it fits in at the jam. It's just some catchy original stuff of his, and we like it. But, for the longest time we have dealt with this problem of what the form is. We did make some progress understanding why he played one part differently when he explained that there was a lick he would play to take us to the next part. But when he was soloing we wondered how we would know (unless he was gonna play that lick again in his solo). But when we stopped and asked, he got perturbed. I don't get it.

    So, I may just move on from this group, dunno. I do work with two other bands anyway. I was doing this for the fun, but now it's not so much fun. And believe me, I understand all the things you guys have offered as suggestions. Those kinds of things have been part of my playing for decades. Looking for cues and giving cues is part of playing. Ya'll know what I mean.

    I just had to rant.
  15. HunterBurgan4Me


    Mar 6, 2010
    Why do you want something so formal as a structure in a Jam band? It might just be my slightly different interpretation but when I was in a Jam band we would show up together and someone would start playing and someone else would join in and so on. We didn't have "parts".

    But back to your question. It sounds as if he was being a bit of a dick
  16. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY


  17. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    I hear ya, pal. But, we just want SOME way to be able to follow. Even if the "parts" are disjointed or weird we need to be able to communicate somehow. Like, even when it's time to end the tune there's always got to be something to let everyone know. That's not exactly like structure, but rather a signal, ya know.
  18. RustyAxe


    Jul 8, 2008
    Jam bands ... where instrument owners go to pretend to be musicians. I think the OP is just in the wrong situation.
  19. Guitalia


    Jun 7, 2008
    Baltimore, MD
  20. marmadaddy

    marmadaddy Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2005
    Rochester, NY
    What? A guitar player who wants to solo all night is acting like a spoiled child?!! Unheard of!

    Seriously, I've played with this guy. He's jealous of your education, otherwise he wouldn't bring it up. "Just kidding" is just saying "that's what I really think but I want to be a jerk without having to deal with the consequences." He's also treating you as his own personal backup band. If that's what you want and originally agreed to, fine.

    Personally, I have zero interest in playing with people like this, so I don't. Guitarists are a dime a dozen, you can't swing a cat by the tail without hitting one. If you're a competent bass player who can act professionally and treat other people decently you should have no problem replacing him or finding another gig.