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jam bass/jam bands

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by bbp, Aug 30, 2002.

  1. bbp


    Jul 25, 2002
    hope i got this in the right forum. this might seem like a dumb question, but i'm going to ask it anyway. i've started to get into different jam bands lately and it's a style that i i'd like to learn. my question is this: what do i need to know in order to get started? finding people to play with is a whole other problem where i live. but if i do, i'd like to have some idea as to what's going on.

    thanks in advance.
  2. Jam bands vary quite a bit. As an old school example, Phil Lesh plays VERY different than Barry Oakley. However, they both sound great with THEIR band. What "jam" bands do you like? The answer to that will help define the style your looking for.

    That said, like most rock music, blues is the foundation. Where you go from there depends on what you like.
  3. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Can you be a little more specific as to what you'd like to know? Like do you want to know what sort of structures the songs are based on, or what sort of interactions the musicians make or what styles to know how to play, etc.?
  4. bbp


    Jul 25, 2002
    yes, diff. eveything you said is what i'm looking for: structure, interaction, etc. i knew i didn't phrase the question as well as i could've.

    funny the other guy should mention blues. that's what i'm playing right now so at least i'm on the right track.
  5. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Well, as Babadingding put it, jam bands DO vary quite a bit. If you look at some of the most famous examples, like Phish, the Grateful Dead, and the Allman Bros, you'll notice that each has a basis in a different style of music; poppy funk, bluegrass, and country rock/blues respectively. It may be a better question to first ask yourself what kind of jam band do you want to start. For example, if you're into Phish and Widespread Panic, groups like that, you might want to start a funk/rock-based group. That can help you determine which styles you should learn predominately.

    That being said, most jam bands blend genres within their music and move freely between styles, so it's good to at least know the ideas behind several styles pretty well. My jam band plays mostly jazz and funk stuff, so I try to know my stuff about jazz, rock, funk, and whatever closely related styles I think of.

    The one big suggestion I can think of for you as the bass player is to keep yourself open. Your job will be to make the foundation of the song most of the time, and if the guitarist goes into a solo, you have the ability to completely change where the song is going, and he's going to have to follow where you lead, so knowing chord progressions will be very important. Song structures tend to change a lot in jam music. There's usually a certain theme that the tune is based around, and the music often deviates from it only to come back to it in the end. A simple thing to try in the beginning is to set up a little song with maybe three chords changes, and when you reach a certain point, stay on one chord in one key (don't get too complex to start with), and just jam off of that one chord for a while. Watch where it takes you, and you might end up going into a completely different song (ie. new melody, new rhythm). You can start adding in chord changes if you feel like it, and try to get a dialogue going with your guitarist, because while keeping the rhythm is important, if you lose the melody in a jam, the song can fall apart. During this jammed-out middle section of the song, attempt to slowly bring back the original chord progression that you started with. Some jam songs go on for quite a while too, so remember to not over-do it with your playing too much or you'll find out you've run out of steam with six minutes of playing left. Work on getting your endurance up; you'll need it.

    Jamming is what music's all about to me. It's like having long converstations with people at a night-time campfire party. Just remember that you'll have a lot of other people listening to you talk, so try and keep it interesting.
  6. bbp


    Jul 25, 2002
    that's a great answer, thanks for taking the time. i really appreciate it.
  7. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    de nada :)
  8. deepbob


    Oct 3, 2001
    left field
    great advice.

    bass is going to be the more felxible in most cases, not because the instrument is easier or that more complicated things can't be done with it, but i suspect you'll find yourself limited more by the drummer and guitarist/keys in determining your collective style, they will have a much harder time skipping around styles comeptently, assuming them close to your calibre of experience.

    as someone without a lot of stylistic expertise, i find it easier to let my intuition take over and rely on scales and modes to keep me in check. the better i understand modes and scales that are being played, the style of how to play them is usually the easy part. but i'm also a drummer so i guess rythm, and rythm improv, comes a little easier than some might find, while i have no serious chops.

    because of my own impediments, i always find picking notes to be the hardest part of improvisational (jam) stuff. but the closer to basic blues i feel in command, the easier the rest of those concerns all become.

    one thing i do constantly is simply go up and down a blues scale from the B string up two octaves. i go up and down her at least 20% of the time the axe is in my hands and the more i do, the more natural and intuitive improv becomes later on that scale, or other blues scales - even getting to the point where i can jsut intuitively play what i hear in my mind's ear.

    even more exciting, when i start to look at different modes, they suddenly make a lot more sense and feel easier to work with, even from memory.

    the other thing i do is jam with myself, as much as possible. i have a digital workstation, very expensive, so this is very easy to do - but if there's anyway you can recreate this or get your hands on one, i can't recommend them enough. beyond being addictive, they are probably the most amazing practice and motivational tool i've ever experienced.

    i start by laying down a song form a CD i like or a drum track from a drum machine, or i just drum for a few mintues to a metronome. then i go back and lay down a few bass tracks to suggest a foundation, then i go back and lay over high bass stuff or try singing to suggest melodies (i can get a guitar sound with my voice putting the mic through bass effects processor).


    sorry, too much coffee, just love to see people talking about improv.

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