Necessary knowledge for jam and open mic night?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Kurisu, Jul 26, 2005.

  1. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    Hi all, I still haven't jammed with a band or performed at an open mic night, and I'm worried that I don't have the skills to do so. So I was wondering if I could get some opinions from the more experienced folk here.

    What are some of the skills and knowledge you need to know for jamming and filling in on an open mic night? What should I have down pat before I offer to sit in at an open mic, so as not to make a fool out of myself?

    I'm working through Gary Willis' Fingerboard Harmony book, trying to figure out how to perform a walking bass line. But should I concentrate on just hitting root notes, keeping up with rhythm for now? Is that enough, or should I know more? Maybe I need a cool haircut and a more powerful amp? ;)

  2. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    I've run open mikes for many years. I wish everyone would start off by asking the questions you have. :cool:

    I'd suggest that you maybe don't start by sitting in, if possible. Try to find one or two people you can rehearse three tunes with, and get 'em down cold. If you nail those three tunes on stage, people will be asking you to sit in soon enough, hopefully. Pick something in whatever genre you play best, assuming that's palatable for the room you're playing.

    Now, watch other acts, and see which ones you might do well with. It's often hard to get in with the better players right away, but you want to be ready if the chance comes up. If you understand basic blues progressions you can play with lots of guys right now. Again, learn three tunes that you can lead the progression on, no matter who else happens to be on stage. It'll help a lot if you can sing them as well. Stick with standards like Kansas City, The Thrill Is Gone, Stormy Monday, The Sky Is Crying, etc.

    Do the same with some basic rock tunes, and if you're lucky enough to have jazz players at your open mikes, bring charts for a few standards that you can play convincingly.

    If you're just getting into walking lines, maybe reign that in a bit on stage. More people will want to play with a supportive bass player who nails the changes than with one who's taking a lot of chances with chromatics that may throw the other guys off. This is something I've learned the hard way, for sure. The other thing I've learned is that knowing when to lay out and get off the stage is huge.

    Have fun, and I hope this helps a little.
  3. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    It depends a lot on the open mic in question and, to some extent, on who else is available. A lot of the ones I've been to round south / south east London don't have people sitting in on other people's acts; the entertainment is made up of people and groups performing material they've prepared earlier.

    Where there has been some jamming, it's been based on people who know each other and have an idea of what they can do; for example, at the events the 'Teeth have been to regularly (including the one we're hosting this Thursday... hint, hint for any Londoners ;) ) I'm sometimes asked to play along because these people are becoming my friends and have already heard what I can do.

    I think Passinwind's comment is spot on - get together with a couple of people, learn some tunes and make yourself known by participating and contributing to the event.

    If that seems impossible, then attend some of the events you've got in mind and talk to people. You may not even want to take a bass with you for the first few. Show up in good time, listen attentively, applaud and make time to chat with people. If you hear someone without a bassist and you like their music and have an idea of what you could contribute then offer that to them; if you can take a few rejections and disappointments, you should be getting along just fine before you know it.

  4. pontz


    Oct 31, 2003
    Lots of good advice here. If you follow some of it, like doing a few songs you know well and keeping things simple, open mics often lead to gigs (at least in my area bass players are in demend.

    Anyway, the first time I jump into an open jam what shocked me most was the tempo. I had been playing bass for a long time and I know theory well, but DAM, those cats were cookin'.

    Most importantly, have fun. ;)

  5. leanne


    May 29, 2002
    Rochester, NY
    If there is an open jam where there's a house band, maybe you could check out if you know any tunes they play, or learn a couple, and then you will be prepared to sit in with them with those tunes and you will feel more comfortable. Then at least you'd get the experience, and you could move on from there...