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Open Jam Etiquette

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by capnsandwich, Feb 6, 2010.


  1. I'm thinking about heading to an open jam at a local jazz and blues club here in town. It's kind of a fancy place with some good acts that have played there. I've never done anything like this before but I've been told that I need to go to one of these.

    How do these things go down? What kind of stuff do I need to know? Are there chord charts or written music or do you just wing it by ear?

    Give me some pointers on this.
     
  2. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    IME, the protocols at open jams have a lot more to do with sharing stage time, so that everyone has a chance to play, and sharing - or not sharing - gear (i.e. generally you should bring your own instrument(s), but the backline gear is considered fair game for everyone to use - subject to reasonable expectations of behavior), than with anything else.

    As for reading charts, as opposed to playing by ear, each venue will tend to have its own traditions and expectations. But in my experience, charts are generally not expected. Being familiar with the basic structure of a tune, being able to play it in a number of key signatures, and especially being able to improvise well (it is a jam session after all), usually is expected.

    You might want to ask around concerning this particular venue before you go. Or better yet, go hang out during their next scheduled jam to observe, before you bring in your instrument to play - just so you'll know the lay of the land first... :meh:

    MM
     
  3. J. Crawford

    J. Crawford

    Feb 15, 2008
    OH/WV
    And be prepared for people to either love or hate you and your playing. I have made lots of enemies being asked on stage over guys double my age, but thats life. I guess Im just funky.

    And dont be ready to slap on every song, Matt. I know youre a big slapper.
     
  4. Nice. Improvising one of my strengths so I'm cool there. I can bring my own basses but I was hoping they would have their own amp/cab or combo there. I'm not sure about that though. They may have one. They're a jazz club for pete's sake.
     
    SeanVplayer likes this.
  5. Actually, I'm not much of a slapper when it comes to playing in a group setting. I just like testing basses that way. I rarely slap unless I'm playing gospel or jazz or if whomever I'm playing for or recording for asks me to.
     
  6. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I don't know how it works in Ohio, but in New York nearly all the clubs supply their own backline. (Whether it's any good or not is a separate question.) And if the club hosts a regular jam that's already well established, it's almost a certainty that a rig will be provided - either by the house itself (typically), or by prior arrangement with the bassist of the house band (less common and usually a more delicate negotiation).

    MM
     
  7. With the two I regularly go to in London, the format is basically the same with some differences. I've culled this list from personal observation...

    1 - Backline usually provided. I always make a point of asking the House bass player if it's OK to mess with the EQ (just courtesy).
    2 - Bring your own instrument, never assume that the House guy will be willing to loan (plus you will find that it's set up for them, not you - and it could be a POS).
    3 - Sign in (if that's the MO), or introduce yourself to the bandleader/organiser.
    4 - Bring your own instrument cable.
    5 - Be tuned up & ready to roll. Onstage Tune-ups are a big yawn & look totally amateurish.
    6 - Sit in the pocket. No-one knows you. You'll score more points playing Mustang Sally with passion, or making Route 66 swing than giving an awesome Nuclear Slap Barrage demonstration. That can come later, when you've got "in".
    7 - After your set, thank the players you were up with and also thank the organisers.
    8 - Stick around for a while & catch some of the other players. Put some cash over the bar - even if it's just a soft drink. Chat. Network.

    It's worth going down for a couple of weeks armed with a notepad. That way if there are any "usual suspects" numbers, you can go away & get 'em down. Also gives you an idea of the overall standard & whether you actually want to get involved.

    Have a link... This is my regular Wednesday night out:

    The Coach & Horses

    Pete.
     
  8. Phalex

    Phalex Semper Gumby Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2006
    G.R. MI
    ^^^ Great post. This should be a sticky!

    My buddies band does a jam night. They will even let you do karaoke with the band. They have an extensive list of tunes they play, and if you just want to sing with the house band, you put it on a sheet and give it to the band leader.

    Bass players aren't the most numerous folks to show up at these things IME. I've gotten stuck onstage for an hour or so, when I really just wanted to pop in, say hello and have a beer. If you have a single bass player come out, after about three tunes, ask him if he wants you to take over. He may have to pee.
     
    GonePlaid, Jon Torley and SeanVplayer like this.
  9. txbasschik

    txbasschik

    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    This is so perfect, it should be a sticky. As a host bassist for our local jam, I wish everyone showed up this well-prepared, and with this sort of courtesy.

    Cherie :) :bassist:
     
    SeanVplayer likes this.
  10. txbasschik

    txbasschik

    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    Our jam seems to be a bass magnet. Most night, I'll open the show, and close the show, but all the middle is played by guests. But that lets me know our jam has a good rep, so I don't mind. :)

    Cherie
     
    GospelMuzishn and SeanVplayer like this.
  11. Great info guys, thanks. I'm not sure exactly what's happening with these 2 venues I want to go to though. I emailed both of them and asked some basic questions but no one's emailed back yet. I'm wondering if they still have an open jam going on. I'll find one here soon.
     
  12. standupright

    standupright

    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow

    +1

    all very good points. having run a successful open blues jam here in phoenix for a couple years, i can say these are very important things to do. as far as blues go, know your structures, styles, and turn arounds. almost a guarantee that there will be no written / provided content. if they call a tune and it's blues, ask the 3 most important questions - key, style, and start from (1 or the 5). and have a blast!
     
    SeanVplayer and Faraday like this.
  13. TripleDouble

    TripleDouble Guest

    Aug 5, 2008
    Have a few tunes you feel good about that you request that are not too hard for everyone to play and/or read if they don't know em, then have your Real Book ready if there are not a ton of bass players. I always check out a jam the week before I ask to sit in, and try to get a sense of the material and vibe. Just be humble and cool and you will have fun and make tons of connections, and learn from every egg you lay...
     
    GospelMuzishn and SeanVplayer like this.
  14. You missed one ;).... "quick change" or "slow change" (going from the I to the IV). It's a right mug-off if you get that one wrong! (Gawd knows I have enough times!)

    +1 - even if it's a dog's egg! There's plenty to take away from a train wreck (though it won't seem so at the time).

    Ohh! Forgot one...

    3a - If you know who you're getting up with, say Hello & agree a set beforehand. If you can get up, plug in & blast off it gives everybody a heads up ('cause nearly everybody else will faff about wondering what they're going to do). Upon such apparent trivia, reputations are built.

    I guess what I'm getting at is that it isn't really a jam. It's actually a Dep Gig, so approach it with the same degree of professionalism.

    Pete.
     
  15. J. Crawford

    J. Crawford

    Feb 15, 2008
    OH/WV
    That right there is huge Matt, especially if you plan on going professional with music. Meeting people is huge! How do you think I get into bands and projects? Through people, connections, etc.

    I mean, I have the skill to back it up, but having connections is huge!
     
  16. jweiss

    jweiss Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2007
    Park City, Utah
    Thor likes this.
  17. standupright

    standupright

    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
    oh yeah......that's a good one too. absolutely.
     
    Bobro likes this.
  18. standupright

    standupright

    Jul 7, 2006
    Phoenix, AZ
    Brownchicken Browncow
  19. There is typically a host (house) band for the open jam session. Getting to know the house bass player will make things much easier for you. They usually dont mind if you play their bass (if they know you and that you are not going to throw it around or bend the neck) but seeing other players and instruments is part of the allure so bring your own.
    Knowing how the host band tunes helps as some here in St Louis tune 440 and others tune E flat. Knowing this in advance helps.
     
    Ekulati likes this.
  20. I am one of the house bass players for the jazz jams at Dizzys in Melbourne, Australia. The club has a house band for all jams that consists of a drummer, pianist and bass player. This ensures that there is always a professional and competent sounding backing to every tune that is played.

    Being a jazz jam charts are usually required except for simple tunes like 12 bar blues and things like "So What" and "All Blues" etc. which have simple changes and melodies that most players know.

    My recommendations as a bass player going to a jazz jam would be bring charts/lead sheets of what you want to play or be prepared (and comfortable) to read whatever is thrown in front of you. With jazz bass at Jams there are two main feels that are played swing (e.g. walking & two-feel bass lines) and bossa nova/latin (1-5 bass lines). If you can get these under your fingers while reading a chart you’ve never seen before you should be right to go. Also if it’s a quiet night with not too many horn players or singers you may even a few bass solos! I’d recommend getting a “Real Book” of jazz standards and that should give you an idea of what to expect.

    Finally jams are the best way to meet other players and being a bass player many people will be eager to get to know you and use your services if you play well (and tastefully) and are friendly. I’ve formed a jazz band out of players from these jams and we are now gigging regularly so going to the jams has definitely paid off for me. Be prepared for some music that is good, bad and ugly as its only a jam and different to regular band gig that would normally require rehearsals and preparation etc.
     
    GospelMuzishn likes this.

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