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Open Jam Etiquette

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

  1. nojj

    nojj Guest

    May 20, 2013
    Sometimes the host will give a band more leeway/stagetime than individual performers. Best to ask, first.
  2. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    yeah, that's what I'm thinking, we have to at the very least communicate to the host what we want to do and see if the night allows for it... the last thing I want to do is have them pull the plug on us mid-set because we won't stop playing, how freakin' bad would that look?!
  3. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    OK, played the open mic, last night. The MC told us we would get 4 songs, so after the last song, with the crowd (mostly folks we knew) going nuts, he let us play the rest of our set. Got all 8 songs in, probably about 35 minutes. I have to say that was the most fun I've had playing bass since I started, I can only imagine actually getting paid to do that! Ha! :cool::bassist:
    Tennesseemick likes this.
  4. edpal

    edpal Inactive

    Oct 3, 2007
    I for one won't do them anymore. I like jamming with my bandmates for creative purposes - I find the one-night stand with a blind date, while I'm blindfolded the entire evening wholly unsatisfying.
    MoonChild2112 likes this.
  5. harleybass47


    Nov 3, 2012
    Jams can be good or BAD no matter what kind of music you play.
    Like I always say you pays your money and you take your chances. I've hosted some and gone out to some. Some fly by but others it seems like the clock stopped. As long as egos stay out its usually fun. Some of my friends hate them. I like being put on the spot and having to think.


    Apr 16, 2010
    When all I knew was 1-4-5 on the bass and could manage to change keys, a open mic band leader let me on the stage.
    I will never forget the guy because he gave me a chance to play in front of patrons.
    I loved the Open-Mic evenings.
    If you were no good (all instruments), he would very subtly
    go behind you and turn down your amplifier.
    The guy was awesome.
    Of course he had a "house band" and many, many times if I was really putting it down, he would let me play an entire set.
    To run an Open-Mic has got to be tuff.
    One night, someone ripped off his tuner. He played every instrument and probably didn't need it but I gave him mine.
    This obviously was a blues joint but still, I had a blast.
    Miss it. He vanished and I moved on but he helped me
    move on with confidence.
  7. MarcTheRogue


    Mar 27, 2013
    I am actually starting to get into the whole jam session scene in my local area. The two golden rules (at least in my book) for a jam session are as follows:

    1. Stay in key.
    2. Stay in rhythm.

    After a few weeks, your chops should definitely be up. I recommend starting off with just I-IV-V blues in the key of G, C, and D. In other words, just your basic major triad. It's the simplest way to get a good jam session going. And as a bonus, you get some house fans, you earn some recognition, and you get more credibility. Albeit that you totally didn't pull a Victor Wooten, you still got the job done. The essentials must come first! Afterwards, you can start experimenting. With the whole G-C-D blues, I have started jumping back and forth between doing major triads, minor triads, blues scales, and Dorian scales for the jam. Best part is that they fit in almost perfectly with any blues chord that's thrown at you as long as you stick with the two essentials as listed.

    Only problem is that, uh.. haven't gotten started on jazz jams just yet. Gonna wait that one out.. ;)

    Also, always remember that just because you are good in your room does NOT mean you are good on stage. First time I got on stage, I was absolutely horrible. Off rhythm, off key. I was a pretty good bassist, but I wasn't a pretty good bassist, if you know what I mean.

    Have fun jamming out!
    btmpancake likes this.
  8. I hit two or three a week on the West side of the Denver Metro area (commitment issues). I've started a Google+ community to help get the word out and share photos, a calendar, etc. Anyone in the Denver area can join up here or even if you are just passing through. Cheers, Mark

    ps. Had a great time at the Pub on Colfax with Rob Fiorino jam starring Neil Haverstick.

    pps. Here is a fairly lengthy post I made on jam etiquette.
  9. I would go as an observer a few times to see what the scene is. If it's too cliquish it may be a waste of your time.
    placedesjardins likes this.
  10. I run a BLues Jam here in Central Delaware - we have a different host each week. That keeps it a little bit fresher than some I have been to. I am fortunate, in that my band mate hosts the house band for the Jam David Bromberg has about an hour north of me. I played with that house band for about 3 1/2 years - and learned a lot.

    we have some etiquette rules posted on our website - actually a link we are honoring (ok - stole - liberated....etc....) and put printed copies of it in large font (an edited version with things that apply directly to our particular jam).

    at this jam - EVERYBODY plays......of course someone has to drive the bus - so times may vary - and honestly.....if you need A LOT of work - we give you some time, but then - you have to go do your homework.

    We have been pretty fortunate - had some well know guys come through and do a set or two - and then jam with the guys - Albert Castiglia, Bryan Lee and his awesome band - Chris Duarte, Bob Margolin to name a few.....

    I LOVE our jam - I think its one of the better ones I have had a chance to play at, or be part of.

    This is the one we print for the tables - it is on sheet - front and back in Ariel 14


    This is a guide for musicians who want to understand how a jam works and how to get the most out of it. It’s not complicated, and that's the secret of it. Basically, a blues jam a gathering of musicians in a public venue who share a love of the blues. A host band starts off and brings up some of the musicians in the audience to play. Everyone gets a chance to play while trying to put the best groups together to keep it entertaining for the crowd.

    For the good of the Jam – we provide a backline amp and a host will provide an amp that is usually also available for guitar. A Bass amp and PA system are set up - all so you don’t have to worry about bring them. Specialty instruments, amps, mics may be needed if you play one – and you should come prepared to set that up after speaking with the Jam Coordinator. A solid effort not to clutter the stage area is appreciated. So…..You can always bring an amp- but may not always use it.

    Jam Etiquette
    1 - Introduce yourself. Let them know what instrument you play so that they can begin to think about who they will pair you with.

    2 - By default, the singer is the bandleader on stage. That means they call the tune, signal the breaks and dish out the solos. If you sing, it's crucial that you know how to do this. The best way to learn is to watch others and listen.

    3. A solo is your opportunity to shine. Try and play something that fits the feel of the song. Metallica doesn't go well with a Robert Johnson country blues tune. Also keep one eye on the band leader during your solo. They may cut you short and you want to see it coming. If you aren't paying attention you'll step on the next guy. If you are not soloing, bring the volume down so they don't have to turn up so much to be heard.

    4. Listen. Learn. Have fun. A blues jam is a great learning experience. But you get out of it what you are willing to learn. Listen to the guys that have been doing this a while. Their advice and input is always worth the price of admission. Think of it like free lessons from the masters.

    5. Be musical. That means ... listen to what's happening up there on stage. You have to understand your part in the arrangement. This comes, first and foremost, from listening to the music you are trying to play. If aren’t familiar with a jam then it's probably best if you listen for a while before getting up there.

    6. Know some blues tunes. I cannot stress this enough. The sure fire way to earn the scorn of the rest of the musicians in the room is to show up and call out some classic rock or other non-blues tune. Just Don’t Do It.

    What To Bring:
    1. Bring your instrument. Make sure it's ready to play. Bring a tuner too.
    3. If you're a drummer, bring your own sticks.
    4. If you can’t do a quick changeover, be prepared to be skipped.

    What Not To Bring:
    1. Do not bring your Marshall Half Stack. Blues Jam. Remember?
    2. Do not bring your pedal board if you can’t set up quickly. Keep it simple. Don't be “that” guy.

    Song Selection:
    1. In general, any 12-bar blues song that follows the standard I-IV-V chord pattern is a good call. Everyone will know how to pull this off.
    2. Any blues song that stays on the one is also a good choice.
    3. Any of the standards are also good (Sweet Home Chicago, Kansas City, Stormy Monday, etc).
    4. If you bring your whole band up, feel free to choose songs that have a different arrangement. But remember, people have come to hear some blues. It is a blues jam after all. See #5.
    5. Play blues. This is a blues jam. They don't want to hear your rendition of Iron Man.
    If you follow these guidelines, you will get the most out of a blues jam. The other musicians will accept you as a peer. You will get more playing time and if you are lucky you will experience the pure magic that happens when you get lightning in a bottle and the stars align on stage.
    A very important final piece of advice – Be Prepared – change over quickly, have some material ready and Have some fun. PLEASE watch your volume. Don’t get up in volume wars, and if you are told you are too loud – you are. A sound technician will be happy to help. Let the music breathe – a little space goes a long ways! Enjoy!
    placedesjardins likes this.
  11. HeavyJazz

    HeavyJazz Supporting Member

    Jan 26, 2013
    Right on. I used to find a certain joy in it, but I think my Gov't Mule phase permanently burned me out. A 22-minute guitar solo 16x in a row doesn't resonate.

    ...No offense to Warren of course.
    Tennesseemick likes this.
  12. Bassisgood4U

    Bassisgood4U Inactive

    Jan 30, 2014
    It's hard to keep any etiquette at all when the guys you sometimes jam with feel somehow defeated, and have to talk trash about the rest of the musicians in an attempt to make up for their own shortcomings.
  13. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    Just got back from a local blues jam. I went with my drummer (we play in an originals pop/rock 'n roll influence kinda band.) We sometimes jam a little after our regular practices to 12 bar I,IV,V progressions, so we decided to check out this blues jam together. This is the first time I have tried this sort of format...he has played a few times at this particular jam.
    Anyway ,they call us up to play with a "regular" player. This guitarist, I understand, shows up every week at this thing.
    So, let me ask...is it proper etiquette at a blues jam to tell someone whom you just played three songs with for the very first time that they "should practice more at home so you know where you are going"? ...because that is what I was asked.
    I'm the first to admit I am not the greatest blues bass player in the world, but I do know what a 12 bar I, IV, V progression is and can play a simple bass line to it. I'm pretty sure I didn't suck, but this guy seemed annoyed with my playing.
    It dissing a fellow amateur musician after playing with them at one of these things a regular occurrence?
  14. depends how it was said...if it was constructive criticism,accept it at face value and hit the wood shed..if it was an obvious attempt to humiliate, well,not much can be said...the guy is a jerk,and hit the woodshed...back in the day guys were way less sensitive.....cuttin' sessions were for guys to try to out solo the last.....and unless you had a rep,you probably would never get on the stage at all...
  15. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    Far from constructive, it was damn near hostile. Like I said, blues isn't my forte, and I probably should do a little woodsheding before I try this again, but this dude was just flat out rude. I don't get it, I know I didn't stink up the place, drummer and I were fairly tight seeing how we play together all the time....so where does the hostility come from? It's not like we ever have to play together again.
    I was just wondering if this type reaction happens a lot at these amateur jam nights?
  16. there is no accounting for it...some people are just like that....women see me walking toward them and i can hear the power door locks click....that's just how it is...the only behavior you can control is yours.....
    timplog likes this.
  17. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    yeah, you're right...and it is all I can do to control that! ha!
  18. 1. Not proper but it is a characteristic found among pick-up jam sessions. Those are the same folks who gradually close the campfire circles, too.
    2. Yes. Someone will say something. Sometimes tips are voluntarily given to the best musician(s) there.
  19. BluesBear


    Oct 17, 2009
    Tacoma, WA
    Now I'm not trying to cast aspersions on anyone's playing. However not all Blues is the same. There many variations.
    Of the songs you played, was it a quick 4 or a straight 1? Was it a 12 bar or a 16 bar blues? Was it in 4/4 or 6/8? Was it a I, IV, I V or was it a I, IV, I, V, IV, I? Was there a V tag at the end of the verse? Did the chorus walk up to the IV? Was it a major or minor blues? Was there a #V, a VI or a II anywhere?

    So the bottom line is did you and your drummer play along with what the guitarist/singer played?

    I play Blues for a living, 4 sets per show. It ain't all the same.
    I also am the house bassist for a weekly jam. I spend lot of time herding catfish.
  20. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    All I was given was "12 bar, in E, slow shuffle" and the second song " same format this time in B, quick turn" and the last song he basically just started playing and I figured out after a few bars it was in A, might very well have been Am, but I wasn't sure. I felt I hit all the changes OK and kept everything simple. All in all I did fine...certainly nothing to write home about but pretty sure I didn't totally suck.
    I was just questioning about how players treat each other at these open jams. This was my first time playing in this format...
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