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Open Jam Etiquette

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

  1. TBH it's pretty rare in my experience to get a full-frontal slagging off, so probably best to chalk it up to experience & move on. Most guits are pretty relaxed at the jams I go to, so long as you stay in the pocket, but there are a few Rock Stars around who find it surprising that you're not Tommy Shannon & can't pick up the key immediately from the appalling racket they consider their 'core tone'. You soon get to know who they are.

    That said... in your OP you say that you "know what a 12 bar I, IV, V progression is and can play a simple bass line to it". I wonder if perhaps the guit found your lines too simple and/or generic. The fact that he didn't give you a heads up on the third number suggests that his back was up by then. If you were hitting R-3-5-6-b7-6-5-3 a lot, it may not have had the variation that he was expecting.

    Sometimes that's all the song needs...

    But then again, sometimes you need to mix it up...

    Any soundclips you'd be prepared to share?

  2. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    yeah, he definetly wanted a bit more out of me...I gave him what I know, I guess it wasn't enough.
    All I ever read about is how great it is to play with other people, to put youself into situations maybe a little over you skill level to help develop your skills...and then the very first time I try it I run into SRV... I mean, who knew he was going to be in upstate NY on a Sunday night in a little drive bar playing for 6 people (if you count the bartender.)! haha..
  3. Well, in essence that saying is true, it's just sheer bad luck that you

    at the first try. Nil Desperandum though, listen to a shedload of blues & pick out the more interesting ones - it'll come in time. Each bar is (usually) a four-note lick, so learn a load of 'em then nail 'em together as you see fit. You'll soon find out what works & what doesn't.

    A while back I had a stab at transcribing that Fab T-Birds track: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8453031/Extra Jimmies.pdf No promises that it's 100% accurate, but it might prove useful.

  4. ShoeManiac

    ShoeManiac Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    New Jersey
    Open jams can be a mixed bag, just like any other situation in life. People show you who they really are by the way they treat others. This guy sounds like a bit of a prick.

    As for your own experience? Look at it as a learning experience. There are going to be times when you're playing with musicians who are on your level. And sometimes you're going to play with musicians who are significantly better than you. It happens. Some of those great players are gracious people, and others are less so. Hopefully you wind up playing with those great players who are also decent people.

    I've been playing the open jam scene for over 20 years now. I'm pretty well versed in the blues style book. And these days I'm one of the better players at a jam. But there's almost always someone who's skills are really up there, above my own. And I still look forward to playing with those guys. Because their skill level pushes me and inspires me to do something greater. But I also remember some of those early jams, too, where I was just holding my own and some really experienced players were impatient with me. It's part of the learning experience. Don't let it discourage you. Take something positive from it and keep working hard to improve.
    LilyT and timplog like this.
  5. repoman


    Aug 11, 2011
    Kinderhook NY
    Thanks for the tips, it's always very helpful to hear what experiences others have had in various settings.
  6. BluesBear


    Oct 17, 2009
    Tacoma, WA
    My original questions were meant to determine if the guitarist in fact knew what he was playing and if he could communicate it to you and the drummer.
    And all too often you have a guitarist/vocalist who isn't quite as good as he thinks he is. I've played with a lot of guitarists who cannot communicate with others exactly what they will be playing because they learned the song either from a recording or a Guitar World TAB and they really didn't take the time to understand the format.
    I recently played with a guitarist who stated, "Standard Blues Shuffle in A" and then played a 16 bar Chuck Berry style rock & roll. And to top it off the played the chorus as an 8 bar on one solo and then a 12 bar on the next. Then he had the nerve to look at us like we didn't know what we were doing.
    instrumentalist and s2bs2 like this.
  7. nukes_da_bass

    nukes_da_bass Inactive

    Feb 19, 2006
    west suburban boston
    Many jams are filled with social outcasts who lack the people skills to play in a real band settings. Not all or most of the players, but these deviants really stand out like sore thumbs.
    I was once dressed down by a drummer for not knowing Mustang Sally very well. Clearly from his behavior he wasn't fit for human cohabitation.
    Chalk it up to experience. With the deviants in question, the postulate reads as follows: "people who can play in bands, do. People who cannot, ruin blues jams for everyone.".
  8. Many venues around here have open mic nights, my former and present band have played a few, and had great times. The most popular one is hosted by a local music talent. He organizes all his musician buds for that night and if you're not one of them, you'll be lucky to have time for one tune...if at all. They call this an "open mic" but its really a show, put on by said talent and friends with "improvised" songs they discuss on the phone prior to show night, so that they're all on the same page. It can make all others look bad that try to "jam" along. I havent been back to that place in 2 years! BUT,other, true open mics can be a blast! Their laid back and open to new bands,performers,new and old material, maybe a new singer gettin' their feet wet or a newbie gui**** playing to an audience for the very first time.A place and time where mistakes are expected and appreciated. Rock on!
  9. Osmar Rodrigo

    Osmar Rodrigo

    Apr 24, 2014
    What an *******, man musicians grow at their own pace, there is no point in telling someone he "ain't as good as you".
    I live in Mexico and jams here are mediocre, at least where I live.
    And man you can just go to a jazz club and slap the poopie out of your bass playing only roots, fifths and octaves and people think you're proficient.
    What I'm saying is, there is no etiquette in a jam, you can play only 2 beat feeling basslines and as far as I know that's enough, what were they expecting? Oscar Pettiford?
    timplog and Garret Graves like this.
  10. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    Two kinds of people go to open jams. One group has a genuine love of music, and finds joy in any opportunity to play with others. The other group shows up to cut heads and views music like a sporting event. Their goal is not to enjoy themselves, but to "win" by making others look bad. These people are usually not in a band due to their bad attitude.

    Sent from my iPad using TalkBass
  11. What is the protocol for when you are hosting, have provided the backline, and someone brings too much bass for it?

    I'm co-hosting a weekly blues jam here in Denver. I've got a rather modest Ampeg rig consisting of a PF350 and a 210HE for a cab. I'm playing a Fender Jag through it just fine, and am rather happy with the tone I'm getting. We have a feed going to the PA as well. We play at a low volume, in short because the drummer sings many of the lead vocals and plays quietly as a result.

    The problem is we have a jammer who insists on bringing a 6-string fretless with him every week, and he plays everything on the B string.... even in 12-bar progressions, he always has to play everything in the lowest range possible. We do a lot of things in C as that is our drummer's preferred singing key... so he spends most of his time way down on the low B string hanging around those bottom frets. And he slaps.... a lot.

    Well, my little rig can't remotely handle this at all without a lot of peaking, clipping, and farting. Obviously it pisses him off to no end, as his sound completely drops out and then there is no bass for periods of several seconds at a time while he fiddles with the gain, the cable, etc... the 350 does have a limiter on it which we use and it seemed to help somewhat but not completely.

    I don't really know how to approach this situation with him.... he hasn't been a jerk or anything about it, but it's embarrassing for me because I feel like I've been a poor host if my equipment is letting somebody down.

    Rather than questioning matters of taste, such as 1) bringing a 6-string fretless to a blues jams in the first place, and 2) trying to slap it like Victor Wooten at the same time, I'm looking for anything I can do to alleviate this problem. The guitar player suggested that maybe an external compressor might help. Nobody else who has played through this rig has had this happen.... just this particular guy and bass.

    I'm not really in a position to go out and buy another cabinet, and I don't feel like I should just because one person has technical issues when it isn't equipped to handle his instrument. Maybe it would have been better to get a 1x15 instead, but hindsight is 20/20, and I'm happy with what I have.

    Is the onus on me to provide more "universal" equipment, or is it on him to deal with the limitations of a provided backline?
  12. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    The following notes are Just My Opinion...
    That's not 'too much bass' - that's a player who can't or won't listen to what is going on, which is never good form in this situation...

    Taking these out of sequence because I may digress a bit at the end...
    Mostly 'B'. Playing in such a way that makes you sound bad is just silly. Yeah - you could probably have a more 'modern-friendly' (B-string compatible) cab but I agree that 1) it's rarely needed in a blues jam environment and 2) don't you get the feeling that if you had a kilowatt amp and 4x12 that he'd just turn up and use all of it?

    You're providing a backline that is compatible with the room and -everybody else-. I'm unfamiliar with your amp - is there an 'active' input or some kind of pad you can engage? I occasionally play a mostly-acoustic blues jam now and then and it's fine to fit in the mix...

    OK - now begins the digression / borderline rant...
    Slapping in blues -is- a legitimate matter-of-taste question. But I donno how you can tell the guy he sounds silly if he doesn't already know this. (And slapping on a fretless? Seriously?)

    But let's lighten up on the instrument - it's not its fault. I play a 6-string fretless; it is -my- chosen instrument. I've heard the war stories from the trenches of The Blues Police and their disdain for anything not Fender P-Bass. But I've gotta say - I have not experienced it -yet-. (Neither have I waded into the hardcore blues clubs in Philadelphia, but it is coming...) I've played a few blues jams and all anyone has told me is how good it sounds. I like the low-B for one reason only in this setting - it works to play in Eb for the downtune guys... I've never touched the C (we're talking blues here...).

    With a provided backline, I believe the rule is - Make It Work. The *real* issue is your Problem Child would rather struggle in vain trying to achieve some Mystical Sound Experience than Make It Work. (And See Problem #1 - Not Listening...)

    As for equipment to help make it work - maybe some way to EQ out some of the ultra-low. There's lots of standalone EQ's. Maybe an fDeck HPF set around 50 Hz... Compression to limit the slap attack is a good idea.
    BluesBear likes this.
  13. Osmar Rodrigo

    Osmar Rodrigo

    Apr 24, 2014
    You should try a limiter-enhancer, it would eliminate those peaks and make that signal a lot more tasty.
  14. BluesBear


    Oct 17, 2009
    Tacoma, WA
    Mr. 6 string needs to learn to adapt.
    He obviously hasn't gotten the memo that informs him it is a JAM not a PERFORMANCE. At a jam you have to learn to deal with what is there and you have play nicely with others.
    Since your rig works just fine for everyone else it is NOT up to you to upgrade. I attend several jams in my area (as well as being the host bassist for two others). When I play at other jams I deal with what is there. All of the amps so far have proven to be good enough and I rarely touch a knob on any of them.
    It may not be "MY" sound but that's alright since it is not "my" show either. It's just a jam. I concern myself with playing a groove that fits with everyone else, I am not obsessing over tonal nuances.
  15. ShoeManiac

    ShoeManiac Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2006
    New Jersey
    I play loads of jams. And over the years I've brought a range of instruments, including 4, 5 and 6 string bass. Pretty much every rig has been able to deal with my playing which sometimes includes venturing down on the B string.

    The thing is, pretty much anyone who has played some 5 or 6 string has at some point heard about that player who uses their low B string way too much. It seems to be a common pitfall for people who are still getting their footing on an extended range instrument. It's definitely a taste and maturity issue. Maybe this guy will learn when he starts getting some negative feedback from other jammers... especially the people he's jamming with. That might be the key to getting him to wake up and realize that the whole jam isn't his personal "Dig Me Fest".
  16. It's these kind of stories that make me really nervous about even thinking about going to one of our local blues open jams.
  17. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Me too - but I am doing it anyway.
    There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone...
    There is one (monthly) this coming Sunday night.
    If I am able to practice all weekend (unlikely...) I -may- take my instrument along and be emboldened to try.
    But more likely, I will simply scope out the scene and work toward next month.
    I think it takes a lot of chutzpah (more than I have...) to pull out a 6-string fretless on your first night at an open jam...
    Old man likes this.
  18. ArtechnikA

    ArtechnikA I endorsed a check once... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 24, 2013
    Update - I did go and check it out.
    I thought the day of the smoky bar was over but this place was extra smoky with a serving of smoke on the side. Gack.
    The house band was pretty decent, and the bassist is a lot better than I am - but he's a professional and I am an intermediate at best. By the end of the house band set and the start of the open jam, there was a line of guitar cases, a jammer on drums and - nobody came to play bass. So I think if I can step up my game, I can look forward to lots of play time. I'll be practicing through July for the August jam.
    Fly in the ointment: travelling for a week in July with no chance to touch an instrment.
    But I will be listening and reading charts to learn changes...
    Not looking forward to the smoke...
  19. flameworker


    Jun 15, 2014
    Landenberg, Pennsylvania
    one day....
    I was about 20, thought I knew how to play. I went up and they threw a chart at me. it went like this.

    Hey, can you play?

    sure i can play.

    What standards do you know?

    What's a standard? ( i did know a bunch of them, didnt know they were called standards)

    Ok how about "the Sorcerer" by Herbie Hancock. --throws the fake book at me


    Ok, its A B A A C A B C A

    I look at the chart....Looks like its in E flat to me, BUT he said A so....

    So I played in A, Then in B Then in A then in A
    it was HORRIBLE why were they playing in a different key??? He keeps yelling A, i'm playing in A, hell i'm just thumping A at this point...
    I came down Hard on the C, it's the 5th part, has to be C says so in sharpie...

    I couldn't see the guitars fretboard and he was just nooldling anyway... Cant read the piano's left hand either...

    Then we played all blues or all of you or some other "All whatever" song ...

    Then I ran out the door, leaving my bass behind, I refused to go get it, my brother had to go back in.

    I told him what happened, he's a drummer, explained A B C Sections... OH.

    They were still pricks, thats a ridiculously hard song.
  20. flameworker


    Jun 15, 2014
    Landenberg, Pennsylvania
    one day....
    Also listen before you play, and 2nd hand smoke is a gift from god, breathe that in and learn to love it. my bass doesnt stay in tune right without a lit cigarette behind the B string.
    Remyd likes this.
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