Open Jam Etiquette

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

  1. Iamthelampshade


    Aug 7, 2014
    I would recommend not doing it by ear but Writing a chord structure and jamming around that structure. I've done a whole concert in front of at least a couple hundred people included the bassist for the band Beowulf. That was the biggest embarrassment in my life.
  2. Yeh, the one I went to a couple weeks ago seemed pretty cool. I didn't take my instrument, just wanted to get a feel for the evening, and I was pretty impressed. The musicians that went up solo or as a band mostly did originals, which was cool (actually, one of them was REALLY good, ended up getting a paid opening slot two nights later, and I also recommended them to another local venue). Host/organizer/sound guy Adam seemed pretty cool too, asked me if I wanted to join in, but I said next time. On holidays right now, but should be back in time for this week's (Thursday), definitely plan to take my bass with me. I may be in over my head, I'd say I'm somewhere between beginner and intermediate at this point, especially if I don't know the song and I just get some chords to work with, but we'll see how it goes. If nothing else, I figure I'll learn some stuff I should be working on.
  3. Old Blastard

    Old Blastard

    Aug 18, 2013
    Been playing jams for years. Had a piano player with an attitude who didnt think anyone could follow a blues pattern start calling out the chords until I shouted back "stop shouting letters at me and tell me what to play!" He hasn't talked to me since
    Shannon and kwaping like this.
  4. Old man

    Old man

    Mar 11, 2013
    Anderson, SC
    Over the last 50 years of playing professionally I have seen lots of different personalities destroy otherwise good musical situations. I hired a sax player, an old cat who tried to take over my gig by holding fingers up or down to signify keys and then a quick count and start playing a tune. No tune name, no anything else. He found it overwhelmingly humorous that everybody was lost except him. I called a quick break, took him aside and gave the old guy a brief talking to. Reminded him who was or was not writing checks tonight, that sort of stuff. He calmed his fragile little geezer ego down and the gig turned out great.
    My point in all this is that people are going to be people no matter what and some people are jerks with fragile egos. You cannot change that but you can learn from each situation you put yourself in. Someone else said something to the effect that there is learning outside the comfort zone. Open jams can be great or they can be dust downs depending on the host, etc. so leave your ego at home and take your large sized ears with you. Treat it as a learning situation and it will be.
    timplog, Emster, IamGroot and 3 others like this.
  5. troy mcclure

    troy mcclure Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2007
    Central Florida
    I have helped host rock jam nights for the last 5 years.... we supply the backline but I prefer when guys bring their own bass... you would be surprised how many people just show up without a bass or guitar or sticks. It is also nice if the players have some idea of the tunes they want to play.... we have a list of a 100 tunes. You would be surprised how many guys expect you to know some obscure tune ( normally a guitarist). I never treat it like a gig, it is loose and fun but many treat it like it like they are playing the last show of their life and want 20 mins to set up the pedal board from hell or rearrange the stage.... Running these things are thankless but I get a lot of laughs and have meet some great players.
    jt62 and Vince Klortho like this.
  6. placedesjardins


    May 7, 2012
    There's an open jam/mic at Sam Ash monthly. I've never gone but they give a $10 gift card for anyone who participates. Are they desperate?
    Anyway, the store has a stage with a drum set in the middle. Has anyone gone to a Sam Ash store open jam? What do they play? 12-bar blues the entire time? I'm kind of too chicken to go. :chicken:

    I'm better at guitar than bass when it comes to playing by ear, soloing, jamming without practice. I need a chart and some time pre-practicing the chart on bass guitar. I know it's just a jam, but I have a perfectionist mentality.:nailbiting:
    instrumentalist likes this.
  7. lowsideonacurve


    Feb 24, 2011
    Went to check out one a few years back, had a beer, listened to the house band go through some songs with a few guest guitarist's. The bass player was very good, probably the best player on the stage. At the break, we (beginning drummer and myself) spoke with guest drummer and he was very cool, "come on and play.", then the little bass player came over and acted like a complete tool. Almost threatening in the way he said some have been asked get off stage. So it's a good idea to check the place out first
  8. I've always wondered about these jam nights and open mic nights. Learned a lot here.
    Are they mostly jazz or blues? I noticed there was only one person who talked about a rock one here.
  9. ArtechnikA

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

    Feb 24, 2013
    Varies by location and venue, and you should really check it out first.
    IME, "mostly" events billed as 'open mike' are expecting one or two acoustic performers. Might be a singer-songwriter, might be standup comedy, might be budding rapper. These are the typical 'coffeeshop' venues.
    When you get into larger restaurant or gastropub scenes, there may be room for a drum kit and then there are few guidelines. One local place has had groups do "contemporary country", Top 40, Classic Rock, blues, indie rock -- 3-ish songs to do pretty much anything...
    This can make it challenging for a bassist, although as you gain experience, you'll learn the standard 12-bar blues progression and discover that a lot of pop music is basically just 3 chords - and you can't always count on a beginning guitarist to know them by their names, so it helps if you can recognise the shapes.
    Something calling itself a 'jam' is probably blues or jazz.
  10. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    Make a list of popular tunes that you know very well. Nothing like getting up there and no one knows what they want to play. I bring a list and ask them to choose 2-3 tunes. Most open mic jams are usually blues, jazz or pop music based. Unless it a funky one that I go to when I visit home (NY) a few times a year. Cafe Oasis in Baldwin, NY (LIC). It's mostly r&b, funk based. And some big names typically stop through when they're not touring or gigging.
  11. AbsolutelyNo.jpg Be aware of posted signs and rules like this ... hey, they forgot Wagon Wheel. Most open mics are improvisational jams unless it's frequented by jazz players or union cats. Be polite, wait your turn, take business cards along and network. I find lots of local club work this way when not on the road. I usually bring my bass and I have a favorite combo amp I keep in the trunk, in case the backline amp is a total POS and the Host or Venue doesn't mind you using you own. Sometimes they won't allow this because guys will walk into a tiny little room with a 4x10 and 800 watts and empty the room in minutes. ALSO, Some guys who host these things can be total Prima Donna A-Holes drunk with power of the most idiotic kind. At this point all bets are off and polite is in the toilet but really, just blow them off and find another open mic. Have fun and TRY to be nice!
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
    IamGroot likes this.
  12. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Just depends. Country/Country Rock ones are pretty popular here. The ones I play at are mostly singer-songwriter oriented (so more like a showcase format, which I like personally), but there are almost always a few Classic Rock types too. Very rarely see much actual improv here, although jam bands used to be pretty popular until a few years ago for whatever reason.
  13. I was just reading a thread about noodling on stage here. In regard to a jam night, what is acceptable when one plugs into the backline?

    I have my favorite riffs, and have never been scolded, but I did disappoint a crowd once by using the opening of "Sunshine of Your Love" to check my tone; seemed like a good idea since it gave me a chance to hit all four strings. Crowd went nuts, but it wasn't what we were going to play. I was a bit embarrassed. I figured it wouldn't be a good idea to tip off the crowd, but I didn't think they'd get so excited.

    Now I just use a couple riffs from Paul Gardiner, assuming nobody will be that familiar with old Gary Numan tunes.

    Again, I'm curious about the right thing to do; don't want to annoy, embarrass, or disappoint...just want to know what I'm going to sound like.
  14. ArtechnikA

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

    Feb 24, 2013
    I play a couple of scales across the neck to check for even response and unexpected resonances.
    Open B to check for good bass response and cab issues.
    That's it.
  15. Wow you got a big response. I've not read through the whole thread so this might have been said before. I'm sure a lot of the basics have been covered here so I'll just say that one of the main ways to impress is not to try to impress. What I mean by that is be the guy who's solid and holds it together. In the main, the people in the audience might not notice you. But the guys on the stage very much will. As a bass player at a jam. It's those guys who are your real audience. And even if people out there who are musicians do like what you do, even they won't fully appreciate it until they play with you and you keep it all together for them to do their thing.

    All the above is not to say you can't do your thing and solo and impress and all that too, you can. But what I've said there can be a very good thing to bear in mind. Anyway, if people get a good feel for you, they'll soon be sure you have more to give and you will be called up to do it.
    Emster and BluesOnBass like this.
  16. My band hosted once- or twice-weekly open jams at multiple venues for several years. It was usually a good time. We provided drums and bass rig and usually one or two guitar amps. "Open Jam" in this area means people getting together and mostly playing [email protected] pop songs, with very little real "jamming". The local blues club (a club, not a venue) hired us to host a monthly blues jam a few years ago. I thought "finally, some blues players to jam with" but the blues club turned out to be mostly senior citizens who like to listen to blues. :banghead:
    (No disrespect for senior citizens, I are one myself.)
  17. pappabass

    pappabass Inactive

    May 19, 2006
    Alabama !! Roll Tide
    It's best to go once and just listen. There could be five other bass players there or no bass players. So you made play just one song or play all night. Just don't have your feelings hurt if you only play one song. You'll eventually hear all kinds of bass players from show-offs to really good ones and the ones that Miss a few notes. Don't crack on the less than good bass players remember it's open mic. Finally they sometimes play songs you don't know. I think it's best to sit it out & enjoy the song and not try to keep picking it and miss a bunch of notes.
  18. Joedog


    Jan 28, 2010
    Pensacola FL
    They can vary tremendously. But it's good manners to bring a bass, cord and tuner, just in case. And have the bass in tune BEFORE you are asked on stage (you usually get a heads up). The most important thing for a first timer is to find the person(s) running the show, and politely ask how things work. Ask the BP if it's OK to Twiddle the knobs. I'm not, but some BP's of host bands can be a bit anal. Smile a lot, say thanks, and shake hands. Also bring biz cards: you never know....I've joined 2 (host) bands by going!! Enjoy! It can be challenging at times, but has definitely made me a better musician.
    pappabass and Mark McClelland like this.
  19. charlie ford

    charlie ford

    Dec 30, 2012
    Chicago, IL
    I went to a bluegrass jam last night, and was wondering about etiquette when other musicians are ruining vibes. Most of the music going on was what you'd expect, standards and traditionals. I knew most of the folks there through other music stuff in the area.

    But there was this guitarist who decided to have the folks he was playing with play his original music, which is folk-rock, not bluegrass. Is it appropriate to jump in and remind someone doing that what the purpose of the night is? It's not very team-oriented to play things nobody's heard of and you can't describe with (standard! we don't know the music!) or Nashville numbers.

    Is there anything to be done? I can foresee it happening again. He's played these three tunes at every opportunity for the past three years. Not sure if he can actually "jam" - like "A minor blues jam" and he might not have the ability to do that.
  20. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    It happens, and it's not worth trying to prevent, IME. Make sure whoever has the hook uses it quickly, like maybe give him a 2-tune limit.

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