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Open mic tips

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Linkmet220, Mar 29, 2016.

  1. Linkmet220


    Mar 29, 2016
    So, I have been practicing the bass for roughly 6 months now. Last sunday was my first ever open mic night at a local bar, now would anyone be willing to give me advice playing live and by ear?
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Suspended Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Hey Welcome to TalkBass!

    Couple questions.

    Is bass your first instrument?
    Was Sunday your first live performance?
    Do you have any friends who play guitar or drums you could jam with up there on stage?
    JGbassman likes this.
  3. Linkmet220


    Mar 29, 2016
    Bass is my first instrument
    Sunday was my first live performance, I mostly played by feel, from what others said I, "had the feel" of being a bass player but, again I've only been playing 6 months so I don't know what exactly that means.
    I do not, due to my odd work schedule but since its open mic night its not hard finding people who will play.
  4. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Suspended Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA

    Well, if you are familiar with chord structures of basic songs you should be fine. In my experience open mic stuff is one of three things.....

    1) I, IV, V (1, 4, 5) blues jams

    2) A freestyle "jam" where one guy (usually a guitar player) will give a brief explanation of the chord structure and then take off into the song.

    3) A prepared song that a band knows or a standard cover song "everybody knows" (a structured cover or original)

    I think at the level you are currently 2 and 3 might be your thing....unless you just happen to be into blues and have played some of it.

    So just go and strike up a conversation with somebody there. Find out if you know own a song they do. Or talk up and chord progression you can all jam to.

    I was the house bass player for an open mic night for years. Most folks who come to them are pretty open minded and like to see new guys up there getn it done. And they usually don't expect perfection.

    So just have fun. Report back after this week!
  5. Practice suggestions to prepare for open mic night:

    • Turn the radio on to a random channel, close your eyes, and pretend you are on stage at the open mic! :)
    • "Sit out" (don't play) on the first verse or chorus. Nod your head up and down and smile at the singer or band-leader, like you are really grooving on what they are playing. Spend this time really listening to the song and planning what you are going to play in verse 2 and beyond.
    • If you have children or pets, practice with them as your audience. If you live alone, perform for your house plants or in front of the mirror.
    • Make an audio or video recording of yourself, and then play it back, pretending it is a stranger you are hearing for the first time at open mic night. What tips/suggestions would you give yourself?
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2016
    BBQisgood likes this.
  6. If you can sing at all, and my guess is that you can, learn a song or two that you can do solo. I can't get out of an open mic without doing "Boris the Spider".
    BBQisgood and Mushroo like this.
  7. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    Make it a point to learn and practice blues progressions, forms and especially turn arounds. Blues get called on a lot at open mic's and learning it also helps to broaden your repertoire. Much of western pop has its roots there and learning it expanded my vocabulary and approach to music drastically. It's not the first thing I choose to listen to necessarily but playing it with skilled musicians is very enjoyable for me.
    BBQisgood likes this.
  8. BBQisgood


    Feb 24, 2016
    Also practice your bass face in the mirror so everyone knows you're legit.:D

    What kind of tunes did you guys play on Sunday?
    Chili_Time likes this.
  9. My first jamming session the "old guys" said; "The key will be called; grab a 12 bar blues progression and hang on. If you get lost pedal the tonic root and if you get really lost turn your volume way down and listen ....... when you find your place turn the volume back up. Start over with the next song". Be a sponge and soak it all in. The more you jam the more you will learn. Playing with others is always helpful.

    I do not think anyone has mentioned anything about following the house rules. Every open mike or jamming circle I've been around has certain rules you should follow, i.e. who calls the next song, how is the lead passed, etc. I suggest you find those out before you even put your name on the list or wait for the nod to join in.

    It's all fun, and everyone will help.
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2016
    DeaconBlues09 likes this.
  10. Chili_Time


    Oct 11, 2016
    Question for all. What keys and how many keys should you be ready to play in at an open mic? I'd like to do this but feel like I need a little bit more practice but not sure what to practice other than 1, 4, 5 and the basic blues chord progressions & turnarounds Just found a place locally that does open mic so next week I'm hoping to go watch and listen and see what the house rules are and basically how it all works but any advice is welcome
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Unless you are doing a walking line, you build - start with the root, then 5th and leading tones (if going from an F chord to a C, you play the E and D).
    Chili_Time likes this.
  12. It's good to know all 12 keys. You never know when a guitarist is going to use a capo, or a singer will change a song to a different key that fits their voice.

    The good news is, the patterns on the bass fretboard are symmetrical from key to key. If you can play 1-4-5 in one key, then you can also play 1-4-5 in the other 11 keys, just by moving the pattern up or down. :)
    MalcolmAmos and Chili_Time like this.
  13. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Hang out at the session and find out what tunes are being called on a regular basis.
    Learn 2 or 3 and ask to play those next time you are up to play.
    noodler and Chili_Time like this.
  14. In a jamming session, open mike or jamming circle I assume a lot. And close is close enough.
    I've never been in a jamming session that the key is not called. The following "things" have been mentioned, I'll just echo them.....
    • If needed lay out the first verse and get a feel for the song.
    • They gave you the key, count on the I-IV-V-I being the progression that will work.
    • If I-IV-V-I is not working, grab the 12 bar blues progression and hang on.
      • I-IV-I-I
      • IV-IV-I-I
      • V-IV-V-I to end or V to loop back.
    • The tonic I and the IV will be used the most. Stand where you can see the rhythm guitar's fretting hand, when he changes chord you do the same. Helps if you can recognize which chord he went to from his fretting pattern.
    • If you get lost, pedal the tonic chord's root till you find your place.
    • In jamming close is close enough in my neck of the woods.
    • Which notes? Roots. Or roots and fives. Or the R-5-8-5 is generic and usually works fine. The actual notes you use is dictated by the song. Some do just run the blues scale, I don't, but help yourself. Something around the ones mentioned above will keep you in the circle.

    Have fun.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2016
    Mushroo and Chili_Time like this.

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