2 minute read. Last updated on December 6th, 2016.
Whenever you get together with friends and other musicians to make music together – it’s a jam session. We’ve asked some of the 10k musicians on sofasession to share their secrets with you. Here are the 8 ultimate tips how to enjoy jamming and be good in every jam session.
We have many musicians here, participating in weekly jam sessions or organizing some. And if you are an experienced musician, joining a jam session might not be challenging for you. For beginners, playing with others is definitely new. It’s an exciting, new and even scary experience.
Being good in a jam session is not only about the quality or your ideas or how developed your skills are. It’s more your behavior with others that matters. There are some simple rules knowing which you’ll be the musician everybody wants to play with (also known as Jam Etiquette).
There are certain rules which are important to know before you join an online or offline session. We’ve summed them up for you here.
What exactly counts as jamming or jam session?
A jam session is a get-together of musicians to play and interact with each other musically. In a jam session, it’s not about entertaining an audience, but playing for fun, to be creative and try out new techniques. Jams can be held in a private or public location. You can jam live or online in a virtual environment (like on sofasession). Some jams can turn into weekly events – like Yalda‘s Tuesday session on sofasession. Jams can focus on a specific music style. Songs can be covered or completely new songs created.
What can you do to have an amazing jam session?
- Know the key
- Respect other solos while jamming
- You don’t have to like every song
- You don’t have to play in every song
- Relax and let the leader lead
- Listen to the others
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes
- Share your jamming knowledge
1. Know the key
- Before actually starting to jam or improvise, make sure you understand the progression. If you’re not sure which key (e.g. A) it’s played in, ask the other musicians. If you are jamming online, use the session chat to ask.
- Many songs played in sessions consist of just three chords. That is great news for all beginners! Usually, they also start on the chord in which key the song is.
- Most of the time the tune stays the same. So generally speaking knowing the key and its scale is everything you need for playing the right solo. This page tells you which chords and scales fit together.
You might know the key easily if you practice some ear training exercises regularly – here are 5 to start with.
2. Respect other solos while jamming
- Have respect for the other soloists’ ideas by not doodling’ around on your instrument while they are playing a solo. This point is crucial, as we already mentioned in this post about playing your instrument in a band.
- You know what’s good news here? Your solo will be respected as well. Clearly, you want to play as many solos as possible, but everybody else wants as well, so stick to this tip to avoid jam chaos.
- If you know the musicians well, you might have some signs to signal others you are starting a solo. If this is your first get-together discuss who is playing solo and in which order.
3. You don’t have to like every song
There are just these songs you don’t like. It’s ok like that and you don’t have to judge other people’s taste. If you really hate one song, instead of complaining, take a break and listen instead. This is also a good moment to enjoy the other players and learn something from them.
Often, own songs are played in a jam session. Or even spontaneous chords and melodies, created ad-hoc. Especially, in this case, don’t judge other people’s style. Instead you could add your personal note to the song.
4. You don’t have to play in every song
If you don’t know how to play a song, don’t play wrong chords or lines. Instead, you could sing along with the song, use your instrument to keep the beat, use the time to tune, drink something or take a break. And afterward, you could ask the other players to show you the chords so you know better next time. Check out these Blues jamming tracks and Beatles jamming tracks to prepare for often played tracks.
5. Relax and let the leader lead
Let the song or band leader lead you. Doesn’t matter if the sheet you have says different chords or words. That’s the point of a jam session: To experiment with famous songs (or new chords) and change parts of them. So follow the leader with breaks, change of tunes, lyrics etc.
6. Listen to the others
A jam session is not your private moment to shine. You’ll enjoy jamming a lot more if you start listening to the whole sound, not just your instrument or voice. You’ll notice there are moments where you can play more or less, hear when chords are needed or a melody. Give whatever is needed to the whole sound and you’ll be the jam player everybody wants to play with.
This is how a jam session might sound like:
7. Don’t be afraid of mistakes
If you hit the wrong note, make sure to follow it up by moving a half note up rhythmically. That way you can make your little mistake seem like a grace note. And most of the time nobody notices unless you stop playing because of the mistake.
8. Share your jamming knowledge
If you play with beginners, don’t try to outdo them. We all started somewhere, so try to help them out with tips. Don’t be rude and show how awesome you can play already. You know it, and nobody else cares. By sharing your jamming knowledge you’ll make sure the session works out fine.