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Thread: Your thoughts on jam/open mic events?

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    Axe-honerated spellcaster's Avatar
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    Your thoughts on jam/open mic events?

    What do you think of jam night/open mic events?

    I've only tried it once before and didn't like it. It seems to sometimes involve having to wing it, playing songs you've never played before, or possibly never even heard before. Because I don't see well enough to be able to watch another guitar player and fake it, I didn't do particularly well. The experience left me feeling less than anxious to do it again.

    I went again tonight, mostly because the rhythm guitar player in my band (and my sometimes-employer) called and asked me to. By the time the first group left the stage, it became pretty obvious that we'd end up having to play with a metal drummer kid and a rockabilly lead player, and didn't have a credible singer. I decided to stay on the sidelines, and I don't think I want to try this again.

    So, what's your experience? Have you tried playing music in the open mic/jam night venues, and if so, do you like it?
    "I know just enough to be dangerous....."

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    Axe-honerated zontar's Avatar
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    I've never taken part in one--but I've watched them--they can be fun.
    I once was thinking about it while on vacation many years ago--but we just watched.
    I've been a pilgrim on this earth, since the day of my birth, I'm a long way from my home.

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    Super Moderator die Bullen's Avatar
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    It really depends who is there.

    What is can't stand is when the guitar players only know how to play 12 bar blues or they change chords seemingly randomly so the songs have absolutely no structure whatsoever. When I go to a jam and they want to do it with 3 guitar players I will simply walk off as 3 guitar players on stage is almost always horrible. But jamming as a horn player has other complications because often the guitar players don't even know what key they are playing in. So you have to figure everything out on the fly. And forget having sheet music for the vamp!

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    Axellent Member Dan Martian's Avatar
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    I'm generally a fan of both, with jam sessions being more appealing, but as dB points out, it largely depends on who is there. Since I'm not a prolific songwriter, I like attending both to find people to work with, learn songs and challenge my creativity. Both events offer networking possibilities, opportunities for collaborations/bands and potential repair work.

    Jam sessions can be a lot of fun be cause they allow you to work your chops, improvisation and challenge your creativity as well as your tastefulness. For those reasons and performance possibilities, I enjoy them, but jam sessions are not without potential frustration. Three guitarists at a time can be difficult, as dB points out. For that to work, you have to have three guys who are listening to each other and the big picture, while exercising some restraint. For me, it's the guys who don't listen, don't leave space and always assume the lead break is for them and/or ruthlessly play over the singer and the other players' bits that frustrates me no end. Whoever is leading the song should call for a solo (or not) and designate a player to take a lead -- it solves a lot of problems. I also think it's the song leader's responsibility to decide if they want anyone accompanying them, because sometimes it's about the words.

    Open mikes are a great way for novices to get performance experience, which is the best antidote for stage fright. Consider that all the other performers are in a similar boat and will appreciate your efforts as well as your attention and compassion. Give all three, and everyone leaves happier and perhaps a little more confident. Maybe I'm spoiled or really lucky, but a lot of the open mikes in my town are quite entertaining and many of the performers are surprisingly talented. I know that it isn't always going to be the case everywhere, every time, but good points *are* worth the trouble.

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    Super Moderator die Bullen's Avatar
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    My personal preference is jamming to a real song so everyone actually knows what to do and what is coming. The free form jams, although in theory could be really creative, tend to erode into the same progression that goes nowhere. This happens less when you have a decent keyboard player who understands the concepts of tension/ release and how a section needs to resolve.

    I suppose what I am really saying is this- in a jam there must be some sort of leadership. If 3 guitars and a bass are simply left to themselves with no guidance it will often be very boring to all. I've been in this situation many times while playing a horn and I typically walk off because a 12 minute long song that goes nowhere is just boring. Sadly many jams devolve into this. On the other hand, everyone on board playing the SAME song but taking solos in their section- that is a lot more interesting.

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    Axellent Member Dan Martian's Avatar
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    I'm with you on that dB and I have done the walk off thing a time or twelve. It doesn't always have to be utter chaos, but I've seen that before. People playing together and trading solos *is* a lot more interesting. I *want* to play with those players. As long as there's a solid progression that we can agree upon, it doesn't always have to go somewhere, although it's nice when it does. Sometimes gems come from *practicing,* but you know the adage about practicing and farting....

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    Super Moderator die Bullen's Avatar
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    I'm okay with a 12 bar blues once in awhile- don't get me wrong. That can be cool and everyone who is playing guitar more than 6 months can play it in some key or another. You can do all sorts on horns with that format too.

    But sometimes I hear these guitar progressions at jams that are totally directionless- they don't actually make sense. Sometimes I have trouble even feeling if the song is in one particular key. I don't mean it is modulating either- sometimes it just doesn't seem to fit a key. Try playing a valved instrument when you not only have no sheet music, you can't actually identify what key the guy is playing in because he doesn't know himself. I used to tough it out but my patience wears a bit thin recently.

  8. #8
    AxeTalker Mad-Mike's Avatar
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    Open Jam nights are always fun for me, even with the cons. I was a steady regular at Hayley's and Flights in Everett for awhile, met a lot of great bandmates and even a few famous people that way.

    Covers were always fun for me, especially when we would "hot rod" stuff into metal tunes that were not. Me and the guys at Hayley's had a really sick metal version of "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" By Journey. Even when they failed they were pretty funny, like the time at Flights I decided to take a shot at doing a Hard Rock Keyboard-less version of Loverboy's "Turn Me Loose" (which sounded more like a malfunctioning yet musical Lawn Mower more than Turn Me Loose). I also enjoyed doing Suicide Missions where I'd take a song I don't know how to play but have heard maybe once or twice and fake my way through it.....I was really good at that.

    Had some successful jam sessions too, one local lady came on stage, we did a couple Zepplin covers, and then I started just making up a cohesive riff on stage, we wound up recording a brand new song using my riff, her lyrics, and the rest of the band (including me) in full improve mode and the soundman put it on CD! Also got into a pretty awesome funk jam or two, funk and blues were always fun because those are two genres I don't visit too terribly often but know at least just enough about to hold my own.

    The only thing that sucks is when I would get stuck as the singer, I prefer the Lead Guitarist role, and would end up having to sing because I was the only one who knew all the words....I hate my voice, but even then it was still fun.

    The only cons I ever had mostly had to do with the other non-musician related crap going on (ie. Boy/Girl drama, band drama, basically, drama)...I found as long as I just hung around, had a drink or two, and was "that quiet crazy guy with the offset/tele/strat/home-built guitar" I was happiest.
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    Axeaholic Teleblooz's Avatar
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    Over the last year or so since I quit my last band I've been doing a lot of open mics and jams, to keep my chops up and partly as a way to scout out what players are out there. Quite a few tend to be pretty formulaic, with the same dozen AC/DC, Tom Petty or Skynyrd songs, and of course the legions of SRV-wannabees. But even at some of those I've been able to toss a few curves into the mix and make it more interesting. I usually come with simpler songs in mind that I can lead and that usually get a good reaction from whatever audience there happens to be, as well as the players. I have a few standby "2- and 3-chord wonders" that tend to go over well. Something in a Soul vein like Use Me, Respect Yourself, or some Temptations songs never fail to perk up some jaded players, 'cause they're songs everybody knows, but no one ever plays. Or maybe call a 12-bar blues but play it with a Reggae feel - it breaks up the monotony.

    There's a couple of OMs in the area that have a regular crew of good, seasoned players that rarely fail to satisfy, and that get a kick out of being tossed something unusual that they can stretch out on. Meanwhile in the back of my mind I'm assembling the potential members of my next band. Bwahahaha....
    I crawl like a viper through these suburban streets.

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