jamming as a band ... how to do it right?

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jamming as a band ... how to do it right?

Postby monroe » Tue Oct 28, 2008 12:39 pm

A loaded question for sure. Let me explain. So I've been in a bluegrass band for about 5 or 6 years. Recently we added a drummer, and made the switched to electric, playing more rock n roll. As there are several deadheads and/or phisheads in the band, we like to jam it out :D from time to time. But we have a bit of a problem, and our jams aren't as good as they could be. Basically, when we hit the "jam section" of a song, all 5 of us just kind of drop our heads, and go off in 5 different directions, with the hope that since we are playing in the same key, the jam will sound good. Obviously that doesn't work. Well, occasionally we get lucky and it works, but for the most part our jams end up pretty boring pretty quickly. I think we've taken the first step by acknowledging that we have a problem there.

So the question then becomes, how do you break that habit? No question that time and practice are really the only ways to do it. But is there some way that we could spend our practice time that would help us get there faster? It seems like each of us as individuals need to learn to listen to what the others are playing and react to that, playing something that fits. Is there some way to learn that? Exercises or something we can do as band or as individuals?

Any other advice you guys can offer to help us develop our jamming and improvisational skills?

Thanks in advance!
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Postby Tennessee Jedi » Tue Oct 28, 2008 12:54 pm

Individual practice at home will help so you are ready to be productive at practice.
Repetition repetition ....
No matter what someone has to stay home and keep it steady ...usually the bass and drums ...
If you are doing covers agree on which version is the one you want to do;Jack Straw E 72 or Jack Straw 80's version for example.
Have fun


:cool:
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Postby pappypgh » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:11 pm

Here's a good exercise I think will help you:

Okay - time for the jam segment of a song in E, let's say....
So, you have they keyboardist doing some nice runs, the rhythm guitarist is doing some nice chordal stuff (maybe alternating between E, E7, E7sus4, etc.) and the lead player is dancing around the scale, as is the bassist.

First things first - it's time to listen. Each person has to determine which band member they wanna focus in on (it doesn't have to be seperate, i.e., the keyman takes the lead player, the lead player takes the bass, the bass takes the drums, etc...) - in other words, everyone could focus in on the rhythm guitarist, while the rhythm guitarist decides he wants to focus on the drums....that part doesn't really matter. When the person you are focused in on hits a riff - let's say a simple bend from the 2,up to the 4 and back to the 2 (typical guitar bend in a major key), whomever is focused in on that player should either mimic it, or play something very complimentary to it (maybe a bend from the 6 up to the octave and back to the 6?)...if you're the drummer - play something off of it. Throw riffs around, basically. The REAL fun is when you all are listening to different people (i.e., the bassist and the rhythm guitarist are focusing on the keyboardist and the keyboardist is focusing on the bassist, the lead player is focused on the rhythm guitarist and the drummer is focused on the lead player, or something like that). Then you get these intertwining "inner jams" going on. The beauty is, you can change who you're listening to at any given moment. It will work itself out, as you may notice that you, being the rhythm guitarist for example, AND the bassist are both listening to the lead player and he plays something and you and the bassist both play the same type of riff - both of you may switch your respective focus to a different player or one may stay or you may find that both staying put sounds kinda cool.
You gotta practice some interesting chops, of course. I've REALLY been working on this at our rehearsals, trying to not just run up & down a scale. Trying to find a cool melody or jumping all over a scale and adding slides, walkups or bends in there to make it interesting. Finding cool melody lines is key.
The backbone, IMO, to a GOOD jam band is having a good rhythm player who doesn't just play chords and a good bass player. The rhythm player can be keys, guitar, whatever.

Just a thought.
www.theCAUSEjams.com

"Once in awhile, you can get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right." - R. Hunter

"If we had any nerve at all, if we had any real balls as a society, or whatever you need, whatever quality you need, real character, we would make an effort to really address the wrongs in this society, righteously." - Jerry Garcia
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Postby pappypgh » Tue Oct 28, 2008 2:14 pm

Here's a good exercise I think will help you:

Okay - time for the jam segment of a song in E, let's say....
So, you have they keyboardist doing some nice runs, the rhythm guitarist is doing some nice chordal stuff (maybe alternating between E, E7, E7sus4, etc.) and the lead player is dancing around the scale, as is the bassist.

First things first - it's time to listen. Each person has to determine which band member they wanna focus in on (it doesn't have to be seperate, i.e., the keyman takes the lead player, the lead player takes the bass, the bass takes the drums, etc...) - in other words, everyone could focus in on the rhythm guitarist, while the rhythm guitarist decides he wants to focus on the drums....that part doesn't really matter. When the person you are focused in on hits a riff - let's say a simple bend from the 2,up to the 4 and back to the 2 (typical guitar bend in a major key), whomever is focused in on that player should either mimic it, or play something very complimentary to it (maybe a bend from the 6 up to the octave and back to the 6?)...if you're the drummer - play something off of it. Throw riffs around, basically. The REAL fun is when you all are listening to different people (i.e., the bassist and the rhythm guitarist are focusing on the keyboardist and the keyboardist is focusing on the bassist, the lead player is focused on the rhythm guitarist and the drummer is focused on the lead player, or something like that). Then you get these intertwining "inner jams" going on. The beauty is, you can change who you're listening to at any given moment. It will work itself out, as you may notice that you, being the rhythm guitarist for example, AND the bassist are both listening to the lead player and he plays something and you and the bassist both play the same type of riff - both of you may switch your respective focus to a different player or one may stay or you may find that both staying put sounds kinda cool.
You gotta practice some interesting chops, of course. I've REALLY been working on this at our rehearsals, trying to not just run up & down a scale. Trying to find a cool melody or jumping all over a scale and adding slides, walkups or bends in there to make it interesting. Finding cool melody lines is key.
The backbone, IMO, to a GOOD jam band is having a good rhythm player who doesn't just play chords and a good bass player. The rhythm player can be keys, guitar, whatever.

Just a thought.
www.theCAUSEjams.com

"Once in awhile, you can get shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right." - R. Hunter

"If we had any nerve at all, if we had any real balls as a society, or whatever you need, whatever quality you need, real character, we would make an effort to really address the wrongs in this society, righteously." - Jerry Garcia
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Postby Pete B. » Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:24 pm

I would put forth the idea to your bandmates that your jams have a beginning, middle, and end, as a most basic thought process.
"Seeds that were silent all burst into bloom and decay" kinda says it all in one sentance.

I was listening to PITB and TOO from 12/10/72. These jams have several chapters, let alone beginning, middle, end. At a coupla points, the "hero" goes completely insane (jerry going off on the treble end of the Wha-wha in a way that would make Jimmy Hendrix blush)... all to end in the sweet bosum of... oh shit... a Donna squeeeeelch, and now Bobby's yankin' chain into the mic again.
Oh well... It was fun while it lasted!

As fate would have it, I've almost always played in bands where each member plays both rhythm and lead. So passing solo's, knowing the order of the solos, knowing what section of the song each player is going to solo over (verse/chorus/bridge/other?), how long each solo is going to be, etc... are all things that can be worked out if members are interested in that level of planning.
Or you could just jam in D7 for a while and then plan to switch to Dm for a while and then back to D at some point (a same key, different mode, kinda thing).

Think of your jam as a conversation. It's not a conversation if everyone is talking at the same time, or if one person is talking endlessly.

For my taste, "laying out" is critically important to keeping things interesting. I just plain don't want to hear all instruments all the time. Maybe take turns completly laying out for a full verse (or other members entire solo) right before or right after your solo. This makes the time you are playing more interesting, and less clutter that the current soloist has to overcome. You also get to listen to what all the others are playing during that time (this alone is a major eye opener for alot of players). Just turn your volume off (you can still touch/play your instrument, no one in the audience will know your volume is off).
The worst thing in my opinion is when no one is soloing, and everyone is looking around trying to figure out whose turn it is. Uhhh... not an issue in the GD!

You could also take an Allman Bros tack on it, and insert "double leads" wherever you need something interesting.

Also often overlooked...
Play the melody.
Embellish the melody.


The GD were a unique unit with one primary Lead player, one primary rhythm player.
Bass and drums are a given.
Keyboards were mostly texture/color, and didn't solo anywhere remotely near the amount of time Jerry did.
Jerry could solo endlessly, fuck up repeatedly, finally nail it on like the 17th time 'round the horn, and folks went nuts the whole time.
I just don't see it in other bands. They don't have the luxury of being Jerry Gar!

Just a few thoughts... what was the question again?
Pete B.
Last edited by Pete B. on Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby weirimpressed » Tue Oct 28, 2008 3:39 pm

Whats going on monroe, sounds like you got the same problem I had in high school with a couple of my buddies. Its like you get to a "jam" section...and everyone is ready to just throw down...and everyone does...without anyone HOLDING it down

You gotta keep a rhythm, thats the most important part to me. Why solo a bunch of cool riffs when there's no rhythm....you can't have an amazingly smooth melody line without that precise rhythm in the back to back it up. Take turns jamming, use head knods to determine who's going next, and practice that over and over till it clicks.

I don't know how experienced you or the band is, but one thing we (my old band, or should say a bunch of high school kids trying to sound like the Dead :D )used to do was call out random keys when our jams began to space out and die....like we would get to a real anti-climatic part of a song, or be ending it, then someone would yell out "B" and suddenly we would be in a blues progression or minor progression in the key of B....

maybe that helps, probably won't do any more than confuse you hah! Gotta love the JAM
Once in a while you get shown the light
In the strangest of places if you look at it right.
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Postby tigerstrat » Tue Oct 28, 2008 4:29 pm

Take turns riding the momentum and propelling it... and, when the moment is right, working against it.

Learn to do a lot with very few notes... and to sometimes do very little with many notes.

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Postby Rusty the Scoob » Wed Oct 29, 2008 4:57 am

Listening is step #1. If you can't do that, none of the advice above will work.
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Postby monroe » Wed Oct 29, 2008 7:56 am

Thanks for the pointers fellas. Lots of good stuff here. Keep it coming!

I should also point out, that our band is in a bit of a unique situation, given our lineup. We've got a couple of us that trade off lead and rhythm, and bass and drums. We are a converted bluegrass band, so our lineup is:

Drums
Bass
Electric Guitar
Electric Banjo
Electric Mandolin

You ought to hear Shakedown played with Banjo and Mandolin ... wacky stuff!!!
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Re:

Postby Emoto » Sun Nov 02, 2008 9:21 am

monroe wrote:Thanks for the pointers fellas. Lots of good stuff here. Keep it coming!

I should also point out, that our band is in a bit of a unique situation, given our lineup. We've got a couple of us that trade off lead and rhythm, and bass and drums. We are a converted bluegrass band, so our lineup is:

Drums
Bass
Electric Guitar
Electric Banjo
Electric Mandolin

You ought to hear Shakedown played with Banjo and Mandolin ... wacky stuff!!!


I'd love to hear this band of yours. Sounds really cool.
Such a long, long time to be gone, and a short time to be there...
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Re: jamming as a band ... how to do it right?

Postby tigerstrat » Sun Nov 02, 2008 11:41 am

That's not really that unusual of a band lineup. There's a lot of "electric bluegrass w/drums" bands in this city anyway.
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