Trouble Jamming?

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Trouble Jamming?

Postby Arminius » Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:43 pm

Ever get together with your buddies and have a plain old terrible jam session? Nobody knows what to play, every one just noodles, people are all musically grumpy. Sometimes it makes you question if you want to play music at all, ever. What are some of your speculations as to why this happens? Is there any way to stop it from happening, or at least make it less severe? Is sunday just a bad day to jam on?
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby PaulJay » Sun Jan 12, 2014 4:17 pm

Hey, I don't think there is a good explaination for this. But, I hear what your saying, it is very frustrating. I think this has been happening since the dawn of man. It's almost like going on a date and nothing you do can make it go right. In fact I am going to a Jam tonight and already have a feeling its going to suck. But on the other hand you never know when you all converge on the same plane and things fall into place. Good luck next time., Paul
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby mgbills » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:08 pm

I have found a strategy that has merit. Haven't "play" tested it extensively, but have used this strategy 4-5 times successfully. I jam with some guys on an occasional basis, and sit in with a band sporadically. If you have a really rigorous group let me know if this works.

Here's the trick…pick something easy without a necessity for much form. I like the Dark Star Jam. Em > D > A. Then let it ride. Make sure everybody gets a couple of minutes to relax into it. Let everybody jam out some funky creative solos. Bass players. Keyboards. Drums. Guitars. Just let it ride for 10 minutes (+). Fish for standard licks or not. I prefer not. Take turns carrying or implying the rhythm.

I like to encourage intentional bad notes & dissonance. I think it gets the mind used to recovering from mistakes. Mistakes happen to everybody, even the best. If you have hit a "howler", and then take that extra 1/2 second to punish yourself mentally, then you're still not back in the game. I find it really easy to get clammed up in front of musicians of greater ability. So this is how I work through it.

If you get everyone relaxed and past the days troubles, then even fixed parts will flow easier. Change it up. Do a Bm blues vamp. The idea is to get everybody loose and into the sensual experience of creating music. If you try to do a number... & you're still bickering & fussy about details, then throw another vamp out there.

Most of us are doing this for fun. Some of you guys are freakin' awesome, and deserve to be making the big bucks. One of the guys I've regularly jam with has been drumming in jazz bands for 50 years. He's the easiest guy in the world to play with, because he thinks all dissonance is intentional…as long as you keep playing. The only GD he's ever heard is in my garage, and he never misses a beat for an opening. Killer stuff.

Hope this helps.
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Arminius » Mon Jan 13, 2014 6:33 am

Good to know that I'm not the only one. Those are some very good suggestions, and I will definitely use your techniques to try and save my sinking ship the next time I find myself in hot water.
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby hippieguy1954 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:04 am

What also helps is having a "song list" and separate sheets (of the songs on the list) for everyone, with the words over the chords when needed.
I actually have a big binder with sheet protectors. Each sheet protector has at least 5 copies of the songs on the song list in it. :smile:
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Tennessee Jedi » Mon Jan 13, 2014 8:45 am

Arminius wrote:Ever get together with your buddies and have a plain old terrible jam session? Nobody knows what to play, every one just noodles, people are all musically grumpy. Sometimes it makes you question if you want to play music at all, ever. What are some of your speculations as to why this happens? Is there any way to stop it from happening, or at least make it less severe? Is sunday just a bad day to jam on?


Brother Arm -
This is a common phenomenon - I could have written this myself any number of times .....
First I want to say its good to take the steps needed to improve any musical situation ; to make sure it constantly improves.
I also think there is a lot of unnecessary " angst " that comes with being a musician - and its not productive to dwell for too long.
That being said I do have things I try to do to make a practice or jam ( I am in a GD Band and co-ordinate a Open Mic Style Dead jam as well ) be fun and productive
1) Have peps work on tunes before jam - might say stuff like " 73 Eyes " or " 80's Minglewood " or "its really in this key "
2) Sometimes its good to decide before hand who will solo where - Minglewood is a good example = 1st solo is just guitar but the second go arounds start with keys then Bobby slide then Jerry - lil things like that could add cohesion
3) Gotta have vocals to do the Dead - you can only milk jamming on Eyes and F.O.T.M. for so long - vocals add cohesion
4) " Sometimes it makes you question if you want to play music at all, ever " - maybe you set the jams up ? Bandmate Psychology ..... Another thing to not dwell on too long - you cant change people or their attitudes - even when they shoot themselves in the foot.
For instance there was a time when I was the bandmate that hated everything I played sorta - nothing was good enough - " I suck "-its not a constructive attitude
5) " Is sunday just a bad day to jam on? " I am big NFL guy but it bugs me when Peps put team over band.
We practice on Sunday nights a lot.

Another thought - remember the things you can control like when and how you practice and eventually you will be where you want
All this is just IMHO , of course

Good luck
- TD
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby DenverEd » Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:47 pm

Ha! It happens all the time for us.
By this point we know that when there is a sucky night, odds are the next one will be better.....or worse. :shock:
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Maybeck09 » Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:51 pm

I think its the nature of the thing. Much like relationships. Good times, bad times. Hippieguy had it right where you often have to help out the others in the band with chord sheets, lyrics. Definite song list of ideas. I like the idea of grooving first on simple vamps for minutes and letting everybody jell and do a little lead work without worrying too much about song structure. Just keep in mind it changes- always does, good or bad, but it will be different next time. Enjoy those good ones!
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Dozin » Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:56 pm

When I have the attitude that this jam is going to rock! It usually sucks. Sometimes I wish that particular night we weren't jamming and I'm not into it. Those night I leave with a smile on my face :? Lol It's the craziest thing sometimes

It happens with every band I think. You have to keep looking forward to the next time the band gets together.
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby wolftigerrosebud » Tue Jan 14, 2014 11:15 pm

When it's not just flowing, I focus on technique and just treat it like what it is -- rehearsal. Every night isn't magic; that's true for everyone. But it's virtually always possible to take something positive away from playing.

If the positive one night isn't coming from synergy and people being "on" and inspired, then the positivity can come from the personal, professional/artistic growth that comes from paying close attention to the playing and trying to make every note sound really good.
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Grateful Dad » Wed Jan 15, 2014 9:33 am

My approach is to jamming/practice is to do the homework on the songs we plan on doing. Unless your band practices 5-20 times a week nothing replaces repetitive individual practice to make playing the tunes second nature. There is everything to be said for committing the chord changes, fingerings, riffs, etc.. to muscle memory. Musicians must have a high degree of tolerance for repetition.

Basically everyone in the band (or jam session) must come prepared with their homework done. Standing around while someone fiddles with their part is counterproductive especially if they have had time before the session to work on it. And while the jam session/rehearsal is going on it's essential to agree on the structure of the song (beginnings, verses, choruses, lyrics, harmonies, reps, transitions, bridges, endings, etc.) before the band launches into the song. This is especially true for songs like Terrapin with it 6/8 transition and the instrumental break in Greatest Story. Running through the rough spots as a band a couple of times or more before attempting the entire tune goes a long way to avoiding a train wreck.

If one or more people need help clarifying a part of the tune and getting on the same page before starting the tune other band members should refrain from noodling around making communication impossible, this is a big pet peeve of mine.

Stay positive, if you are doing a song for the first time and you get through it with a couple of burps eventually with enough reps the song will smooth out. Do the homework, come prepared, discuss the song structure as a group, and try to get together as often as possible.

Play from the heart, "play as if your life depended on it" (Jerry G's own words), do your homework and your practices/jam sessions will reflect that.

My $.02 worth......

Keep spreading the music good people!

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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby paulkogut » Wed Jan 15, 2014 10:53 am

Best wishes for getting a good jamming scene going. It's not always easy. These days I'm lucky enough to be doing all my playing with good friends sharing a deep love for the same music or solid professionals taking care of gig business, and on most days it's both, but it hasn't always been that way. It's been my experience that if you've got folks coming at the session from different perspectives/agendas, it's a recipe for the moody weirdness you describe. Is someone there using the session to blow off steam and party? Is someone there using the session to shed their personal chops/licks? Is someone looking to 'make it' on the local/cover band scene? Is someone else looking to 'make it' as an original artist? Are there a mix of "Deadheads' and rock guys that play some Dead? While none of these positions are inherently 'wrong', and you can't change people anyway, I find it helps to have an idea of where everyone is coming from so you can design an approach that attempts to meet most of the needs of most of the people most of the time.

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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby mgbills » Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:24 pm

Facinating thread.
My earlier perspective was that you were trying to get a group of people to jam. Which may have meant "put away the sheet music, and you're pre-conceived notion of how a Cover should sound...and improvise." I'm not entirely sure now of your origninal question Arminius...
How to get folks to jam/improvise?
How to get sophisticated musicians into a common grove?
How to set an overall approach and strategy to structure & improvisation over a tune?

What an inspiring thread! In my limited experience I believe this to be true. Group dynamics are everything. I had to learn to fire people in business years ago. I wanted to be able to lead anybody benevolently. Sometimes it just better to shed a poor fit. Since most of us wont make it too the big time...why not have fun along the way.

Pete B. invited me to a trio jam last year. Verrrrry coool. They had a responsible drummer, and they had him with bamboo sticks & plexiglass. Pete could adjust chord changes verbally with the bass player while jamming a number. I walked out of my next jam, because I knew the drummer would always be WAY too loud, and be stoned out his mind. Life is too short. And my skills aren't so great that I can be bossy.

Great thread.
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Arminius » Thu Jan 16, 2014 12:29 pm

Hey! thanks for digging the thread. I definitely like it too, lots of good replies and suggestions to a problem that a lot of people experience. Wish we could get a number of us in a room to jam, that might be cool. Too bad we're so scattered. It's hard to find reliable people to jam up here in northern michigan. Small music scene, and mostly indie.
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Re: Trouble Jamming?

Postby Grateful Dad » Thu Jan 16, 2014 2:28 pm

Arminius wrote:Hey! thanks for digging the thread. I definitely like it too, lots of good replies and suggestions to a problem that a lot of people experience. Wish we could get a number of us in a room to jam, that might be cool. Too bad we're so scattered. It's hard to find reliable people to jam up here in northern michigan. Small music scene, and mostly indie.


Finding the right people is the key. It has literally taken years to put together a reliable group of musicians dedicated to playing Grateful Dead. I had my fill of loonies from Craig's List and other sources. Fortunately I moved in to my house 10 years ago and a Deadhead drummer lives right across the street and we have been playing together ever since and have become good friends too. I hooked up with Tom Dude (Tennessee Jedi) and together we have managed to persevere, pull it together and make some great music. There have been ups and downs but when we get gigging and performing it all pays off big time. There is nothing better than playing Grateful Dead music for an appreciative and dancing audience.

:smile:
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