Why I don’t jam more: playing out


We are having a sales meeting next month, and one of the organizers thinks it will be a great idea to have some of the team play and entertain at the group dinner. There are at least three guitar players, a bass player, and a drummer who can get together, so it is a reasonable idea.

But I will decline to play. Apart from the “thumb” issues I have, these impromptu jams are awkward for a variety of reasons:

  • The players have no history of playing together. This manifests itself in awkward setup and initial playing. It might seem trivial, but all musicians have ego’s, and we are all concerned about not being a fuckup in front of friends. This is caused by …
  • The players will all have different repertoires. Perhaps one is a folk player, one is a classically trained guitarist, one is a dance or jazz player, and one will play hard rock. All of these styles are enormously different, and while a decent player can pick some of it up, it will feel (and sound) alien.
  • There won’t be any songs that everyone knows. This is a huge deal, as it often means that there isn’t an ice breaker. Some songs that any rock player would expect everyone to know, like “Whole Lotta Love” or “More than a Feeling” will invariably not be part of one or more member’s play lists.

So, these sessions usually fall back to something standard, 12 bar blues in Em, and just variants around that. Boring.

How to prevent this? First, play together privately. Find some common ground. Have everybody pick 3-4 songs that typify their genre, and share the tab/MP3’s so that the others can learn some songs.

Play together more often. There is a reason why bands practice several times a week. Or you have a band play the backup (a tight group with a bass player, a keyboardist, and a drummer.) But then you might as well hire a band.

So, I will sit this potential public embarrassment out, and see how it goes.

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By geoffand


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October 2013

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