getting into the jam

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getting into the jam

Postby eline » Sat Mar 11, 2006 1:00 am

I've been playing harp for several years now, but I've never really jammed with others; mostly play for myself along with blues cd's. The people who have heard me, tell me that my scales should be heard. I've taken my mic and tried amps out at the local music stores, so that I can get some general feedback from others (haven't heard anything negative. Mostly, who do you play with). But now I think it's time I spread my wings and really get out there. The question is...how?

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RE: getting into the jam

Postby watertore » Sat Mar 11, 2006 1:58 am

go to the local blues jam, open mics, look on the bulletin boards in music stores, and music ads in the papers. Or, just set up on a street corner and start playing. That will attract guitar players. Walter
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby angerboy » Sun Mar 12, 2006 12:16 am

Walter's advice is good advice. Don't expect much from blues jams. Depending on the jam, the quality of players may or may not be good. If the quality of players are high, expect to sit around for a while without playing. Remember blues jams are someone's gig and bars stay in business when people are drinking.
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby bosco » Sun Mar 12, 2006 1:58 pm

Have you bought an amp yet?

I'd rather have my own rig and total control over my sound when hitting jams and open mics. When you play through the PA, you're never sure what they are hearing out there.

If you're serious about performing a/o starting a band, you are going to need an amp anyway.

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RE: getting into the jam

Postby eline » Sun Mar 12, 2006 4:54 pm

Currently, I own an astatic Jt30 mic and I use a blues junior amp.
I think I can get a pretty good sound out of it. My dog may say different. But yes, I do own my own equipment. What I really lack is not the knowledge of playing; its playing etiquete: I haven't been socialized to the garage band behavior. So this is where my knowledge stops, and this is nothing you could ever get out of a book (not that I tried).

Peace,
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby songdog » Sun Mar 12, 2006 6:09 pm

Hi Eddie

I'll throw out a few thoughts for you and maybe some of the other guys can add some ideas too.

As Walter said, the easiest way for you to get your feet wet is to go out to one of your local open mic or blues jam nights. Spend an evening or two just checking out what is in your area. Try to find a jam where you will be playing along with the house band. This will provide some assurance that the band is tight and used to playing together.... as opposed to a free-for-all jam. With a good house band, you should be able to just walk up on stage and say "let's do a shuffle in E, I'll do a quick intro on the harp so you guys (the band) come in on the IV." And the band members should all nod their heads in agreement - and you're off and running.

If you are leading the song, i.e. you're calling the song to be played, then you are also leading the band and they will take their cues from you. So you count the start, you can point to individual members of the band, during the song, for them to do a solo, you call any breaks in the song and you have to make eye contact with the band and nod your head when you are ready to end the song, etc, etc. All of this kind of stuff comes from experience, but once again, if you hang out at a few jams and watch, you'll pick up on the cues that are used during 'jams'. And hey, it's a jam.... if you make a mistake, just keep a smile on your face and a good band will pick you up.

Now if you're not leading the song, but just up on stage playing along then you'll take your cues from whoever is leading the band, singer, guitar player, etc. If you're playing harp with people you haven't played with before it's generally best to play very conservative. You can play some accompaniment chords and notes in the background but don't be belting out riffs while the singer is singing. Wait for the leader to point to you for your solo, i.e. don't be wailing away during the guitar player's solo unless he gives you some kind of cue that he wants you play along with him. If in doubt, don't play anything. Once again, play conservative, so keep your solos to a few dozen bars and nod your head, to the leader, when you're within a few bars from finishing your solo. If the band leader really likes your solos, he'll give you a cue to play another round.

Just get out and go for it. You'll make a few mistakes but that's OK cause one of the best ways to learn is from our mistakes. The idea is to have fun, so just try to keep everything in perspective. Having a few jams under your belt will be a real confidence builder.

I hope this helps.
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby eline » Mon Mar 13, 2006 2:45 am

Thanks for the tips, but I'm still not clear on what I should show up with to a jam. Do I bring everything (amp, harps, mic etc.) or do I just bring one or two harps and ask to sit in on one or two songs?
Also, what the general feeling from bands when someone as green as me shows up? Am I going to be battleing attitudes along with nervousness? These are the things that I wonder about. I know that once I get in there and start playing I'll be alright, but I also want to be mentally prepared and be able to adapt to the environment, and it never hurts to have a little inside scoop prior to showing up.

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RE: getting into the jam

Postby oleman » Mon Mar 13, 2006 4:28 am

Most open mic nites are fairly structured, usually with a bunch of regulars. But don't worry about being green and asking questions. Just tell somebody that you want to play and they will tell you the procedure. I ran an open mic in a little bar for awhile and we welcomed new people. Bring all your stuff, but don't leave it in the car.

Read the alternative rags, take out an ad; Put up 3x5s and just hang out where other musicians hang out.

I liked Walters Idea of just playin on the street. He's right, guitar players will find you. If you can sing a little bit and play a pretty good harp; you will have no trouble at all finding people to play with and places to play. Most of all Have Fun!!!
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby angerboy » Tue Mar 14, 2006 5:46 am

Don't bring a lot of crap to a blues jam. One of the benefits of being a harp player is portability. I went to a jam a few weeks back that had over forty people sign up. Most of them brought amps. Needless to say, there was a bit of a storage issue. Plus, everyone that has to tear down and set up equipment takes time away from playing music.

As a newbie and depending on the jam host, there is no guarantee that you'll be playing anyway. I play through the host band's equipment. If you are invited back and an amp isn't available, then bring your amp. Most of the jam hosts I know hate it when people show up with a ton of crap in tow. It messes with their chi and the musical flow.

The nice thing about well attended jams is that you can try a lot of other people's gear. If you sound good, you'll sound good through an amp or a PA. If you are only going to get to play two tunes, why carry all the gear and hassle with it?
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby angerboy » Tue Mar 14, 2006 5:53 am

You can observe first. Go to a couple of them. Listen to some of the material the house band is playing. Everyone's interpretation of blues is different. Watch others. When you feel comfortable. Introduce yourself. Be humble and not cocky. Keep your eyes on the leader. Have very low or no expectations. If your expectations are low and you get stuck playing with bozoes, you won't be disappointed.

Blues jams can be hit or miss, but they are what you make of them. Just be cool and willing to listen/learn. You'll be okay.
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby bosco » Tue Mar 14, 2006 1:44 pm

Most of the jam hosts I know hate it when people show up with a ton of crap in tow.

And most of the musicians I know hate it when other players show up without their own gear.

Obviously, if 40 guys show up with their own amps, it's a very crowded open mic and some sharing is in order. Having said that, it's far easier for guitar players and bassmen to share amps, and keyboard players and drummers to share rigs.

Harpers are a different breed and need an amp that is set up for harp. Most mics on the stage are set up for vocals, which rules out cupping the mic to get any kind of compressed sound without considerable adjustment. Theres nothing wrong with E bringing his Pro Jr that he is comfortable with. Odds are there won't be 40 guys with amps at his jam anyway. If the jam master tells him to just play through the PA, then he'll have to go with that, but I recommend having him use his own equipment.

I'm afraid this thread contains all sort of conflicting information. We are trying to ease a beginner into the open mic scene here with a comfortable transition, not concern ourselves with pacifying the jam gods.

Here is a link for jam etiquette concerning playing procedures, not complicated by equipment issues-

[link:www.jt30.com/jt30page/oldsite/rules.html|Rules Of The Jam]

Most of all, don't forget to have fun!

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RE: getting into the jam

Postby jeffl » Tue Mar 14, 2006 4:18 pm

Bosco: I hadn't seen those rules before,even though I've been to that site before. Those are somewhat thought provoking. Being strictly a sideman,who doesn't lead tunes, I often feel a little like a parasite at jams. Jammin' or "sittin' in" usually involves playin' into the PA,or using a vocal mic,which as you've mentioned,isn't the best deal for a harper. If you are bringin' yer own amp and effects,I think it's a good idea to arrive early to talk to the jam leader and arrange your contribution in a way that is unobtrusive. In other words, communicate with him or her about what tunes you could have the band play that can use your accompaniment while the leader leads the tune,AND possibly bringin' yer own amp up between sets,to set it up early even if you don't play 'til later in the set. Consideration for the jam leader goes a long way towards him getting comfortable with you,and hopefully encouraging you to return. A small problem that I encounter is that other musicians always feel like they have to "set up" the harper,and will occasionally go out of their way to accomodate you for multiple soloes. In contrast,I tell them that I'll take any normal solo that comes my way, but please let me comp when comping is called for,and don't worry about me.
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby eline » Tue Mar 14, 2006 8:33 pm

Bosco-
Thanks for the link to the rules. I've read them and will keep them in mind. Actually, all the imput from everybody, that's contributed to the discussion, has given me a little more confidence and ideas about what a jam is suppose to be like. I feel when I walk through the door I will definetaly be better prepared for the experience.

E.
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby angerboy » Wed Mar 15, 2006 9:43 am

<i>We are trying to ease a beginner into the open mic scene here with a comfortable transition, not concern ourselves with pacifying the jam gods.</i>

Pacification of the "jam gods" is a good way to ensure that his experience is positive. Pissing them off will do nothing but lead to crappy and frustrating experience for the new guy. His playing time will be limited and the hosts will be less than receptive.

If he's going have a comfortable transition, he ought to be concious and try to fit in. Bring the amp. Mention to the host that you have one and can bring it in, if needed. Don't leave the JT-30 in the car.

Observe, learn the ropes, act accordingly.
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RE: getting into the jam

Postby harp54 » Tue Mar 21, 2006 12:56 pm

Song dog got it. Be conservative and when in doubt,get out. Let your ears do the work and be aware of who else is on stage. Take it easy and you will be welcomed back, storm in with a 'listen to me' attitude and you will sitting more than playing. Let us know how it goes.
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