Jam Tips for Beginners

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markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 841

Having done 5 jams now - starting as someone who hadnt played live for over 20 years (only returned to guitar five years ago after a 15 year 'break'), I thought Id share my tips and tricks from attending these events for anyone else whos starting out. All my own opinion and experience - so may not work for everyone. Feel free to chip in with your experiences!

Before the Event

Its worth selecting two songs to learn - you might find that if you only sign up for one, you really want to do another on the day, so worth being prepared for this.

Create a song sheet - this will help you learn the song and is invaluable if you want someone to help you out on the day (who probably wont know the song very well if at all) - there will be another post on how to do this.

If you feel you need to simplify the part you're playing - do so. I only play one chord strum at each chord change when Im playing and singing (As I cant do both well at the moment) - theres other guitarists who can fill in any other bits, so dont feel pressured into trying stuff you arent happy with on the day. Thats why it helps to have had the run through in the practice rooms. Do your bit well, build your confidence and then learn and progress for the next jam.

Practice playing the songs standing up! I even try playing them with my eyes closed - so I will one day not need to stare at the fretboard, this also stops you relying on the song sheet (as you cant see it!)!

If the song fades out on the CD version - ask the others how they propose to finish it (Live versions on youtube are good for showing examples of this)

You can also learn the songs when away from the guitar by singing the chord names along with the track in the car - its something JustinGuitar does in his tuition videos and it helps your brain retain the chord sequence with the lyrics.

If you need any pedals to boost your sound - get a small simple pedalboard ready for the day (and power supply)

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  • markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 841
    edited August 23

    The Song Sheet

    This summarises the important bits of the song in a maximum of two pages to:-
    1) Help you learn the song before the event
    2) Give to others on the day who you want to play through the song with you (they could be guitarist, singers, bass players or drummers - and they wont all know the song in great detail, so the song sheet provides that info)

    Dont just copy tab from the internet - its difficult to read while playing the song at speed, usually takes up a lot of pages and is often incorrect.

    Youtube tuition videos are good sources of info as the tutor has to play and describe how to play the song - so you can hear if it sounds correct.

    Will revisit this once I have a good example to post.


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  • markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 841
    edited August 23

    On The Day

    Find the other people you are playing with (they will be listed on the song list, which is also usually posted in the jam thread before the event) and ask if they can run through the song with you in a practice room. Everyone is keen to help, so this will get you warmed up and you can check you are all starting and ending the song in the same way.

    If you need to play the song slightly slower - let everyone know (especially the drummer) - they will be happy to accommodate this.

    Check your guitar is in tune before you go into the jam room - most people will have a clip on tuner you can borrow.

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  • markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 841
    edited August 23

    After The Day

    There will often be videos and recordings posted. Listen to them and enjoy the fact you played live!

    Download the tracks and listen for your guitar parts -

    1) what went well?

    2) are there any bits that could be improved next time?

    3) How would you fix that for next time?

    Listen to the other songs - are there any you'd like to play on next time?

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  • munckeemunckee Frets: 2097
    This is really useful stuff Mark thanks for the effort, I have only done one and had remembered to stand up as I had only ever sat down playing.  What was very useful was @alnico sent me a video of comfortably numb which was the version he intended following the solo structure of.  He didn't end up making the jam but having been able to play along with the video made a huge difference.

    I fluffed it on the day for one part post the first solo, I didn't have a song sheet and the biggest thing as someone who had never played live was I wasn't prepared for the volume.  I was stood next to my amp because my lead was too short and opposite the amps of bass and lead which meant that was all I could hear.  The other thing I didn't think about on both my songs was I plugged a strat with low power pickups straight into the clean channel on the amp each time which meant I was ultra clean on both recordings.  Either an overdrive pedal or use the drive channel etc might have made a nicer sound.

    I was lucky when I got to water rats that I bumped straight into MTB and McToot who were both playing with me on my first song learning to fly, then @poopot sorted out the run through of comfy which you played on and was really useful - absolutely try and catch the people you are playing with for a quick rehearsal if you can - don't be afraid to approach anyone, there were no primma donnas on show, aside from Mark's dancing : )
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  • darthed1981darthed1981 Frets: 2364
    My tip would be a bit wishy washy and a bit less practical than the excellent advice above...

    Love it! 

    To quote the old advert "AVE IT"!

    You have put in all this effort to learn the basics of a musical instrument, spent your hard earned cash on gear, grown callouses on your fingertips, and these jams allow you to get out of the bedroom and playing with talented and experienced pros and semi-pros, at volume, sometimes recorded, even sometimes live to punters!

    The rest of us will give you all the help you need, but just remember however good anyone gets, it's the same basic passion for music and for playing that brings us all here, and there is a first time for everyone! :)

    I've done all the above (except the being a great player part) thanks to the TFB jams and the lovely people here, and we are all happy to help any "first timers" get the same experience.
    Warning: this post may contain overtly affectionate references to Mary Spender
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 16193
    I have one additional tip: Take the chance, put your name down, pick a song and come alon and do it - no matter how frightening the prospect!
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  • bigjonbigjon Frets: 640
    My top tip would be - as far as you have capacity, have a go at learning ALL the songs on the official list!

    You'll enjoy hearing how the others approach them, and you might find that the other two designated vocalists drop out with less than a day's notice and you end up singing 19 out of the 20 songs on the list ... ;-) (The honourable exception being DarthEd, who showed up like a trooper and smashed it, so I have yet to sing Plug In Baby in public) 
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  • bigjonbigjon Frets: 640
    bigjon said:
    My top tip would be - as far as you have capacity, have a go at learning ALL the songs on the official list!

    You'll enjoy hearing how the others approach them, and you might find that the other two designated vocalists drop out with less than a day's notice and you end up singing 19 out of the 20 songs on the list ... ;-) (The honourable exception being DarthEd, who showed up like a trooper and smashed it, so I have yet to sing Plug In Baby in public) 
    Just realised I've done a huge disservice to Legionreturns, who nobly signed up to sing Cupid's Dead and duly turned up to do it, rap and all
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  • markblagdonmarkblagdon Frets: 841
    bigjon said:
    bigjon said:
    My top tip would be - as far as you have capacity, have a go at learning ALL the songs on the official list!

    You'll enjoy hearing how the others approach them, and you might find that the other two designated vocalists drop out with less than a day's notice and you end up singing 19 out of the 20 songs on the list ... ;-) (The honourable exception being DarthEd, who showed up like a trooper and smashed it, so I have yet to sing Plug In Baby in public) 
    Just realised I've done a huge disservice to Legionreturns, who nobly signed up to sing Cupid's Dead and duly turned up to do it, rap and all
    I stood in on Learning to Fly At the last minute at Leicester - but enjoyed it so much I’ve sang at all the subsequent jams- so agree with being open to trying stuff!
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  • AlnicoAlnico Frets: 4227

    ....If you feel you need to simplify the part you're playing - do so. I only play one chord strum at each chord change when Im playing and singing (As I cant do both well at the moment) - theres other guitarists who can fill in any other bits, so dont feel pressured into trying stuff you arent happy with on the day. Thats why it helps to have had the run through in the practice rooms. Do your bit well, build your confidence and then learn and progress for the next jam.

    Practice playing the songs standing up! I even try playing them with my eyes closed - so I will one day not need to stare at the fretboard, this also stops you relying on the song sheet (as you cant see it!)!

    Mark that's a great post and I'll say publicly that I think you're one of the most highly organised players at a Jam session I've ever worked with. Everyone concerned could do very well by following your example and for someone who's just coming back to this after that many years, not only are you doing a bang up job of what you do but the organisation must help you incredibly. 

    I've quoted just one part of your post because I think those two points are some of the most important parts of what you said.

    We set things up so that there's always enough "Cover" within the room to give anyone who needs it some "Wiggle Room".
    That might be for, as you said, those who are singing at the same time or it might be that he player is so new to this that they lack speed or fluidity and that's fine too. Having two or even three guitarists playing keeps that "Wall of sound" up and helps the players feel more confident. 

    Confidence is 80% of this.

    The second point is just as important. 
    Play standing up at home.
    If you wear your guitar strap so high that it sits in the same position sitting or standing then this won't apply to you but most of us don't and if you saw me playing 'Comfortably Numb' you'll see this exact thing going wrong for me.

    I used the wrong strap ( Non-adjustable ) and it was set too long. It affected my stance, posture and ultimately my playing.
    I think I look awful on that video and there's a huge take away for me there too.

    I'll say it again, Mark B is one of the most organised and thorough Jam session players I've ever worked with and any players who are brand new to this would do very well following his example.

    Nice one Mark. 
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  • SnagsSnags Frets: 642
    Another top-tip:  there is absolutely no point in preparing large print cheat sheets for the songs (chords, structures, memory joggers) and then leaving the damn things on the printer, 200 miles away.

    Only a total arsehole would do that.
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  • BroccoBrocco Frets: 28
    As a hobbyist who has so far attended three tFB jams, and is signed up for another two, I would say that the break out rooms can be as valuable as the band experience in the live room. This is especially the case for anyone for whom playing with other guitarists at volume is something new (as it was for me). 

    These jams can also be a useful stepping stone to something else - in my case a local jam initiative that came together through meeting like-minded people from my neck of the woods at tFB jams. 

    Whatever your current playing ability, you cannot help but improve your knowledge by attending these jams, whether that is learning an unfamiliar song, trying out someone else's gear, or asking a more experienced player for guidance on a technique.
    Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him ~ James Allen
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  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 16193
    Brocco said:
    As a hobbyist who has so far attended three tFB jams, and is signed up for another two, I would say that the break out rooms can be as valuable as the band experience in the live room. This is especially the case for anyone for whom playing with other guitarists at volume is something new (as it was for me). 

    These jams can also be a useful stepping stone to something else - in my case a local jam initiative that came together through meeting like-minded people from my neck of the woods at tFB jams. 

    Whatever your current playing ability, you cannot help but improve your knowledge by attending these jams, whether that is learning an unfamiliar song, trying out someone else's gear, or asking a more experienced player for guidance on a technique.
    You can even try bass, drums or keys as well (eeek!)
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  • fandangofandango Frets: 1183
    Snags said:
    Another top-tip:  there is absolutely no point in preparing large print cheat sheets for the songs (chords, structures, memory joggers) and then leaving the damn things on the printer, 200 miles away.

    Only a total arsehole would do that.
    Yes, I know the feeling.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 3473
    You can even try bass
    You're only saying that to get me to change my mind about Worcester. :-p
    "It's no wonder the Pacific Ocean is blue."
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