Starting A Jam Session

When joining a jam, listen, and generally observe what is going on before jumping in. Find a place where you would feel comfortable and join in. Less is more when drumming. Donít over play.

When we are in "freestyle" jam mode and we are asked to just "start something" at the beginning of a gig, this is absolutely critical. After all, we were appearing in public. Here's the deal, as I see it. When someone starts a rhythm, a beat, or whatever you want to call it, it is up to that person to do these things: stick to your convictions and play it like you mean it, and play steady, steady, steady, and keep it up until others have joined you, and then don't drop out or change anything (if at all) until things are running smoothly with all or most members comfortably playing their accompaniments to whatever you started. When you are able to do that, you are absolutely within your rights to "start something" for the group. This is the first step in avoiding that half-hearted noodling around in public, while three other people are also doing that, with no one in synch with anyone else or apparently even aware of the cacaphony---yuk. Agreed?

Here's the second step.

A person gives a strong start, and is sticking with it, steadily and confidently. Now the rest of the group needs to chime in, each one as he or she is ready. Ready means: 'I understand what the originator of this rhythm is playing, and I have an accompanying rhythm that I can add that will augment it. I can play it with conviction and a steady beat, so it won't throw anyone off.' With each successive person who enters, the same process unfolds. Only play when you're really ready.

If you made a miscalculation, drop out quickly and wait for a new inspiration. One great way to avoid making an initial miscalculation obvious to anyone else is to tap out your idea lightly with your fingertips to make sure of what you're doing (handing and all the rest, if you're not sure) until you're ready to come in at normal volume.

Following these guidelines should help guarantee that we don't start out with a train wreck. I hope this helps.