TECH TIPS: Value Of The Jam Session

Warwick endorse Lex Sadler was nice enough to drop some knowledge on the importance of the jam session, its impact on your playing and we cant agree more.

Jamming is a big part of just about every player’s growth — it’s almost like training and a good part of a practice regime. Normally this happens behind closed doors in the rehearsal room or with a small group of friends. Anything goes, and the main point of the jam is to experiment and have fun.

Sometimes jam sessions occur outside in the real world. In fact, I cut my teeth in New York and built most of my musical reputation and network through playing a regular hip hop jam session. To begin with I’d simply attend, listen, and observe what other players were doing and how the session ran in general. Finally I was asked to sit in and play. Now I wouldn’t call it a disaster, but I wouldn’t say it was great either. I was way too funky for a start, overplaying, and not really paying attention to the MCs or the other players. I was so excited to be performing and having the opportunity to show what I could do, that I forgot what was important — listening.

Ultimately this is why so many jam sessions simply deteriorate into a mess of sound — we get so far into our own space and indulgence that we don’t listen or react to what’s going on around us. In some cases it’s because of ego, but most commonly because of inexperience. Thanks to the advice from other players at this particular session, I quickly discovered what I was doing wrong. I went home and studied the genre, and absorbed as much of the music as I could. I learned the nuances of feel, timing and tone, and how simplicity and space could establish a groove anyone could get down to. Sitting in the next time was a different story. I really had to discipline myself to lay back, play less and leave more space. Needless to say the reaction from my bandmates, the crowd, and the MCs we were supporting was far more positive than before.

Eventually I would take over the gig from the house bassist for a period of a year, allowing other bass players to sit in. I would see many of the same mistakes I made, but later the self-awareness and restraint required to improve. As I said before: great training.
Jams are a great way to enter the music ‘scene’, and can quickly establish you as a player around town. Just remember to take your time before you sit in, learn and respect the genre you’re performing and always put the greater sound first — it’s not all about showing off your chops.

You can check out more about Lex HERE.

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