How to Jam with Other Musicians

Intimidating!! Even my brother (who is a guitar ninja) says this about jam sessions. Pressure to perform and be genius and mush your vibes with someone else and it could all clash like hell. Gulp gulp. Here's what I do to get the ball rolling at my jam sessions these days:

Cha Wilde + Spence Hood Jammin' at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle

Cha Wilde + Spence Hood Jammin' at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle

I set up a casual hang out with a musician. We grab coffee, sit in the park or cheers whiskey in their living room. We talk for a while and then eventually pick up guitars and start mindlessly plucking on them.

I suggest that we each perform a song for the other so we can hear what we're working with, feel the vibes and warm up the juices. Then either one person plays a song they know and the other person harmonizes or jumps in when inspired OR someone just starts playing around with a chord progression.

Naturally, someone will start playing a rhythm or chord progression this is catchy and whoever it is, doesn't matter. It's like hunting; we're both searching through the forest and whoever spots something first zeros in and squeezes the other person on the shoulder to say, "hey look at this."

Once one person has a steady beat going, the other can start to chime in with a pluck or a strum or a fun lyric. Usually, we're kinda shy and we mumble and fumble around until something more solid forms and we build confidence and start singing louder and louder. And then it will switch. The chimer-inner will find a natural pause in the music and sing or play louder or take everything in a new direction and now they're the leader. I love taking my jam buddy's lyrics or chord and tweaking it slightly. This makes it possible for us to build something together. They feel good because I liked their idea enough to use it. I put my own spin on it to see what else is possible and to inspire them to take it back and fuck it up again! Back and forth until it feels really groovy. 

At some point, suddenly we're flowing. It's weird because I'll realize we're playing a song. It sounds beautiful. The lyrics work. Are we really just coming up with this on the spot? I start thinking and celebrating too much and get distracted and the song flops. I dropped the ball. We go quiet and talk about music goals, social media and touring. We tell some silly stories and watch someone play catch with their dog and one of us will say "Wanna hear a song I'm working on? Maybe you could help me with the lyrics?" and then we do that for a while. 

Jammin' used to be too scary. I didn't have anything to bring to the table. Now I want to jam everyday because I'm seeing results -- cooler ideas than I could have come up with on my own, friends helping me move roadblocks in the songs I'm writing, a beautiful harmony and sound creation that only happens with two live guitars or voices together (way better than playing alone in my bedroom -- way way better)! If you're one step behind me and feeling nervous to jam, my best advice is the only advice (and the suckiest) you just gotta fucking do it. Be embarrassed and awkward for a while. Own it. Be open about it. Tell musicians you're learning how to jam and you need guidance. That's what I did and now I can't wait till my next jam session (it's in 12 hours hehe). I'm just a little tadpole in this music pond and I'm already bubbling up with confidence after just a few jam sessions. You got this!

DiaryCha WildeComment