As September begins, musicians worldwide are headed to Kansas for the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield! This festival is known as "Picker's Paradise" because of its constant campground music-making-merriment. At any given time, you can hear dozens of musicians "jamming" together. To help you join in the fun, I compiled the following list of Jam Session Tools a few years ago.
Tool #1: Prepare in advance
Learn chords. Be able to play in multiple keys.
Know standard chord progressions.
Learn basic guitar chord shapes so you can "read hands".
Tape-record yourself and play along or practice with a metronome.
Make a list of tunes you are comfortable leading.
Tool #2: Observe
Does everyone play lead together or do people take breaks?
Is there a jam leader or do they just pass things around the circle?
What style of music are they playing?
The best spot to sit in a jam is to the right of the jam leader.
Tool #3: Jump In
Ask if you can join the jam.
Make sure you are in tune before you start playing.
Start on the outside of the circle and work your way into the center.
LISTEN!! LISTEN!! LISTEN!!
Tool #4: Ask Questions
What key are you in?
Are there any unusual chords?
Tool #5: When it is your turn to lead
Name the tune and see if others know it.
Tell the key and any unusual chords.
Be prepared to tell the chord progression.
Follow the format of the jam.
Tool #6: Use every opportunity to learn something new
Jam with better players than you and watch what they do.
Take breaks, even if you are not completely sure of yourself.
Tool #7: Enjoy!
Have fun, no matter what.
If you mess up, it's okay… keep playing.
*If all else fails, you can always use the, "Oh no! I broke a string!" line!*
I'll also be leading an Instructional Jam Session at the Warm-Up Picnic, where I'll be guiding you through this process and helping you gain confidence to jump into any jam! I'm usually jamming in the Pecan Grove during the festival, so come find me and play a tune or two!
Your crazy jamming VP,