The 3 R’s to Getting On-Stage at a Jam

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by Jeff Scheetz, TrueFire’s Director of Education

jam-sessionDo you want to get up onstage and play? The answer should be a resounding YES! “But wait,” you say, “I’m not ready!”

I have taught thousands of students and I can say that none of them were ever “ready” in their minds. If you wait until you think you are ready you will never do it! In my course Blues Jam Survival Guide, I cover every angle of what you need to be prepared for jumping onstage at a blues jam, whether you are a first timer or someone who is already a jammer.

There are tons of great tips in there from other veteran jammers, and many musical examples to help build your confidence and get you onstage. That is a great resource to get you ready, but let’s break the steps down to the simplest form — the 3 “R’s” to getting on-stage at a jam:

1. Research

Find local jam nights in your area by searching on the internet, talking to musician friends or local music stores or looking in local entertainment papers. Once you locate a couple, go out and watch. Find the one that you feel the most comfortable at. Leave your guitar at home, this is just getting the vibe and taking a few notes. Pay attention to what songs they play, how many people get up, if there is a house band, what the sign up process is like, and just the overall etiquette.

Doing this will familiarize yourself with the whole process so that you won’t feel like a fish out of water when you finally decide to make the jump into a jam.

2. Rehearse

Now that you have a feel for the jam you will be attending, it’s time to do your homework. Pick out 3 or 4 songs that you know get played at this jam and learn them. If they are songs that are played in various keys, try to learn to play them in a couple of different ones. Learn both the lead AND the rhythm part, you never know which you will be playing or who you will be playing with. Simplify parts if you have to – it is much better to get up and play a simple part that stays in the groove than to try something that you rarely get right.

The most important thing I can tell you is to practice standing up! You won’t be sitting down onstage, so don’t practice that way!

3. Rumble

As in “Let’s get ready to RUUUUUUUMBLE!” Sure, getting up onstage is probably a big deal for you. But remember, you will be up there with other players who do this all the time, so you are in good hands. Just go in and sign up with the jam host and wait for your turn (and maybe have a beer — but only 1!).

The most important thing when you are onstage is communication and paying attention. Don’t worry if you make a mistake – that is what happens at jam nights, nobody will boo you off the stage. If things go great, smile and have a good time (and have a few more beers). If things go bad, smile and have a good time (and have many more beers). Of course the main thing is to have fun!

I guarantee that if you follow this formula, your jamming experience will be more successful and more memorable. You CAN do this! See you on stage!

Have any other jam tips of your own? Feel free to share them in the comments!



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