Tips for Joining Your First Jam Session

jam session

One of the best ways to improve your musical skills and boost your stage confidence is jamming. If you’ve never joined a jam session before, it’s easy to feel like you’re either not ready or not “good enough” (or both!). However, participating in a jam session doesn’t require you to have 10 years of experience or to be a musical expert. In fact, anyone with an instrument can jam.

Here are a few tips to ensure your first jam session is a fun and rewarding experience.

1. Choose the right players.

One of the main goals of jamming is for everyone to grow together. It’s important to practice with people who have a playing level similar to yours. Otherwise, you’ll risk turning your jam session into a frustrating event where one player constantly chases after the others and slows down the group’s progress.

2. Respect others while jamming.

Don’t be a diva – this is not only rude, but it also annoys other musicians. Jamming isn’t about showing off or competing for that #1 spot. Rather, it’s about nurturing and supporting each other.

Respect people during their solos if you want the same respect in return.

3. It’s OK to not play in every song.

There will be songs you don’t know or like. Instead of judging others’ taste or playing wrong chords and lines, take a break. Sing along, drink some water, tune your instrument, and just enjoy watching others play.

4. Know the key and its scale.

Always make sure you understand the songs’ chord progressions. In general, jam songs consist of just 3 or 4 chords, which is perfect for beginners. Avoid selecting songs with too many chords that no one knows.  

5. Let the song leader lead.

Relax and follow the song leader to wherever he or she wishes, even if it means changing the tunes and lyrics. The whole point of a jam session is to experiment and have fun.

6. Listen as much as you play.

Jamming requires teamwork. It’s essential to make others sound better, not just yourself. You will learn to appreciate others’ playing and learn a few things from listening to different sounds that don’t come from your instrument.

Knowing when to play and when to listen is what keeps everyone together.

7. Welcome mistakes.

In many ways, jamming is about trial and error. It should be a positive experience rather than a grudging one. Try not to beat yourself up if you hit a few wrong notes. A jam session is the perfect place to make mistakes – you should become comfortable with them.

Moreover, most of the time, nobody will realize you’ve screwed up unless you stop playing because of (what you perceive as) a mistake.

8. Set goals for the next jam session.

After your first jam session, it’s a good idea to start preparing for your second one. The key is to identify any gaps that need to be bridged. Was there a tune you couldn’t play? Learn it. Was your playing too fast or too slow? Adjust your tempo.

Establishing clear goals helps keep you on the right track and gives everyone a reason to look forward to the next session.

Jamming is one of the best ways to enhance your playing skills and create a bond between band members. That said, understanding the “do’s” and “don’t’s” to follow when you’re joining a jam session will take you a long way. We hope your first jamming experience will be a fun and fulfilling one!

What’s been your experience with jamming? Do you have any tips for first-timers?

Share with us in the comments below.

About Christopher Sutton

Christopher Sutton is the Founder ofEasy Ear Training and Musical U where musicians candiscover and develop their natural musicality. Born and raised in London, England, he lives with his wife, daughter, and far too many instruments.

2 comments

RIP Leonard Cohen… No mere troubadour, but a true Bard!

“We are so small between the stars; so large against the sky…”

Oh… about the jam sessions:

Best keys to play for acoustic jam sessions are C, G and D because everyone knows these open chords AND there’s a LOT of really cool songs in those keys… and not all of them are ‘folk-songs’ either! 😀

For electrics, for blues, rock’n’roll etc, probably E or A is best, but it’s really less important as the same scales are used in any key, just at different positions along the neck. Generally, I think I’d prefer to take an acoustic to a first jam, rather than an electric, anyway, because that way if you louse up you do it considerably less loudly, so you stand a better chance of no-one noticing… (much!)

Don’t get ‘defensive’ if some-one says you’ve played a bum chord, or sung a bum note; be polite; thank them for showing you your error and get them to show you the correct note/chord and use it as a learning experience: It’s impossible to teach anyone who thinks they know it all already! And it’s impossible to learn anything if you

Try not to be an asshole or a ‘diva’… there are no superstars in jam-sessions, just people out to have a bit of fun with music; and you’ll find you get more out of the music if you try to appreciate the other musicians and their contribution at least as much as your own… and, above all, LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL! 😀

1) Most important question(s) ALWAYS: how much can you learn — how open is your heart, your mind and your ears — when you remember it’s simply about enjoying and learning, it becomes MUCH easier to let go of your ego (pride).

2) When learning AND PLAYING songs — THINK ANALYTICALLY — learn chord patterns RELATED TO THE KEY YOU’RE IN — not just “Okay, this is a Dmin7 chord” but “ok, this is Dm7, the song’s in C, so it’s a 2m7 (IIm7) in C, which means if we do the song in key of E, the 2m7 chord is F#m7” — learn your major scales (pattern is W W H W W W H), relate the chord to the scale, and you’ll be miles ahead — good simple straightforward book is “Nashville Number System” by Chas. Williams — In my book, smart and humble beats fast loud and proud EVERY DAY!

3) Enjoy!!! imho, music is our highest level language, and just about the best gift God has ever given us (“Just About”)

I’ve been “doing music”for 60 years now (started age 5), and Music STILL makes me smile and cry, STILL captures my heart, my attention, my imagination — it’s SUCH an amazing thing — good luck, and GO FOR IT!!! 🙂

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