So you want to go to a blues jam and get on stage? That's great. Then this guide may be for you. But be forewarned. I'm not writing this for people out there that think a blues jam is just another open-mic opportunity. And this guide isn't for people who think of a jam as simply a public practice session. This is a guide for musicians who want to understand how a jam works and how to get the most out of it. In a nutshell, this is a guide on how not to look like a poser at a blues jam.
Blues jams are older than I am. They've been going on since before I was born when blues was being invented. The formula isn't very complicated, and that's part of the secret of it. But there is no denying that this is an American tradition with deep roots in our history. And it's power and influence can be felt around the world today.
So what is a blues jam and how does it work? Basically, a blues jam a gathering of musicians in a public venue who share a love of traditional American roots music, specifically blues. Typically there is a host band that starts off the show. Then, throughout the night, the band leader will bring up some of the musicians in the audience to play various instruments in the band. For instance, he may bring up a guitar player and a singer. Or he may just bring up a drummer. It depends on a number of factors. But in general, he's trying to get everyone a chance to play while trying to put the best groups together to keep it entertaining for the crowd.
To the uninitiated, this can sound like a recipe for disaster. But the secret is in the simplicity. Not all songs are good candidates for a blues jam. And most band leaders are pretty good at figuring out who knows the blues formula and who doesn't. Their job is to make sure this goes smoothly. And if they've been doing it for a while, you can bet they know what's going to work.
If you are a musician and you want to go to a blues jam, here are a few simple guidelines that will help you hit the ground running and avoid the most obvious pitfalls.
What To Bring:
What Not To Bring:
If you follow these guidelines, you will get the most out of a blues jam. The other musicians will accept you as a peer. You will get more playing time. And if you are lucky, you will experience the pure magic that happens when you get lightning in a bottle and the stars align on stage. It's truly a blessing that happens every once in a while. And hopefully, you will avoid as many of the train wrecks as possible.
Thanks for stopping by. If you would like to listen to some of my playing (some of it at local blues jams) simply go to:
Your friend in the blues,