How to Have a Jam Session

A jam session is a group of like-minded musicians meeting to play familiar music or experiment with improvisation. Start jamming with these tips.

Instructions

  • Step 1: Lead the way as the host, cueing musicians on when to start and when to wind it down. Jams sessions can go on for hours, so look for a good time to wrap things up.
  • FACT: Minton's Playhouse in New York was famous for its Monday-night jam sessions featuring jazz greats like Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s and early 1950s.
  • TIP: Start with chord progressions in an agreed upon key to kick things off.
  • Step 2: Choose the music for your session. It may be familiar tunes that everyone knows and can play, or everyone taking turns playing different songs. You might have instrumentals only or a mix of vocal tracks and instrumentals. Decide if everyone will take turning soloing or all playing together.
  • Step 3: Consider what instruments your friends will bring. Decide how many of which instruments you want.
  • Step 4: Decide on the format. Some jams are performance oriented and highly organized with players taking turns playing around a circle. Others are more free form and experimental, with very little structure and with players riffing on a general theme.
  • Step 5: Find a good location for your jam. A basement or garage with drums and amps already set up is ideal. Or look into a community center, school, or studio space.

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