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So I'm looking at sitting in on an open blues jam session this Wednesday. I've never actually done it before (every time I've played in the past has been with a school group) so I'm not entirely sure what to expect. Does anyone have any advice?
 

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So I'm looking at sitting in on an open blues jam session this Wednesday. I've never actually done it before (every time I've played in the past has been with a school group) so I'm not entirely sure what to expect. Does anyone have any advice?
Do a lot of observing. Watch how the other players hang, talk to the band, and eventually go up and play. If there is a list to put your name on make sure you do that. I think the big thing is that you try to relax and be a part of the hang. Don't be that guy who just comes in, doesn't really listen/buy anything/talk to anyone/etc. plays, then leaves. Enjoy yourself!
 

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If it's a true blues jam I would have a heads up for keys. These guys may call your sharp keys on the far end of the keys. By that, I mean F# or C# etc. If you can call the tunes, make sure these guys are comfortable in your keys, which may be different from what they're used to.
 

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My philosophy on blues/rock jams is this: If you're going to suck, suck loud.

Nothing worse than timid little attempts to blend in.

And like Dave says- get into the mix of the thing, move a little, get a feel then when it's time to cut loose have at it. Then shut up and appreciate and groove on what the other guys are doing.
 

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Yeah. Been to a few. Haha.
Good to check it out for a while before you step up.
Watch who runs things on stage, eye contact, solo order
And length, details like that so you will know what to do.
Good to know ahead of time a couple of the tunes they like to do.
Really good. Kind of essential, even.
Good to be able to play in guitar-friendly keys.
Good to be easygoing. Flexible. Accommodating. Patient.
Even better to play your best when it is your turn.

Have fun! Be a fun and valuable addition to the event.

dsm
 

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Oh, yes. SHADDUP when other folks are soloing.

A little respect usually earns some in return.


dsm
 

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Oh, yes. SHADDUP when other folks are soloing.

A little respect usually earns some in return.


dsm
100000%

Honestly some people don't get it. If someone else is playing, this is NOT an invitation for you to turn to the side and figure out a line, practice in the "hard" key, warm up, etc. That's super disrespectful and just rude- DON'T DO IT!!
 

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Lots of good advice here....as was mentioned, be ready to play in F#, C# and B....and smile....make friends...they can smell fear.... :)
 

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Oh, yes. SHADDUP when other folks are soloing.

A little respect usually earns some in return.


dsm
Also while the singer is singing.

Unless it's just a shot on the chord change or a very tasteful little line. There are a lot of horn blues lines that you'll learn over the years. But it'll take a while.
 

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Have fun.

When not playing, smile and pay attention.

Find something nice to say about the other players.

Play well within your limits...when in doubt - leave it out.

If at all possible - leave your audience wanting more.

Thank the host.
 

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So much good advice here! Things like "thank the host" might seem obvious, but I probably didn't do that the first time I went to a jam, and I wish I had. I can only second everything that's been said: make sure you know blues and pentatonic scales/licks in all keys, especially the guitar friendly keys (E and A mostly, but also D and G). Take short solos, watch for non-verbal cues, act like you're enjoying yourself, and be nice.
 

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I think I'm having a panic attack. I know what I'll be focusing on with my instructor this week...
No need for panic. Have you gone to the jam and sat and listened to what tunes are being played, how long the solos are, etc? it might be a good idea to go and do that first so you have some idea what you're getting into. Also do you know the standard 12 bar blues progression in most keys (ideally all keys, but that's not necessary to at least get started)? And the pentatonic and minor blues scales of course.

And just to clarify, I think some of the posters above are referring to the sax key when they say F#, C#, etc. MLucky mentioned concert keys (E, A, etc). The jammers will be speaking in concert key, so here are the concert keys you are most likely to encounter: E, A, G, C, D. If there are some really good blues players, including guitarists, you can add the concert keys of F, Bb, & Ab, since many 'classic' blues tunes are in those keys as well. Note I'm speaking of concert key; you'll have to transpose those to your sax (you don't mention whether you play tenor or alto). Hopefully you're familiar with this, but just in case, on tenor transpose up a whole step, on alto go down a minor 3rd or up a major 6th (so key of concert E will be F# on tenor, C# on alto, concert A will be B on tenor, F# on alto, etc.).

At their best, jam sessions can be a lot of fun and provide a great training ground. Some are better than others, of course, and they will vary considerably depending on who's on stage at any given time, especially on who's playing bass & drums (the two most important components). Don't be bashful, just go for it and learn from your mistakes. It's not brain surgery; no one will die if you screw up!

Oh one last thing, the volume will likely be so loud no one can hear you when you make a mistake. :) Hopefully you'll be able to hear yourself, but don't count on it. On a positive note, that's not always the case...either way you'll gain valuable experience and maybe make some connections, etc.
 

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Yeah, I know he means the sax keys when he says C#, etc. I’m on alto. And sure, I know the basic 12 bar, (I played in school) along with one or two variations of Quick IV. I was shedding the Blues Scales in all keys across the full range, recently.
 

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No need for panic. ...snip....
concert keys you are most likely to encounter: E, A, G, C, D. If there are some really good blues players, including guitarists, you can add the concert keys of F, Bb, & Ab,

Oh one last thing, the volume will likely be so loud no one can hear you when you make a mistake. :) Hopefully you'll be able to hear yourself, but don't count on it. On a positive note, that's not always the case...either way you'll gain valuable experience and maybe make some connections, etc.
All good stuff....

The volume thing can be more daunting than you might imagine. I used to think that once I nailed something in the studio, I could play it live. This is not the case at all. Being unable to hear yourself play is a huge mind-#$&*.

Ear plugs helped me to learn to deal with that.
 

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Lots of good advice here....as was mentioned, be ready to play in F#, C# and B....and smile....make friends...they can smell fear.... :)
Yesterday the lead Guitar/ Singer called out a tune in F. Within a half a second I knew that he actually meant F#. I turned to the bass player who was still playing in F and told him.

Gotta be ready for that stuff too.
 

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All good stuff....

The volume thing can be more daunting than you might imagine. I used to think that once I nailed something in the studio, I could play it live. This is not the case at all. Being unable to hear yourself play is a huge mind-#$&*.

Ear plugs helped me to learn to deal with that.
Most venues will have a microphone for a sax player to sit in. Whether or not you can hear yourself (or if the audience can hear you) is a totally different matter though.

Hopes are that if they have a PA there's someone who can do your sound quickly in between sets.
 

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I think I'm having a panic attack. I know what I'll be focusing on with my instructor this week...
Don't worry. Very few guitar players will venture into C#, F#. The majority of songs will be in E A G and D and possibly the minor versions, with the occasional B in there.
Songs that always come up are:
Mustang Sally (arghh .. I hate that song so bad that I usually step out)
The Thrill Is Gone (easy one but usually played in B minor)
Ain't no sunshine
Taking care of business (not really blues but it always comes up)
Breathe in the air (not blues either but )
The Breeze
Can't you see (Marshall Tucker)
The Letter
Spooky (check out the David Sanborn version)
Little Wing
Texas Flood (SRV)

Sometimes you got some Santana fans who want to sound just like the original (Black magic woman, Oye como va) but hardly anyone will play Europa.

If you are lucky they will play Stormy Monday
If you are not so lucky, somebody will start with "Turn the page" - the most boring song in the universe - just because there is finally a sax player ...
And then somebody will start Into the Mystic but in the D-scale, just to annoy the hell out of you (no because guitar players can't do Eb ...)

If you manage to hit a good solo for only one of the songs, you are in business.
Make sure you don't step on the vocalist and only play some fills in between the lines instead of trying to harmonize and watch out for the singer calling the solos (round robin)

You'll be fine, good luck!
 

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Don't worry. Very few guitar players will venture into C#, F#. The majority of songs will be in E A G and D and possibly the minor versions, with the occasional B in there.
Yeah, I think we cleared that up in the posts above. I think it's a really good idea to always talk in concert key to avoid confusion when communicating with other musicians. Even with other horn players I always speak in concert key on the bandstand.

Regarding "Thrill is Gone" yes, that's a common tune called at a blues jam (and a really great tune, imo) and it's normally played in (concert) B minor. Regardless of key the thing to know about that tune is on the turnaround (bars 9 & 10) the chords are bVI7 / V7 / (instead of V-IV), which is not uncommon in a minor blues.
 

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Regarding "Thrill is Gone" yes, that's a common tune called at a blues jam (and a really great tune, imo) and it's normally played in (concert) B minor. Regardless of key the thing to know about that tune is on the turnaround (bars 9 & 10) the chords are bVI7 / V7 / (instead of V-IV), which is not uncommon in a minor blues.
Exactly, and it is all about knowing where a song is going.

On a side note, I find it always fascinating to watch the facial contortions of the lead guitar players ... the more they twitch, the worse they sound (not always but often enough)
 
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