Why you should always jam with other musicians
Thinking back to when I first started playing all those years ago. My biggest regret was not finding other guitarists to jam with. Maybe I was insecure about my own ability, and didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of anybody, I don’t know. All I know is that the first 4/5 years I could count on one hand the amount of people that I had jammed with. I could count on two hands the amount of people I played in front of.
Playing and practising in isolation does two things. Firstly you get a false impression of your own ability. It’s easy to play for yourself, alone in your room away from prying eyes and ears. Nobody can criticise you or tell you something you don’t want to hear. So you end up believing you are better than you are. Secondly you miss out on one of the most important aspects of learning, of what being a musician is about, performance.
Think of all the gigs you have been to, the musicians you see on stage, on TV, in books and magazines. What is the one thing they all have in common? They all either play within a band or if solo, they still play in front of an audience.
If you have never played in a band context before, the first time is a rude awakening. You will find it hard to keep in time with the drummer, and you will find the other instruments pretty off putting. This will cause your playing to suffer and will raise anxiety levels resulting in frustration and a loss of enjoyment.
It doesn’t have to be like this though. The best way to make sure you never experience this is to practice jamming with someone. Just having a friend round with whom you can play with; will have a massive improvement in your timing, rhythm and overall enjoyment with your guitar playing.
Then when it comes to playing within a band, you will have the rhythm and timing skills to jump right in and play with increased confidence.
The important thing to remember, is when choosing someone make sure they are of similar ability or preferably better than you. We learn quicker when our comfort zone is challenged slightly, but not so much that we feel out of our depth.
This is one of the reasons why having a guitar teacher is so rewarding. Yes anyone can go on the internet and get some tabs and chord sheets, but having someone in front of you who can coach you and raise your playing level is a far better learning experience.
Where to find other musicians?
- The internet – Perhaps the most logical way to find new musicians to jam with is online. There are many good sites for this, such as Bandmix, Myspace and Gumtree. You can either look for other people or maybe set up your own advert.
- School/college/Uni – The best part of education is that you are surrounded by hundreds, even thousands of people of similar age. You can use the noticeboards to advertise for band mates or even use their social events to meet new people.
- Friends/colleagues – Know anybody already who plays an instrument? If not maybe encourage a friend to start learning too.
- Guitar teachers – We are paid to improve your playing ability, so a teacher will always focus on you and help you to improve. I personally always try to play along with my students during every lesson.
If you have trouble finding someone to jam with, then in the meantime it is a good idea to play along to backing tracks and cd’s. It’s obviously not as personal but you still get to experience professional quality musicians and this will help your rhythm playing if nothing else.
If there is one thing I want you to take away from this, is don’t leave it too late to start jamming. It is the most enjoyable part of being a guitarist and if you want to get good, then you have to do it sooner or later so it may as well be now.