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A Few Simple Tips: Jamming

Picture the scene: after swiping a few more (ok several more) potato chips from the huge bowl at the BBQ table and you eye the crumbs - that didn't reach your mouth - to the ground, you are jolted by the familiar sound of a guitar - boink! - against a hard surface somewhere within range.

The moment has arrived - the 'Jam Session'.

To save your hands getting clammy with excitement/anticipation/anxiety/terror, let's talk about some tips to help you figure out - quickly - whether you want to head up to the stage and jam-m-m-m-m-m.

Choose simple songs that others will either know, or can simply be called out to the other musicians during the jam session for a quick rendition. Happy Birthday, one Christmas Carol, one Eagles song should just about cover you!

Always ask the key and the tempo of the song about to be played, especially if you don't know it. There's nothing more nerve-wracking then realising you've started the song not knowing what shapes or timing to play.

If you are leading a song - and by that, I mean singing - centre yourself enough so that you can figure out the starting note of the song. Play the chord first, and hum the first note that you can hear (this does take practise...). For surety, you might even play the note aloud so everyone in your jam session can hear, allowing them to centre themselves in the song as well, just by hearing/listening.

If you are in the middle of a song where it's almost your turn to solo (aarrrgghhh!!!) but you're turning blue with nerves, simply play the relevant chord as a one strum on the first beat of the bar for about 8 bars, OR play the chords as single notes (not strumming every single time).

Don't be afraid to use the guitar as a percussion instrument! Use the base of your palm to hit against the hollow closest to the sound hole on the guitar body. You'd be surprised at how this can make a song more dynamic and will catch audience attention away from the potato chip bowl.

When you are leading a song, always count in one bar at the tempo at which you wish to play so that the other musos can start at the same time - it's a courtesy thing...

Lastly, always have a definitive ending of a song so people know when to clap/jeer/stop crowd-surfing/grab another drink.

The most important thing in a jam session is have fun! The way best to do this is to always make eye contact with your fellow musicians when mid-song. It will draw you, them, the instruments, the music and your audience closer together.

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