Jamming is one of the most important parts of playing music. If you ever wondered why famous players sound really good and natural, one of the main reasons is jamming. But what is jamming? The jam is a semi-improvised performance. Musicians will usually play improvisation over the chord progression. While jamming can also mean simple playing and practicing with other musicians, it is possible to jam alone and as a part of the performance. Many musicians and bands (especially jazz) will include the jam session as a part of their concert where they can improvise a bit and show the “unscripted” side of their playing.
There are several important things about jamming that you need to know before you can dive deeper into the guitar playing. You will need to do your homework before you can start playing with other people. Otherwise, you will fall behind or completely miss the whole band.
It is important to mention that you can jam both on acoustic and electric guitar. Furthermore, you can jam on any instrument but for now, we will focus only on guitar (both acoustic and electric). While jamming is not only improvising, improvisation has a huge part in the blues and jazz jam sessions.
Learn Guitar Chords
It is impossible to play guitar without learning chords. You will have to learn at least beginners’ guitar chords in order to play the songs. Chords serve as a foundation of every song, and you’ll have to have an understanding of them before you dive deeper into jamming and improvisation. Most of the songs will not be extremely complex and difficult to play. Furthermore, the simpler songs will have three or four different chords that will create a foundation for the rest of the music. By knowing and understanding the basics, you will be able to play around them better and have fun while playing the songs you like.
If you are still not familiar with all the basic guitar chords, then check out my post Beginners Guitar Chords – The Ultimate Beginners Guide
Learn Chord Progressions
All chords are built a certain way, and adding them in sequences will enable you to create music on your own. Luckily enough, this isn’t rocketing science and basic chord progressions are available in the form of charts and schematics that will allow you to mix different keys and create songs by yourself.
Both easy and complex songs are built on music theory and some kind of chord progression. Learning this will make everything a bit easier and you will be able to play with the chords you already learned.
If you wish to learn more about chord progression, check out my post 24 Guitar Chord Progression You Must Learn (Common, Rock, Sad, Jazz)
Practice Rhythm Guitar (Strumming Patterns, Riffs)
Now, when you have all the chords and all the progressions set up, you will need the next piece of the puzzle to create something amazing. The last bit is the rhythm. The rhythm is what is appealing to listeners and the whole song is created around it. You will need to have an understanding of the rhythms, time signatures, and tempo if you want to jam with other people.
Usually, bands will have bass and drums as a rhythm section or rhythm machine. The next layer would be a rhythm guitar. By playing some kind of rhythm with the chord progressions, you will be able to create a groove and give all of that theory some life. Depending on the genre you play, you will use certain strumming techniques, riffs, or anything else that will help you create a vibe of the song.
If you are not sure what riffs you should practice, then check out my post 33 Famous & Easy Electric Guitar Beginners Riffs With Tabs
Practice Lead Guitar
The last piece of the song puzzle would be the lead guitar. Lead guitar is probably the main reason every one of us started learning the guitar. Listening to guitar legends like Clapton and B.B. King, made us think that all of that is magical.
Playing solo guitar over rhythm is not an easy thing to master. But the basics are rather simple. The whole process is based on using different scales. There are different types of scales like Minor, Major, Blues, Pentatonic, and many many more. Learning at least some of these scales will allow you to play your own solo over the existing rhythms. Furthermore, it will make it easier for you to learn a new song when you understand how that song is built.
While this part might be the hardest one so far, it will surely give great results if you practice it enough. Whether you are playing back or lead guitar, you will be able to add an additional flavor to the song if you know your scales.
Learning Keys And Music Theory
Now, many players would agree, but learning guitar music theory is a great way to expand your knowledge and improve your playing. Understanding how something works will allow you to go even further than you ever thought possible. Every song is played in some key and learning them will allow you to play the solo accordingly. For example, if the key of the song is A minor, you could play a solo through A minor scale.
Of course, there are other options as well, but that would be for more advanced lessons. Through music theory, you will be able to go beyond learning chord shapes and create your own chords or modify them if you want to. You will never be able to forget a shape when you understand how chords are built. And, you can use theory for so much more.
While it is not required of you to become an expert in the field, learning some basic music theory will get you further. Many modern music genres are inspired by classical music and more advanced playing. Of course, depending on the type of music you love, you will go in that direction and learn things that are more related to you. However, you can always experiment and add more and choose a different approach to create something new and unique.
If you wish to learn more about music theory, then check out my post Guitar Music Theory In-Depth Basics
Learn Your Instrument
One of the most important things when it comes to playing the guitar is getting to know your instrument. If you know what those knobs do and how sound is created, you will be able to create things easier.
It is always a great thing when you are comfortable with your guitar and when you know every part of it. Learning names of the strings, where some note is located on the fretboard, adjusting everything to your own liking, etc. All of these things will let you play easier and more comfortable.
Take your time and study your guitar, practice, and in time, you’ll be able to play it as it has always been a part of you. In addition, everything you play will sound more natural and more appealing to the listeners.
When you are more familiar with every part of your guitar, you will be able to modify things to your own needs. Who knows, you might like heavier or lighter strings more, different pickups, different tone settings.
Play Along To Real Songs
The next thing would be to practice playing with real recordings. You will need to do this as often as possible to be able to feel the song. Besides, you will be able to hear it played perfectly, and you would be able to practice with the “real band”. This will help you perfect your tempo, rhythm, and everything.
Without learning and fully understanding this, you might rush or drag while playing with the real band. One of the most important things while playing with the real band is that all of the members play in the same key and at the same tempo. Otherwise, it would sound chaotic and not really nice for the ears.
Practicing real songs is a great way to improve yourself and get to understand music better. You could always use famous bands and guitar players as your own teachers.
If you can’t find your next song to play, then check out my list 15 Famous Easy Guitar Songs With 3 Chords For Beginners
Find Musicians With Similar Music Interest
The next step in the perfect jam session would be finding other musicians with similar interests. When you decide what genre you want to play or what song, you will have to practice it together. It is important that all of you are on the same page. The last thing you’d want is that someone does something they won’t enjoy. The jam sessions and music, in general, should be enjoyable and fun. That’s the main reason you should find others who would love the same things or similar music genres.
Pick A Song That You All Like
Playing a certain song can get rather boring. But the trick is to find the song that you love. If you and your bandmates find a song that each of you loves, the whole practicing and learning would become easier.
Try to find several songs and create a setlist. Let each of the bandmates add several songs and then everyone learns their own part. When you come to the jam session, it will be nothing but fun and enjoyment.
Realizing that you are playing a real song is feeling like no other. I believe that every guitar player remembers that moment when they finally mastered their first whole song. Imagine how it would feel realizing that you are part of the band and you are playing a whole song like a famous band!
Listen To Your Bandmates
While practicing songs, it is easy to focus on your own instrument and mute the rest. This will result in you playing faster or slower. You will start sounding out of place even though you are playing the correct notes.
That’s why it is important to listen to every member of the band. You need to be aware of what everyone is doing because each player has his own part. And each part is like a puzzle piece that creates a whole song. While jamming, it is common for players to improvise and you need to realize that someone is doing something that is “unscripted” and to follow it, instead of doing your own thing.
It is not a rare thing for players to have a jam session where each of the members would have their own part. For example, there would be a drum solo improvisation, after that some kind of bass solo, and then the most important (I’m kidding) guitar solo.
The more you play with the same group of people, the more you’ll be able to know them and feel what they are doing. In time, you’ll be able to almost predict what they are going to do and you’ll be able to play accordingly.
Learn To Improvise
By combining every step of the way mentioned so far, you’ll be able to improvise. But know that improvisation is not a skill that is easily acquired. You will have to know a certain number of scales, to have an understanding of the rhythm, to know the entire song by heart, and many other things.
But don’t let this discourage you. By practicing, you will learn to improvise in almost any song. Whether you hear the song for the first or for the hundredth time, you’ll be able to just pick up the guitar and start jamming along.
Try to listen to as much music as possible, and try to practice as much as possible. In time you’ll realize that you picked up a piece of the song here and there, and by mixing different genres, songs, guitarists, you created your own unique style.
One of the best things about improvising is the ability to express yourself. One of the best guitar players has the ability to make you feel something using the only guitar. In addition, you’ll be able to play the same song over and over again and make it sound unique. Even though there are some legendary guitar solos (Hotel California for example), most of the songs have that solo space available just for you to show what you can do. If you dedicate your time and practice to improve your improvisation skills, you will love the results.
Jamming By Yourself
Now if you came to this part thinking that you won’t be able to learn how to jam or how to improvise because you don’t have a band at the moment, fear not. You can always jam by yourself. One of the best things to do is play a song you love, pick up the guitar, and start jamming along.
Whether you play an acoustic or electric guitar, you can adjust the volume of the song to hear your own guitar and play with them as much as you want. It is not necessary for you to have a band to enjoy playing the guitar.
If you feel like practicing your lead guitar and your solo skills, you can always find backing tracks of the famous songs and jam along with them. The best thing about these backing tracks is that there is every other instrument from the song but the guitar. You will be able to hear drums, bass, rhythm guitar, vocals, and any other instrument the band might have. The only piece that is missing is you. You will become the last member of the band and you’ll be able to play with them.
Another interesting option is using a loop pedal. There are all kinds of different pedals available and some of the delay pedals come with the loop effect. You can turn it on, play the chord progression or riffs and then hit the loop button and create your own backing track. By doing this, you’ll be your own rhythm guitar. After that, just hit the button and start jamming along that sweet progression you recorded and jam as much as your heart desires.
Finally, there are tons of programs and all kinds of software that will allow you to create a virtual band that will allow you to play alongside. Lots of amplifiers and processors have some kind of drum machine and even bass parts of the song that will make the whole process easier. If you opt to use this kind of software, you’ll feel like you play with real players and you’ll be able to jam and improvise as much as you want.
Learning how to jam on the guitar is one of the most beautiful feelings a player can get. You will become part of something bigger than yourself and what is most important, you’ll have fun. It is normal to be shy at the beginning, but remember that every musician ever was a beginner once. It is important not to give up and to continually practice and improve. Work on yourself and on the skills that you are missing and in time you will be an amazing guitar player. You can either find a group of people with similar skills and you can improve and practice together. Or you can find more experienced players where you’ll be able to learn from them and become the best player you can be. The most important part is always practice. And in time you will learn how to jam and enjoy playing even more.
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