Rochester's School of Guitar

What Is Jamming?

Jamming is when musicians get together to play songs or chose a melody to improvise on together. Jamming isn’t like a performance. It’s a great way to play music casually, try new things and have fun connecting with other musicians.

Some quick essential tips for beginner guitar players to get started jamming:

Know your chords

Even basic open chords will go a long way. There will likely be some players improvising but most jams stick to simple 3-4 chord song structures so that everyone can play along.

Knowing a few common chords structures will be helpful:
A-D-E
G-C-D
C-F-G
G-D-Em-C

Don’t worry about knowing every single chord. If you don’t know the chords, watch the other players fingers or ask someone playing.

Work on your rhythm

Spend time getting your rhythm down. When jamming, it’s crucial to be able to hold a steady rhythm, otherwise it will be difficult to play with other musicians.

Pay attention

Watch the other players around you. There will likely be a couple leaders in the group that are keeping everyone together using eye contact, signaling and even talking about changes coming up in the song. They can help direct you.

Be aware of the rest of the band so when the dynamics change you can follow along. If the energy is building, and the group is starting to get loud, you play louder too. If the group is quiet, play softer. Jamming is more about listening to the sound of the group and not just yourself (which is what you’re probably used to, so it’s a great learning experience).

A little fretboard knowledge goes a long way

The more you understand the fretboard, the more easily you can find where the notes are. If you are familiar with the fretboard, you’ll be able to learn quickly and pick up new melodies and chords while jamming.

Practice playing with your favorite songs

Many beginners find jamming with others daunting. They feel scared and embarrassed to play in front of others. One of the best ways to learn how to jam is to practice playing guitar along with your favorite songs. By listening to the song and trying to work out the guitar parts, you will also be developing your ear to pick up chord changes, rhythm and melody.

Most of the time when musicians get together for a jam, they don’t plan out what they are going to play in advance. If there are pre-determined songs you can listen to them and practice before hand. Knowing what key you will be playing in at the jam is very helpful. Hint: the jam will always go better and sound better when you plan ahead!

Have fun, of course!

Above all, jamming is about having fun! It’s not about showing off skill level or playing louder than everyone else. Jamming really gives you freedom to experiment and connect with other musicians and play real music together. Don’t worry about what you don’t know how to play yet. Even playing the most basic bass lines to a song while staying in time is all you need. Leave the fancy stuff to other musicians and stay as consistent as possible with what you’re doing. People love to play with someone who plays consistently, even if it’s simple.

About The Author: Ryan Duke is a professional musician, songwriter, guitar teacher, and owner of Seattle Guitar Mentor providing the very guitar lessons in Seattle, WA.