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Tips on Jamming

Jam Genius only creates chord progressions. It doesn't produce any audio. So how does one get started making music with Jam Genius?

Jam Genius can be used for two people playing together, a full band jam, and everything in between. You can use it to play any style you like: rock, bluegrass, folk, world beat, or a style all your own.

Guitar or Keyboard with a Melody Instrument (Sax, Flute, etc)

First, if you're the guitar or keyboard player, make sure you can play through the progression easily. Once you can play the progression, another musician can easily jam along. The person improvising on a melody instrument doesn't need to see the chart necessarily, they just need to know how to play the scale of the key the chart is in. By playing along, and staying within the scale for the key the chart, instrumentalists can easily started with improvising. The charts are created specifically to stay within their key (they are diatonic). The key is indicated at the bottom of the chart. Transposed keys are also provided in B flat (for Clarinet, and Soprano and Tenor Sax), and E flat (for Alto and Baritone sax).

Two Guitarists

Jam Genius is a perfect way for two guitar players to play together. First, make sure you can play through the progression easily. Read the chords just like you would from a song book; the only difference is that these chord progressions aren't from existing songs. If you need to, practice alone for a bit before jamming with others. Once you can play the chords with a steady rhythm and tempo, your friend can simply use the scale from the key of the chart for improvisation. Then, trade off, so each of you can improvise a melody while the other plays the chords.

The Whole Band

If your whole band is up for jamming, distribute the chord chart to the guitarist(s), keyboard player(s) and bass player. You can email the chart as a PDF so that others can see it on their portable device, or you can email it to yourself and print out copies. The drummer probably doesn't need it, but if he/she wants a copy, provide it. Also, people playing melody instruments may or may not want to use the chart. Simply knowing the key will be enough, but if they want to follow the chart, it can be helpful in some circumstances. Let the guitar(s), keyboards(s), bass and drums go through the chart once all the way through to get the feel established and so everyone can hear it, and then add improvised melodies. You can trade off improvising melodies. At first, you might trade off after each time through the chart, but once the feel is solid, try having two musicians 'trade licks' -- both playing, but leaving space for the other.

Experiment with dynamics: After a particularly loud solo, have the whole band get quiet, all at the same time, right a the top of the chart as you repeat. Then, build up the volume and intensity through the next solo. Look at your fellow band members and establish cues so that you're all aware of where the changes in dynamics are, and who is improvising when. See if you can create the perfect endings without pre-planning them, just by looking at and listening to each other.

Even if your band is not a "jam band," jamming can improve it. Jamming might even give you ideas for new songs that you might not otherwise have had. Even if you never play any of it in public, practicing jamming can greatly improve your band's musicianship, communication, and dynamics.


© Copyright 2010-11 by Jon Lukas. All Rights Reserved.