Have you just started playing the guitar but really want to start jamming with other people but don’t know how? When you think about playing with other people, do you get excited but also worried what others might think of your playing? Are you wondering what skills you may need to make this whole “jamming” thing a lot easier?
Being able to play the guitar is cool. But being able to jam with other people is even more fun! The only way to get really good at it is by practising and getting out there. Now to make the experience less scary, there are some things you can work on by yourself to prepare for it if you don’t want to dive right in the deep end.
1. Get good at playing barre chords
With the open chords that you start learning, you can play a tonne of songs with those. But what if you get into a jam situation, and you don’t know what that open chords are?
Once you’ve mastered barre chords, including all your major or minor variation. It becomes really easy to play 90% of popular music. Even if you don’t know the “chord”, you can figure it out in through barre chords. Even if there are variations in the songs, you can simplify it to barre chords.
So being able to play barre chords comfortably and transition between them will help you a lot. Knowing your notes on the neck so that you can move between fifth and sixth string barre chords will help speed up your transitions too.
2. Make sure you can keep time
Lots of beginners struggle to count and play at the same time. They speed up, slow down when it gets hard.
When you play with other people, you need to keep time. If you make a mistake, then skip that part. The most important thing is that you come in at the right time, and keep the timing going.
3. Practise your ear training
The more you work on your ear training, the easier it will be to pick up on melodies of popular music and be able to play it on the guitar.
You can also work on listening and identifying chord progressions as well. So all you need to figure out is the key of a song, and know the chords in that song. And start playing.
4. Know your fretboard
Knowing your fretboard means knowing where the notes are so that you can find all your chords quickly. Learning the fretboard with regards to the notes and intervals will help you play melodies of covers or get creative by improvising with your own thing as well.
5. Get good watching other people’s hands
When you play with other people or when you watch a band. Watch their hands to figure out what they are doing. The more you do this, the easier it will get. And this allows you to be able to pick up what other people are playing even if you can’t hear what’s happening or can’t figure it out by ear. You can just copy their hands, play along. Take some time to figure out the rest and then add your own variation if you wish.
6. Learning the patterns of chords in a key
Knowing the chords in a key will help you to quickly start playing rhythm parts to a melody or your friend playing their own improvisation. If you are playing a cover, then there will be a chord progression. But knowing which chords are in the key will help you as well. If your friends shout 1, 6, 3, 4. You will know which chords to play along. Even if there is a key change, you can play along.
7. Get good at improvising
Being able to improvise, whether it’s the rhythm part of playing lead will make you a lot more confident. Because if something goes wrong. If you forget the melody, or you forget your rhythm part. You can start playing something in the right style and key and still sound good. And also, it makes it a lot more fun! You can start to get really creative with your playing.
Start by just playing your own strumming patterns or your own fingerpicking patterns. This all counts towards improvisation.
You can then change any popular song into something else in your own in a creative way.
When you first start, find some supportive friends who are patient. And start out by playing the rhythm part. Get comfortable with your chord changes. Once you know your scales well then you can even do some improvisation!
Make sure to keep it fun. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or worry what other people think of your playing. You can only try your best.
Keep a little notebook of what things you want to work on at the end of the jam sessions for you to work on by yourself so that you can improve each time you come back to it to boost your confidence!
About Guitar School Owner and teacher:
Darryl Powis provides beginning guitar lessons for acoustic and electric guitar in East London, England. For contemporary guitar playing, to beginners and advanced guitar players.