Bring Your Guitar and Be Ready to Play!
Music is made by many instruments working together. To make a band work, you need the rhythm of the drums, the low notes from a bass, the melodic guitar, maybe the blare of horns, or a sprinkling of keyboards, and a singer who can pull it all together.
You can practice your playing all day long, by yourself, and still enjoy the art of making music. But wouldn’t it be great if you could hear your music being played along with the supporting bass lines, or the chords of another guitar?
There are many opportunities for the amateur guitarist to perform. Many establishments offer open jam nights, where you can get up on stage and play a few songs. Your skill level should be at a point where you can comfortably perform with other musicians, and have an understanding of the chord structures and changes. Usually, open jams are based on blues music. Give a listen to some of the well-known blues musicians to get an idea of what you are going to play.
Here is small list of songs that could be played:
- The Thrill is Gone by B. B. King, Texas Floodby Larry Davis and Joseph Wade Scott (or Stevie Ray Vaughan)
- Green Onions by Booker T. & the M.G.s
- Born Under a Bad Sign by Albert King
- One Way Out - Allman Brothers Band
- Someday After Awhile - Freddie King
- Gimme Back My Wig - Hound Dog Taylor
- Champagne and Reefer - Muddy Waters
- Before You Accuse Me - Eric Clapton
A host band will start off the show. Throughout the night, the host will bring up musicians who wish to play. The host wants everyone to play or sing. Bring only your guitar and tuner, as amps are usually provided. If you have to bring an amp, keep it simple. No Marshall stacks here.
Blues jams are for people who want to enjoy performing and making good music. They are not for someone looking to show off by playing solos all night. The music should be entertaining for all, and as a guitarist, you need to work with the rest of the band to make that happen.
If you have no experience playing alongside other musicians and are shy about doing so, practice with backing tracks. There are plenty of them to choose from on the internet. Some are free, some require a small fee. Either way, pick some out, put them on the iPod, and practice away. If you have basic recording equipment, record your progress. I use Audacity, a free audio recording program that does multi tracking. I open up the backing track in Audacity, add a new track for the guitar, plug in and start recording.
This is a great way to practice, and with time, you will get a great song to play for family and friends. And over time, you will gain the confidence needed to take the stage. You may even form your own band and start to perform all the songs you practiced.
It is indeed a gift to be able to play music. It is even better when we can share it with others.