Went to my first GJ Jam

I'm lucky there is (at the moment) a weekly GJ jam nearby. I fully realize how tenuous and precious they are.

Prior to COVID I had been playing at Blugrass jams, but really only knew the basic campfire chords, and sang, er er croaked along to 3 chord songs. September 27, 2021, 6 weeks ago, I saw a Eastman DM-1 for sale on Craigslist, liked it and bought it. I learned a couple of each major, dominant and minor chords, with root on the low E and A strings. Knowing full well I play these few chords at half speed, I walked into my neighborhood GJ jam.

Tuned up, sat down, song started, and was immediately . . . well I couldn't remember any of the chords, looked at the guitar and wondered what is this thing - like I'd never seen a guitar before. Even worse, I had no clue where the group was in the song, no clue. I knew I was going to be overwhelmed, but I hadn't anticipated being paralysed.

This went on for 4-5 songs, I was tempted to sneak out and try this again in maybe 3-4 months.

I did not bolt, I decided to stay and to R-E-L-A-X. Just listen to the music, forget the guitar. So i just tapped my foot, counted beats and measures, follow the chord sheet and anticipate chord changes, and when song changed to Part A, B, etc. This 'active listening' went on for 4-5 more songs.

Then a song was called, and hey, I know a couple of those chords (without having to think them through) - so I will play those chords when they come up, and sit out the rest of the song. In short, this was my first jam . . . play the chords I know and when I can keep up; and sit the rest of the song out. By the end of the jam (about 2 hours), I was playing more and more of the chords, and was rarely lost in the song. Also, actively listening was a great way to appreciate chord progressions.

I think the jam was a success. BTW, all the other players were gracious (as I anticipated).



  • geese_comgeese_com Madison, WINew 503
    Posts: 461

    Jams are a great learning experience. My first GJ jam experience was pretty much just like yours.

    I would recommend listening to lots of GJ to familiarize yourself with the repertoire.

    I also recommend to keep going to jam! Experiencing the music in person is great way to learn.

  • Posts: 4,732

    That was really the perfect reaction to the situation. Well done.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,319

    Play along with recordings is good practice. Slow them down if you need to.

  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,471

    Beautiful. Sorry I missed you Lorenzo. I'm under the weather (actually in hospital W, so had to miss) but hope to bounce back and see you (and geese, et al) this Wed. Way to go, buddy. I agree with Buco - can't think of a more perfect way to jam. Look forward to meeting you.


    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • lorenzoplorenzop New
    Posts: 25

    Thanks Passacaglia - I was hoping to meet you there, get better soon.

    I won't be there this week as I have a procedure that day - let's just say it's that procedure where you don't want to stand too close behind me!!!

    Will return to jam week after that.

  • AndrewUlleAndrewUlle Cleveland, OH✭✭✭ Cigano GJ-15
    Posts: 541

    I wish we had a jam in Cleveland... all we have are 8 million blues or classic rock jams at every corner bar, whatever day of the week it happens to be.

  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Epiphone Zephyr Regent
    Posts: 382

    I like your attitude, Lorenzop, & I like the way you handled this situation. There's a lot to be said about knowing when not to play, and there's a lesson or two tucked inside your story that even far more experienced players can benefit from. My suggestion would be to keep going back and to try to find a suitable jamming partner at the jam. If you can start to play regularly with someone with more experience than you, one on one, your learning process will probably take off by leaps & bounds. Of course, you'll have to put in the time practicing by yourself as well, that's where backing tracks can be extremely helpful. That's how it worked for me. Then, as you develop as a player, you can try out the new things you learn at the weekly jam. Above all else, have fun. That's the name of the game here, and sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

  • Posts: 1

    All good advise above, my little contribution...

    This mays seem pedantically basic but another thing that might help is to get a map in your head of the song structure, which you were mentioning above. Most standards are 32 bar tunes (not always) and are usually AABA format, each section being 8 bars long. Or they may be 2 groups of 16 bars, with a difference in the last 2 or 4 bars of the 16 (aka the "turnaround")


    AABA - Honeysuckle Rose, I Can't Give You Anything But Love (both have essentially the same B section)

    AB - Sweet Georgia Brown, All of Me.

    You'll often hear guys call a tune eg XYZ and say "AABA" just so everyone is set.

    After a while you begin to see the repeating structures. Its not a bad idea to try to identify the form when listening, and have a go at writing down what you think the chords are, and then check it against the book later. I did this in the days when we drove to work (remember those days...?)

    Also don't worry about the chordal esoterica - basic shapes (barre major maybe with a 6th, minor, m7, 7th) played with swing outweigh advanced shapes that don't, and you are also allowed to cheat by looking at the other guys hands to see what the chord is. Fake it till you make it!

    Such are my 2c

  • ChristopheCaringtonChristopheCarington San Francisco, CA USANew Dupont MD50, Stringphonic Favino, Altamira Chorus
    Posts: 187

    Sounds like you need to start a new jam then!

    The local SF jam is sorta advertised as Gypsy Jazz style, but welcome's anyone who can play trad jazz as well so we get a pretty nice smattering of musicians every week. It's been pretty successful that way, and we're starting to out-grown the 2 hour time slot we have.

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