When you’re playing with a band and taking it seriously, it’s important to take rehearsals seriously. You need to show up on time, know what you’re going to rehearse, and have structure throughout the rehearsal.
In a big band, it can be hard to get regular rehearsals in. This makes it all the more vital to be thoughtful about your rehearsals.
If you’re at this stage in your band’s career, you may have already dismissed unstructured jamming as a waste of time, because it’s often true; jamming can eat up a lot of valuable time. This is totally understandable, but I’m here to make the case that jamming can be useful.
You see, my band used to literally just “jam” all the time. We would rehearse as well, but if the rehearsal devolved into a jam, nobody was complaining. As we got busier and busier, our jamming turned into structured rehearsal with click, and the band got better, but something was lost.
Our jams produced a lot of great songs, and they were a huge part of the chemistry we all shared. We noticed this, and have now structured in an open-ended jam at the beginning of almost every rehearsal. It’s been great for the band, and here’s why you should try it as well.
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1. Jamming Gets The Creative Juices Flowing
Depending on when you’re rehearsing, you may be tired, or rusty, or stiff. We often rehearse in the mornings, before any of us have had the chance to warm up and stretch on our instruments. Having an unstructured jam before the rehearsal begins allows everyone to tune in their sound and warm up their limbs.
It’s also a great way to immerse yourself into the creative “flow”. If you’ve just come from work or are dealing with some stress, it can be hard to leave that at the door. Allowing for a little jam will help the whole band get in the zone.
2. Jamming Can Lead To Song Ideas
If you’re willing to let a jam run its course, you may stumble across something really interesting. Many, many bands use this as a way to kick-start a writing session, because it allows for total freedom, and it allow for anyone to bring in an idea.
That said it can also be useful to just jam a melody, idea, riff, or progression until something comes of it. If you’re not sure where you want an idea to go, let your band mates have at it. You can always guide it in a specific direction, but you may also end up liking someone’s improvised idea.
Jamming can also lead you into songs you wouldn’t have otherwise written. For a while, I was stuck writing slow tunes. Instead of setting out to write a faster song, we just jammed a fun progression and let ideas flow. It felt very natural to write a song this way.
3. Jamming Will Improve Your Stage Show
It’s important that band members feel free to stretch and explore in rehearsal, so that they feel comfortable once they get on stage. Taking risks on stage is exciting and important – it brings a live element to shows that audiences love. However, if you’re not taking risks in rehearsal, nobody will take them when you get on stage.
For example, you may be working on some new licks or solo ideas, but not be sure where they fit inside the context of an original song. If you don’t let yourself jam out the idea, it will be very nerve wracking to play it out live.
4. Jamming Builds Musical Trust & Chemistry
Knowing what your band mates are going to do before they do it is a very gratifying skill. Audience members can tell when a band is locked in creatively, and when a band is playing out a lot, synergy begins to happen.
By jamming regularly, you’ll develop subtle cues and understandings that will lead to great musical moments in your live set. I play bass in our band, and I’ve been playing with the same drummer for seven years. My favorite moments are the times when we both have the same idea, and telepathically execute without exchanging a word.
If there is any improvisation in your set, it’s also important for the soloist to know that the band will catch them if they fall. Jamming allows the whole band to build up musical trust.
5. Jamming Is Fun
If nothing else, you should be jamming because it’s fun. Remember the excitement you felt at your first few band practices? Hopefully that’s still there, but if it’s not, you can get it back. Putting the fun back into rehearsal can make everyone more excited about the project and rehearsing.
Some sports science studies have suggested that players who allow more time for free play will be less likely to quit and burn out. I can imagine that this extends to musicians as well.
It’s tempting to spend all your time “working” on things. But in my opinion, it’s called “playing music” for a reason. Music is supposed to be fun, uplifting and therapeutic. Allowing yourself and your band time to stretch and enjoy the process will keep things fresh and enjoyable.
Final Thoughts: Keep Things Professional & Fun
If you’ve ever had a great day job, you’ll know that what makes a job enjoyable is a mix of feeling important, a fun atmosphere, and a job that you enjoy. If you keep that in mind with rehearsals, they’ll be a lot more fun too. You should effort to create a fun atmosphere where everyone feels important and feels fulfilled in what they contribute to the project.
Make sure most of the rehearsal is productive and make sure you’ve got something to show for the rehearsal at the end of it. That said, allow your band mates time to enjoy themselves, jam, and explore creative ideas.
If you can strike a balance here, there is no harm that can come from having the freedom to create new ideas!