Jamming With Other Musicians - Tips & Guidance

@Hayden, it’s remarkable that you would post right now on this thread. My ideal situation would be a trio.

I’ve recently been given the opportunity to “jam” with a bass player and drummer. Can you give me any advice about preparing for a “jam” session? I don’t want to fall off the piano stool!

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Yes I can most certainly share some tips for jamming with other musicians.

I wrote a very detailed post on this exact topic some time ago but I couldn’t find the post when I searched for it yesterday. It’s likely buried somewhere in a forum thread, perhaps the “introduce yourself” thread.

I will have another dig around and then create a dedicated discussion for this as I’m sure it’s a topic that others are interested in learning about too.

In the interim you might like to check out this course:

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I’ve finally got around to this @George_Miller - see below for my tips and guidance on jamming with other musicians.

It is a very broad question, and so I have tried my best to make the guidance as clear and actionable as possible.

1) Listen, Listen, Listen!

To play with other musicians we must listen to lots of recordings of trios, quartets, quintets etc… This helps us to understand our role in the band as the piano player which is very different from playing solo piano.

When playing in an ensemble setting the piano plays a predominantly accompaniment-based role. If we are playing with a lead instrument, perhaps for 80% of the performance the pianist will be required to “comp” which leads us onto the importance of comping voicings and rhythms:

2) Comping Voicings & Rhythms

When playing with a bass player we must be comfortable with rootless harmony and be able to play through the whole form of the tunes we wish to perform using just rootless voicings. This is very important.

We have a number of lessons on comping voicings and rhythms:

The next step is to apply to tunes…

3) Learn To Comp Over A Handful Of Tunes

Pick a handful of medium tempo tunes. A few commonly-called tunes to start with could be:

  • “Autumn Leaves”,
  • “There Will Never Be Another You”
  • “All The Things You Are”

It’s also a good idea to learn to comp over the 12 bar blues form using the different types of voicings presented in the lessons above. Other tips for practicing comping:

  • Practice with a metronome or iRealPro to simulate playing in time with other musicians.

  • Cycle around and around the form to become more comfortable comping chorus after chorus

  • Practice playing comping voicings in different registers of the piano.

  • Practice comping with 2 note voicings (just 3rds and 7ths), 3 note left hand voicings, 4 note rootless voicings split over 2 hands, rootless left hand voicings with stacked 5ths in right hand, quartal rootless voicings.

Stay at this step until you are comfortable cycling around the form playing rootless voicings.

4) Transcription

This is related to point (1). It’s very important that we transcribe from records to deepen our understanding of how the piano functions in an ensemble setting.

We can transcribe comping voicings and rhythms, fills, intros/outros, and also the full piano solos.

I would suggest Wynton Kelly as a good place to start. He was one of the greatest accompanists and a lot can be learn from studying his ensemble recordings.

Practice playing along with the records and try to perfectly emulate the improvised solos and comping patterns and voicings.

5) Ready For The First Jam!

At this point we should have the absolute basics needed to jam with other musicians over a very limited repertoire.

I’d recommend jamming in an informal setting to start with to get comfortable with the new format and build some initial confidence before playing with a live audience at a jam night for example.

You also mentioned that you will be playing with just a bass player and a drummer. It could be a smaller initial step to play with a lead instrument (trumpet, sax, etc… ) which would make it a quartet. The lead instrument would take the head of the tune and also the first solo so that way there is a little less weight on your shoulders to start with.

Good luck with this George.

It is a difficult step to start with - particularly if you have been playing standards only in a solo piano context. We have to learn new voicing techniques, keeping solid time, communication with the other musicians etc… there is a lot more going on.

As highlighted in my last post, there are lots of additional tips and guidance in this course:


Thanks so much for the advice, @Hayden. There are great pointers there. I went to the session yesterday and it went well. We arranged to get together again in a few weeks. I definitely struggled because I didn’t realise how different the technique was compared to playing on my own. We had issues with beginnings and endings, and I made a lot more unforced errors than I would have liked, but I think it mostly sounded good. We’re going to concentrate (as was one of your suggestions) on a limited number of tunes and see what we can do with them. In the meantime I’'ll work through your links and videos one by one. The group consists of piano, bass and cajon. “The Girl from Ipanema” sounded best! And I did manage the rootless voicings, even in the bridge!



Congratulation Georges take fun ! Playing in a group is so cool and enriching !

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