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.
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: