Jamming used to scare the shit out of me.
Creating something out of nothing on the spot, seemed like a recipe for me showing what a fraud I am.
"You can't play. You hit wrong notes. You missed the beat. You suck."
My internal dialogue I'm sure matches many others. I learned you can turn the volume down on those thoughts, just like you can your amp.
Look at the media, in any magazine, on TV and billboards... what do you see? The "perfect" woman. Her skin is smooth and radiant. She is proportionally pleasing. Her makeup flawless, her hair on point, her nails manicured glossy little gumdrops. The unattainable woman that we all know doesn't exist.
Then there's the perfect student. She does her work on time. She gets straight A's. She knows all the answers to every question and finishes all her tests early. She always knows the answer because she studied her ass off.
Many girls are chasing this idea of the ideal student and starting off life in a way where they are eager to please. Boys can feel this pressure too, but for some reason the girls seem to take on the brunt of the responsibility and stress, maybe it's the way we are hormonally wired... maybe it's because by they time we become conscious human beings, girls are being subliminally told that their looks matter more than their thoughts and intuition.
Wait your turn, don't speak unless spoken to, sit there and look pretty, don't have a voice of your own. Even with the most evolved and caring parents, kids pick up on messages from outside of the home and lock right in. The world just isn't there yet.
When you are an adolescent kid who loves music and you aren't surrounded by encouraging adults or peers in your life, that scared student obsessed with perfection will freeze up or never try to play in the first place.
The "you're not good enough" voices creep in. You become too scared to practice improv, but that's the thing. Just like anything else, you need to practice "jamming". Here's some things you can do to get ready to do some improv music.
1. Slow jam some R&B
This involves 2 things, your intuition and your ear. Put on a Spotify list of some slow jammy types of repetitive music (Think R&B like John Legend or Mary J. Blige). Your goal is to figure out something that goes with the song before it ends. You figure out a melody line or rhythm that matches the song then play it over and over in a loop so you sync up with the beat which leads me to the next thing.
2. Become ONE
The key to sounding good isn't necessary hitting the right notes (though that helps) but hitting a beat on time. Find that one again and again. Lock in with the people you are playing with, and if the people you are playing with do not have a great sense of timing, become the rock they need to listen to so you hold them together.
3. It's okay to f*ck up
That voice in your head that's saying "YOU SUCK!" That's the scared kid inside, afraid of not being perfect. Don't answer it with anger, answer it with love. Before you do your practice jam to your Spotify list or to a drum back beat on YouTube write down 2-3 affirmations that say something like:
You're learning, it's ok.
I'm having fun
Being perfect is overrated
In those moments where you lose the beat or hit a wrong sounding note, look down and read one of your affirmations out loud to turn the volume down on the other voice and replace it with love. Pretty soon you won't need the piece of paper, your thoughts will become kinder.
4. Sometimes you lean in to those "wrong notes"
I can't say how many times I've hit a weird sounding note and then just dug into it. It can completely change the vibe of the song, sometimes for the better. I went to a bass clinic with the grand master of bass, Victor Wooten and I watched this man slow jam the chromatic scale (which is every damn note on the bass guitar). He made it work. Even if it does sound wrong and you want to get away from it, instead of letting it throw your rhythm off, remember you are always a half step away from the right note, just walk up to the "right" one but what really is right? You are making this shit up anyway.
5. Quit planning this so much and just go sit with some folks and jam.
You should be playing with people as much as possible. The more you do, the exponentially better you will get. It is fun when you lock into a beat with a room full of people! Leave your ego at the door, commit to having a good time, and know that EVERYONE hits wrong notes, loses the beat, has dropped out because their arm was tired... etc. You can also bet that everyone who's gathering for a jam just straight up loves music.
Dive in and see where the music takes you.
There's a few events coming up at the Lab that you might dig. Have you ever heard someone slow jam a meditation? Join us for Mid-Day Meds Mondays from 12:15 - 12:45. It's really really really rad and unlike anything you've ever seen. We tap into our intuition and bring you to a new headspace with musical vibrations and guided meditation . Mondays at 12:15-12:45 Register Here: https://www.pachydermmusiclab.com/product-page/mid-day-meds
Want to attend a Girl Jam? Come out this Saturday at 7pm and play some tunes in a safe space with friendly faces. 18+ Saturday, February 8th at 6pm Register Here: https://www.pachydermmusiclab.com/product-page/girl-jam-craft
Teens who need a safe space to learn how to jam together, join us for our monthly Teen Jam. Friday, February 21st 4:30-6:00pm Register Here: https://www.pachydermmusiclab.com/product-page/teen-jam
I have online classes for folks who aren't in Charlotte if you want to build up your guitar and bass chops. www.pachydermmusiclab.com/online
All the things are cheaper than a meal.
Show up and have some fun!