I am currently a member of a very lively student jazz society, with some kind of a jamming session at least every two weeks, and a full jamming night every month. In some time I will be moving to a city where it seems there is not much of a jazz/blues scene, or at least not among students.

Theoretically, to start a jazz night with fellow jazz musicians, all you need is a Realbook and instruments. But what if the fellow musicians are not so much into jazz? How do I kickstart them into the good side without having to give a full course in jazz and blues?

  • This seems more like a request to start a discussion. Voting to close, but perhaps the question can be edited to be more directly answerable? Aug 2, 2012 at 9:25
  • I think this question can be salvaged by editing.
    – Luke_0
    Aug 2, 2012 at 12:31
  • @neilfein, what is bad about this question? I understand that it is not answerable in exact terms, but what is?
    – akkkk
    Aug 2, 2012 at 13:57
  • Already said: This sounds like a discussion question. @Luke - Editing how? Aug 2, 2012 at 15:50
  • 1
    As your question stands, I am not completely sure what you are asking. Are you asking how to find musicians for your group? Are you asking how to train (informally) other non-jazz musicians, whose skills you already know, to play jazz with you? I think a few more details would help this question be more useful.
    – Andrew
    Dec 18, 2012 at 22:24

2 Answers 2


Ensure the rhythm section is solid, and able to catch up with the improviser. Start with an easy modal tune such as "So what", or a blues such C Jam Blues, quickly explain the concepts, the "allowed" / "good sounding notes". Be sure to let an experienced improviser take the 1st solo, and ask the experienced musicians to

  • keep their solo "inside"
  • keep their solo short (2 grids max)
  • breathe and not drown everyone under a deluge of notes

Its nice to have 4 bars exchanges between soloists (inc. the drums), as it gives an opportunity to listen to short phrases and reproduce / expand on them.

Stay close to the newbies and show them the current position in the harmonic grid. Ask the drummer to emphasise the end of the grid so that they get the cycles correctly. Show the newcommers the 4 bar and 8 bar subcycles.

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    +10! good answer saves a bad question. BTW, almost every Rock or Country song is blues, too. Aug 6, 2012 at 4:54

I think it's the nature of a jam that "it will be what it will be". I'm not sure you can shepherd people into playing the kind of music you want them to so much. Some might be receptive to a few pointers (I would!) but I suspect it's more that you'll attract some of that ilk, and others who aren't that way inclined just won't show up.

I help run a jam night once every few weeks (full band setup). A lot of the jams in the area suffer from the jammer's safety-net of endless blues songs. I quite like blues, but not 6 songs in a row that all sound the same, just because no-one could think of anything else to do.

When my band host the jam we start off with 3 or 4 tunes just to lay the ground and check the gear. We play rock and groovy pop, and not much blues. For some reason this seems to influence the kind of people or kind of music played at our jam nights. It's quite varied and we see precious little of the blues stuff. OR if there is, it's a deliberate thing and not "the default option", which is quite a relief & nice to hear. Other people run jams in the same place, on other weeks, and they seem to have a different slant depending on who'se hosting.

This is all by accident: we don't deliberately try to influence what kind of music to play - anything goes!

I've tried to work out why what we play at the start SEEMS to influence what happens during the jam. My conclusion is :

  • What we play at the start sets the scene and a mood. It goes quite nicely and I hope we make people feel very welcome, so I guess people feel "invited" to do something of that ilk. In that sense we've laid the ground, and others join in afterwards.

  • We generally stick about as 'spare musicians' in case someone wants to do a specific song or we need another bassist etc. That means for such people my band's repertoire influences what happens

The alternative is you could be more direct & bill it as a "Jazz jam" meaning you'll immedately attract jazz musicians who are inclined to jam. That would lay down an expectation.

We just advertise as "electric jam" because really anything goes.

So my thinking is that just the nature of the kind of thing you play (with your band at the start ?) will influence who does/doesn't arrive, and if you bill it as a Jazz Jam (or whatever seems appropriate) that'll set the tone right away.

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