Mike Moxcey ©2005
Jamming is improvising music with other people. If you play a song exactly as it is written in sheet music or performed on a CD, then you’re pretty much acting like a tape recorder. If you change it so the tune is still recognizable, then you are improvising. If you improvise with another musician, that is called jamming.
Jamming is what playing music is all about. It’s playing with others. But it’s better than playing cards or horseshoes because in music, no one loses. You all create magic together. The more fun one person has, the more fun everyone has.
Jamming is creating something greater than you can do by yourself. When you hit a groove with other musicians, you will often surprise yourself by how good it sounds.
How I Teach
Music is different from the instruments used to play it, just as a river is different from the water it contains. It’s hard to separate the two and many times there is no difference. But when you’re trying to learn something new, thinking of it in pieces helps. But at some point you’ve got to put the pieces back together.
Music is another language. Like any language, you’ll have to learn its words and grammar and syntax. One way of learning is by immersion—just do it and you’ll pick things up. That’s how babies learn to talk. They also do that for adults sometimes. Another way is to learn in a classroom which is the way many folks learn a foreign language. You learn simple nouns, then ways to put them together, and so on and so forth. And some methods use both. You have a textbook of words and rules, but you also practice in class with tapes and talking, and then trying to read or write some stuff. It’s hands on and heads in.
That’s the way I like to teach music. I get people started with a few chords and some basic songs, then shove them into jam sessions with other musicians. They can keep learning songs and techniques from me in private lessons, but they learn to apply them at jam sessions as they share music with other people.
The Importance of Jamming
If you don’t jam, you won’t learn to play music, just as if you don’t speak a language with other people, you won’t have really learned it. I’ve met classical musicians who can sight read amazing stuff, but they can’t play a simple song off the radio. They’re also difficult to play with in a band because many bands, in order to “swing” the music, modify the rhythm. To do so, everyone has to listen to each other and play off of each other. Most musicians can do this, but many classical ones refuse to call this jamming. They call it interpretation.
They can interpret it any way they want. If you want to play music, you’ve got to do it with other folks. That’s jamming.