Okay, you got me: the title of this article was inspired by Bob Marley, in part because I watched a Netflix documentary called Who Shot the Sheriff? and remembered just how much I love both Marley and his work. Exodus in particular is a cracking album, and it inspired me to buy a new set of speakers with bass control so that I could listen to it in all its glory.
But that’s not what this article is about. I wanted to talk about jamming, by which I mean the process of making music and learning songs with people. When I first started making music, I was too shy to play with other people and so I tended to avoid it. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to play with someone that I didn’t know.
Now, though, I’m more confident as both a musician and as a person, and I’ve started to love a good jam session. It doesn’t really matter who with, and I’m happy to play with people I’ve never met before, as was the case when I went to the Big Jam session in Spain while on holiday with my dad. To be fair, I was just playing guitar and singing along with a four-piece band who played together all the time and so they were already pretty tight, but it was an interesting experience.
Here in Wycombe, I know a bunch of musicians, although I don’t get to jam with them as much as I’d like. But there are also people like my friends Dave and Lorraine, who I know pretty well and who I’ve played with before. We go to open mic nights together all the time and so every now and then we’ll just randomly decide to play I Shall Be Released or some other cover that we all know well enough just to start playing together once we know the right key.
I had a jam session recently with a friend who has a lot of crossover with my music taste, and in particular we’re both fans of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. That was a decent jam because we had similar influences and so even though I didn’t necessarily know the songs we were playing, it was pretty easy to pick them up, to the point at which they’d lead the song and I just picked it up as we went.
One of the interesting things about jamming with people is that it really doesn’t matter what your ability levels are like. You can be a seasoned musician or a total amateur, but as long as you know how to play a few chords, you’re good to go. The joy comes from a mixture of your own performance and the way that you hear the song as a whole coming together.
The good news is that there’s a jam night at the arts centre just round the corner from me, and the idea is that you can just get up and start playing with other people. I’ve played there before and it was crazy fun, so I’m sure I’ll be going back again sometime soon. In the meantime, I guess I’ll make it my mission to jam with as many different people as possible, both for the experience and just for the sheer joy of it.
Make music with people. It’s way more fun than making it by yourself. Now if only I could figure out how to write a book with someone…