How To Jam On Guitar (And Have Fun In The Process!)

The term 'Jamming' is one many musicians throw around, to describe music-making sessions that are mostly improvised, usually informal and always fun!

However, jamming is only fun if you know what you're doing. And it can seem hard to know what you're doing, when there are seemingly no rules?

Jamming for the beginner can seem like an impossible task. But it doesn't need to be that way! You don't need to have an advanced musical knowledge to enjoy improvised sessions with those who do.

Here's how YOU can jam on the guitar. Yes, even you.

How To Jam On Guitar

1) Start Small

You don't need to use your whole fretboard to jam along with other musicians.

A good way of getting started in a really musical way, is to play along using just one note. One note that fits, of course.

You can then build this up to improvisation using 2 notes that work, then 3, and so on.

When increasing the range of notes you're using, use the pentatonic scale in the key you're jamming in! It’s impossible to go wrong. (If you're not sure what key you're in, you can always ask one of the other musicians!)

If you know your pentatonic scale shape, and can transpose it, you're sorted for any jam session.

Want to know more about scales? Check out our guide to guitar scales for beginners.

2) “You're Only Ever A Semitone Away...”

In his book 'The Music Lesson', Victor Wooten shared the insight that, “You are never more than a half-step away from a 'right' note.”

This is so worth remembering when you're jamming. If you play a note that doesn't sound right, don't fear! You really are only ever a half step / semitone away from a right note.

If you're playing guitar, it's very easy to quickly slide or bend your way from dissonance to consonance.

3) Hold Back

When you're jamming, you don't need to be playing all the time.

You might feel slightly awkward to start with, if you spend large amounts of time not playing whilst others are, but the music will benefit for it.

Sometimes, it's best to be sparse to give your instrument space to breathe. Then, when you feel like it's the right time to join back in, go for it! And if you're not sure what to play, just take it a note at a time. Slowly.

listening

4) Listen!

The most important part of jamming.

Remember, to jam is to collaborate, and to collaborate is to integrate. If you want to play with others, and be a part of a band, however short-term, you need to hear what they're doing.

Not only does a group of equally attentive musicians lead to a better musical outcome, but you get so much more out of it on a personal level when you really listen. There is very little joy (or much point!) in a jam where you focus primarily on your own parts.

We hope that these tips have helped you to get into the vibe of jamming!

Have fun! 🙂

Roz is a music teacher and our go-to person for anything music theory! When she’s not teaching or writing for Zing, Roz writes and plays in alternative/ psyche /art rock band The Roz Bruce Infusion.

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