Most musicians know the importance of setting goals and the idea of deliberate practice. But we’ll let you in on a secret: letting loose every now and then can actually be beneficial! Although it may seem counter-intuitive, getting together with a group and just “jamming,” without a true agenda or goal, is a great way to work on your improvisation skills. However, that freedom can be a little scary for first-timers.
And as this Drum Magazine interview with New Orleans jazz veteran Terence Higgins points out, for drummers it can be especially daunting – after all, you’re the one holding the beat together. The ability to keep the tempo constant and improvise as you go is a skill that all drummers should work on, and jamming is a great way to get some extra “fun” practicing in!
The article also points Higgins’s rules of etiquette, which we agree are important to keep in mind. Here are the comments that we think especially hit the mark:
1. Listen Closely
“You need to be cohesive with the whole to make the best musical statement possible. Music is a language — if you study music and listen to a lot of different stuff you can almost kind of figure out what to play even if you’ve never ‘spoken’ to a particular group of musicians before. I focus in on whoever’s soloing — whether it’s a sax player or keyboard player — and change what I’m doing texturally to complement that player’s unique sound. It gives every soloist a different atmosphere. I try to build the tension as they’re building it and release it at the same time.”
2. Make Eye Contact, Read Body Language, Be Vocal
“The worst thing is to play with musicians who don’t ever look at you — especially within the rhythm section. If we’re not making eye contact and sharing body motion when we’re playing, I feel disconnected. When something really cool is happening between me and another musician you might hear me go ‘Woo!’ or ‘Yeah!’ By showing my excitement for what they’re playing, we’re locking in and it’s feeling good. Then everybody’s grooving.”
3. Develop Your “Sixth Sense”
“Warren [Haynes] can look at me and I automatically know what to do. I don’t know how we know it, but we know. There’s a look that means we’re about to do something different. It’s amazing. That just comes from playing and listening, developing your ear. A lot of young drummers think they can just buy some DVDs and cop everything off of them, but the only way you get a feeling for anticipation is by playing with other musicians. That’s how you grow, by playing different styles of music in different situations.”
For more of Higgins’s interview, continue reading the article at DrumMagazine.com.
Drummers, what do you think? What have you learned in your jam sessions? What works and what doesn’t? Leave a comment below or stop by our Facebook page to join the discussion! Like these posts? Sign up to receive updates right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe.