Have you ever had the chance to jam with someone but you chickened out? Do you feel self-conscious about your playing? Did you tell yourself that it wasn’t your style? What did that do for your confidence? How did you feel after that?
I’m guessing that it didn’t help your confidence one bit. I’m also willing to bet it actually hurt you. I know because I’ve been there more times that I can count.
Here is a recent Facebook post I saw.
“So I went to a party and my guitar was in my car. A guy brought a bass and another guy brought a guitar and they kept bugging me to bring mine out. I couldn’t for the life of me do it. They started ripping up some folksy bluegrass stuff, I knew I couldn’t keep up or even know what to play…there were a lot of people too. It’s hard to not feel discouraged, but I chalked it up to me knowing and playing a different style of music. So I just watched and tried to learn what I could that way. I know jamming is important, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt too self-conscious about my playing.”
So what should you do the next time you have the chance to Jam but you’re not sure if you can cut it?
Here are 6 things:
1. Just do it.
In spite of the fear, you feel make yourself do it. Chances are you will do better than you think. We are our own worst critics. In reality, easily 90% of people, are better than they think. Knowing this and knowing that your own mind is what is going to sabotage you, have faith that you are likely better than you think and give it a try. For sure, you will make mistakes but that’s ok. The more you put yourself out there and get out of your comfort zone the better you will get. You will improve faster as well.
2. Be upfront about your reservations. But do it in a confident way. Don’t come across meek and fearful. Say something like this once with a smile, “Hey, this is way out of my comfort zone but if you guys don’t mind I’ll give it a try.” Laugh and say, “I apologize in advance!”
If the people are cool you’ll likely make friends this way.
One of the greatest players of all times, Allan Holdsworth was known for always apologizing for his playing after a show.
4. Think long term. Know that whatever short-term pain you feel will make you better and stronger. What you are doing now is part of a long learning process. Failure is absolutely necessary and if you avoid failure you only slow down your progress.
5. If you are improvising focus on making short melodies and repeat variations of them instead of fast licks and scale patterns. Listen to the music and play a melodic phrase and build off of it.
6. Learn blues. Blues will serve you in so many ways. Blues will cross over into rock, metal, funk, country, bluegrass (kind of), and jazz (just barely). Blues phrasing sounds good in the most common situations you encounter. I’m by far not a blues purist but focusing on the blues early one was one of the smarter things I’ve done. It’s served me well.