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I‘ll Have My Jam...

...With Structure Please

Written By Richard Anthony Lock

Imagine your favourite song. Interesting to think that this piece of music was once played spontaneously for the first time. Sir Paul McCartney once said, "Oh I didn't write that, it just popped in to my head". Anthony Kiedis stated that, "On a good day, words just fall from the sky". Carlos Santana still speaks of his life as a musician being 33% skill, 33% hard work and the rest being God's will. 

Interesting that three musicians playing across genres should describe a portion of music that is untouchable to us as humans, but still totally available to us. 

Recently I have been learning some songs for a session. As always with new songs you find a key signature you're not quite familiar with, or a progression you have never played before. Pretty soon when that piece of music is learnt and on the tip of your tongue it becomes part of you and starts to feel like you never didn't know it.  The chronology that follows is a mixture of self one and self two, the first time you play it with a band you focus on remembering what it is you have to play, but also get to feel for the first time what it is like to be wrapped up in the music blanket being created by a number of people who all know what they are playing. There is no guess work.

Now, the live jam. We have all heard that guy say, "Hey man, lets jam in A". The musician knows the key of A is A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#. You have the starting note, but someone may play the third, someone may play the 5th or 7th, or just stay in 12 bar. Who knows!?

I saw a gig a while back, where the 2 kinds of fun were integrated, the band knew 99% of what was going on, but allowed themselves to be tight but loose. A jam had started. The rhythm guitar started a chug which the drummer caught, the bass too. It goes round for a few bars, eventually going up the 3rd leading the rhythm guitar to make his final move. The guitarist doubted his instinct and second guessed himself. At that moment it is already in the past and you’re on to a whole new mathematical journey to get back round. In this example the guitarist knew he had missed his 1, faded back in to the stage, the drummer rolled his eyes; The second guitar realised the hash up and tried to save it with a few well placed notes, but the audience were not deceived sadly and what could have been a rapturous round of applause was a supportive clap.

Through practice you are made aware of new possibilities. You get to a jam and you try them out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. You just have to feel it. So, structure and jam anyone?

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