There are many times we find ourselves in jamming situations, often simply with another guitar player, and these can be very rewarding, yet sometimes frustrating times as well. The bottom line about any musical situation such as this is that you want to take away as much that is positive from it!
Far too many players these days are very limited in the rhythm guitar department, so much so that I’d have to say it’s become a largely “lost art!” There seems to be no shortage of folks who are happy to play a million notes a minute, but when it comes time for them to back you up, all bets are off! You may have experienced this as a lead player, begging for adequate backup, or you may even be “that” person, who can only shred, but not know a “shred” of rhythm!
Regardless, this can all change, and when you are jamming with someone, it’s so important to be able to really “tune in” to what that other player is doing. You should be able to follow his or her musical thought process on the guitar thoroughly, and be able to pick up on subtle melodic, as well as rhythmic shifts and changes. I know that when I am “backing up” somebody, I find myself throwing in little harmonies, rhythm changes and other things that are prompted solely by the other player’s actions. This is an incredible learning tool, and that ability to really “tune in” to what another player is doing is what really separates the good players from the great players, in my opinion. Maybe that’s why I so like to discuss my old “sideman” days….the times when for me, it was all about “listening” and being creative with it too. The head-cutting jams I used to have with other players in my College for example, were literally mind-blowing, and used to attract crowds of hundreds of student onlookers who seemed to sense they were watching something “important” happening before their eyes.
What was happening was the development of a player, (myself), who was truly developing the fin art of listening and “playing off of” another player at the same time. Words cannot express the importance of this kind of jamming, and the necessity of learning to “listen carefully” to what the other player is doing! In the end, it will make you a better player, sideman, lead as well as rhythm player, and even a better composer. Because after all, when we are coming up out ideas as players, right on the spot, we are unquestionably composing!