How to Jam with Anybody

How to Jam With Anybody

Trust Your Ear 

One of the hardest barriers to jumping in and playing with other people is the perception that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to play music. This perception has come from a lot of places, but it is often very misleading. Some of the most common places this perception comes from are:

  1. Growing up in school and only ever being allowed to read the dots on the page in front of us.
  2. Learning some of the “rules” in the world of music theory and feeling forced to follow them correctly.
  3. Joining a band or other musical context with people who are critical.
  4. Being generally surrounded by people critical of you.

All of these places often add up to an enormous burden of self-criticism that makes us afraid to play for fear of playing something “wrong”. But the problem with this way of thinking is that it completely upends the fundamental nature and purpose of music, which is to express how we feel and think.

So – the first thing to do is to find what helps you to let go of any critical voice and start trusting your ear. Your ear is ALWAYS the final say in every musical situation – NEVER anyone else’s opinion. Remember: it is your own self-expression we are talking about – not someone else’s taste in music. You can tell when when what you are playing resonates with what you want to hear. Do that.

Take Risks

To find what you want to hear, one of the best things to do is take musical risks and make “mistakes”. Many of the best musical ideas come from “mistakes” during practice sessions, recording dates, live situations, and any other musical context you can think of. Since these mistakes can be so valuable, make them happen more often by intentionally taking risks.

Some examples of taking risks like this can be:

  1. Playing a chord other than the one you are “supposed” to play.
  2. Using a scale other than the one that the song seems to use.
  3. Moving a riff up or down by some number of frets on your guitar or keys on your keyboard, etc.
  4. Playing a random set of notes on your instrument.

As you explore and take risks, you will find more and more ideas that you like. Whenever you come across one, play it for a while to let it sink in and come up with a way to name it so you can recall it easier later.

Final Thoughts

Trusting your ear and taking risks will take you a long way into the world of jamming. Remember to be kind to yourself and have fun! The best musicians are always exploring, listening deeply, trusting their ears and taking risks. They do not spend much time listening to the critics. Give yourself the space and relationships to be free of hurtful criticism and just keep playing – and the more you play, the better you will get. Now go pick up your instrument and get to it!

How to Jam With Anybody By Daniel Roberts

http://hitmusictheory.com

My electric toothbrush hums middle C

Want to get the music out of your head and into the world? The best way to do that is to pay attention to the sounds around you. Here are some habits that you might want to develop to become a better musician.

Stop guessing what the chords might be

Instead, learn about keys and harmonic function. This will take enormous amounts of guesswork out of the process. You don’t have to try twenty chords if you know that it can only be one of six chords you like in a key.

As we show you in Hit Music Theory, almost all music has a key. Keys are used to organize how we hear sounds and make it possible to quickly find harmonies and other musical ideas that fit with each other.

For instance, if I am playing in the key of A major, I know right off the bat that the chords A, B-, C#-, D, E and F#- will all work very well with each other. Since we usually hear musical ideas inside of particular keys, the more aware of which chords are in which keys, the more you can limit how many chords you need to try to find the sound you hear in your head.

Develop your ear and become a better musician

Believe it or not, you can learn to connect what you learn in theory to particular sounds you hear in music. You can train yourself to do this to such a degree that you can begin to identify EXACTLY what is going on without any instrument at all.

Notice what key you are in.

Training yourself to do this does not require perfect pitch. Instead, you can use things like solfege and other ear training approaches to hear how the music functions. The reason this is possible is that each note in a scale has its own kind of sound (this is why we like some riffs and not others, some chords and not others, etc – we already can hear it all, we just don’t know what to call each thing we hear). If you give a name or syllable to each pitch in a scale, you can start to identify the sound of a particular note in a scale with a particular syllable.

The process of developing your ear never ends, so don’t worry about getting it right all the time. Learn the language of music and make it a priority to sing (singing these notes with syllables is really helpful) and analyse the music you listen to. The more you do it, the better you will become. Once you start being able to hear these notes and sing them, you can tie them into your understanding of keys and chords and identify the chords you are looking for even faster.

Make it your daily practice to identify everything you hear

Many of the best musicians seem to always be analyzing everything they hear out of natural curiosity. So many things in our world have pitch, harmony and rhythm. You can practice grooves to your washing machine, for instance. My electric toothbrush hums a middle C when I turn it on. Most pop songs use the same four types of chords inside of a major key (I, V, vi and IV in case you were wondering). Just stay curious and listen actively to whatever is around you all the time.

My electric toothbrush hums a middle C when I turn it on.

Then, when you sit down to practice, take the same curiosity you are developing by listening to everything around you and apply it to everything you play. Notice what key you are in. Be aware of the scale you are playing and the riffs you like to play that fit in it. Name the chords you are using and be aware of how they function inside the key you are playing in. The more you do it, the more natural and second nature it will become to identify, play and write what you hear.

Put it on the page

As you start to get comfortable identifying what you hear, make it your daily practice to take a little time each day to write down something that you hear or are learning to play. It can be a chord progression, riff, rhythm or anything else.

Name the chords you are using and be aware of how they function inside the key you are playing in.

Remember that music is a language. You learned to write by just doing it every day in school. Every language takes time to learn to speak and write fluently. Don’t be afraid of doing it wrong. The only way to do it wrong is to not try.

Enjoy the process and give yourself the time to enjoy and work on music every day. Before you know it, you will find yourself being able to write down your own musical ideas with ease.

By Daniel Roberts

Learn music theory and become a better musician at http://hitmusictheory.com

3 Practice Tricks To Become a Better Musician

The Quest to Become a Better Musician

We all want to improve as musicians, but it can be hard to identify clear ways to improve. Just starting to practice on a regular basis can help you enormously, but it can also be a real challenge. Many times it’s hard to decide what to practice when you finally sit down with your instrument, right? So I thought I would give you 3 Practice Tricks To Become a Better Musician.

Part of the challenge is knowing what is most important to practice each time you sit down. How can you use your practice time to improve as a musician on a consistent basis. To address this, we each have to learn to reflect on our playing and knowledge and to turn that reflection into action. But regardless of whether you are a beginner or a really advanced player, there are some aspects of being a musician that always matter and can always be improved on. You can use these areas as a structure to start thinking about and analyzing what you can work on when you’re practicing. Here are some of the most important ones to me.

Your Sense of Time

At the very foundation of all music is time. You can think of time as the heartbeat (or groove) of the music, and rhythm as the dance that happens from that beat. Every rhythm you play is just a way to dress up the heartbeat underneath everything. How deeply and accurately you feel this underlying heartbeat determines how strongly everyone else will respond to the music. When you really know the heartbeat, your music becomes undeniable. You can often know when you have it, because the crowd will feel compelled to get up and dance.

Think of time as the heartbeat (or groove) of the music, and rhythm as the dance that happens from that beat.

The most important aspects of time to develop are your sense of the beat and its subdivision. We all can count the main beats of a song (think of the drummer counting off “One! Two! Three! Four!”) but do you know how those beats are subdivided? You can usually tell by listening to the drummer’s hi-hat part. Are they playing eighth notes? Sixteenth notes? Triplets? Is the subdivision straight, laid back or played on top of the beat? Is it swung?

Trick #1 – When you sit down to practice, try to think about the subdivisions happening in the music you love and create exercises that help you play them. Start simple. Play your scales or strumming patterns with quarter notes, then with eight notes. Do that for a week and then try sixteenth notes. Start with a slow tempo and ease into it. After a month or two of exploring subdivisions by twos, try exploring subdivisions by threes. Try some triplets. Take your time, have patience, be in the moment and try to think systematically as you create various exercises for yourself. You will probably find that you will stumble on musical ideas you like as you do this. Enjoy exploring them as soon as they come up. When they bore you, go back to your exercises.

Your Sense of Tonality

I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a rehearsal with someone who does not have a clue what key they are in. It’s critical that you know this, because everything you play comes from a key whether you know it or not – and if you don’t know, you may find yourself being that guy in the band who seems to have five heads.

Don’t be that guy in the band who seems to have five heads.

There are two things to know about the key you’re in. First is the tonal center. This is the note everything is organized around. When someone says “let’s play in A major” – they are telling you that everything they are about to play is organized around the pitch “A”.

Second, when they say “major” they are telling you the particular type of organization they are using around the pitch “A”. In this case, they are using the major scale (which is a series of whole and half steps) as a pattern for organizing pitches. The result is a tonality – a set of pitches organized around a central pitch (“A” in this example).

Incidentally, this is why scales are so important. It’s not enough to understand the idea of tonality – you need to be able to play it on your instrument. Scales are just specific instances of tonalities.

Trick #2 – When practicing, consider killing two birds with one stone by practicing your scales with specific subdivisions you want to improve on. For instance, you might choose one scale a day to practice with eighth notes for a week. If you practice every day of the week, you will be much more comfortable with seven new scales and your sense of eighth note rhythms will be much deeper.

Your Sense of Harmony

Once you know the tonality you are in, you can use the pitches and interval relationships inside it to create harmony. Harmony is created anytime you make the listener hear two or more pitches at the same time. You can combine pitches however you like, but we all tend to hear these pitches in similar ways (which we call harmonic function). The ways we hear groups of pitches and how we name them varies. I recommend starting with roman numerals or nashville numbers and the triads associated with them inside of the tonality you are working in.

Trick #3 – In any major key, there are seven basic types of chord function (since each basic type of chord in a key is built on a note in the scale). These chord functions are described with numbers that correspond to the pitch in the scale they are built on (if you build a chord on the first note in the scale, it’s called a 1 or I chord – but if you build it on the second pitch in a scale, it’s called a 2 or ii chord). If you are in nashville you write this function with arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.), but they are called “Nashville Numbers”. In most other music contexts, we use the classical theory system that uses “Roman Numerals” (I, ii, iii, IV, etc.).

You can use these naming conventions to identify and make chord progressions. In C major, chords 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, respectively are C, D-, E-, F, G, A- and B diminished. Once you learn these chords in C major, see if you can find them in other major keys you know.

A Final Thought:

Once you have found a few things to work on in each of these categories, take the time to practice them each time you pick up your instrument. Organize your practice sessions into a routine so you don’t have to decide what to work on each time you sit down. If you can get into regular routine, I guarantee that you will find yourself improving with these 3 Practice Tricks To Become a Better Musician.

By Daniel Roberts

Learn more here http://hitmusictheory.com