Open Mic NIght...A scary thing

MaryO

Platinum Member
So I went to the local pub where they have an Open Mic blues night mostly to see what it was all about and it was the one reommended by everyone I had spoken with. Open Mic night wasn't happening tonight because of a local Labor Day celebration but the band that runs it was still playing. We listened to a few of their numbers, they were good, and during the break I got a chance to speak with the drummer. He was a nice guy and encouraged me to give it a shot in a couple of weeks. He said the way the open mic works is that you sign up at the beginning of the night and when it's your turn you come up and play with band for a few songs of their choice. You just have to keep up with whatever they're playing. That's scary thing number one. No way to practice any specific numbers, you just have to be familiar with enough blues tunes to be able to play along and anticipate breaks and changes, etc. Not sure I'm there yet.

After the bands second set, on our way out, we spoke with the bass player. He was not as nice as the drummer and seemed a little more unforgiving as to who he wanted playing open mic nite on stage with him. Basically he gave me the impression that I better be good enough not to make a fool of myself or anyone else and that I needed to be at a better level than I am now in order to play. Kind of got the feeling he wouldn't want a "noob" on the stage with him.

So, now I'm thinking I'm probably just not ready for the whole Open Mic nite thing yet. At least not at this place. We'll probably go back in a few weeks and see what kind of players actually show up for the Open Mic sessions but I have a feeling I'll find out this isn't for me. And I really haven't found any other place around that has a good open Mic nite.

So in the meantime, I'll work on some blues tunes and see how it develops. One step at a time I guess.

Thanks for letting me ramble...feeling kind of humbled tonight. Was really excited about the prospect of getting out there and playing but now I'm kind of scared of the whole thing.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
Have to admit I've not seen any noobie drummers at open nights. I don't have the nerve to get up there either and I've been playing for yonks. I checked one out a few months ago and the whole band were full timers, the guitarist a bit of a local legend. A couple of non pros did get up to play with them but I don't want to be kindly tolerated by pros who can't wait for their buddy to get back up there. I'd rather leave the pros to do their thing.

I think jamming with a few local people around your level is a gentler introduction to playing with people.
 

ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
After the bands second set, on our way out, we spoke with the bass player. He was not as nice as the drummer and seemed a little more unforgiving as to who he wanted playing open mic nite on stage with him. Basically he gave me the impression that I better be good enough not to make a fool of myself or anyone else and that I needed to be at a better level than I am now in order to play. Kind of got the feeling he wouldn't want a "noob" on the stage with him.
That's because he is probably full of bovine excrement. Don't let guys like this intimidate you.
 

Anon La Ply

Renegade
That's because he is probably full of bovine excrement. Don't let guys like this intimidate you.
I think these things gradually boil down to a core group who are pros or hard working semi pros - the audience usually makes sure the best players play most.
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
Well MaryO, part of me wants to say something diplomatic about practicing hard and getting your chops together and listening to critics constructively and so on.

But the bottom line is, this is an open mic, not Carnegie Hall, and there will always be nice guys like your drummer friend, and arrogant self-appointed captains of the stage like this bass player. Throughout life you've probably met many of both, from the school yard to the hardware store. Go play, and take every opportunity to play with others that you can.

Protect your dream from the negative ones, attach yourself to the encouraging ones, and most of all, damn the torpedoes, Mary-O! Damn the torpedoes. Say it out loud, or as Sam Kinison would say, SAY IT!!! Damn the torpedoes! Go play! If you make a mistake, make it loud! It's just the freakin' blues, screwing up is what the genre is named for! Sing along:

Ain't got no job.... (na NAH na Na na)
And I just broke my stick... (na NAH na Na na)
Dropped a beat in bar 7... (na NAH na Na na)
And the bass player is a prick! (na NAH na Na na)

btw, was the bass player a very tall, upright bass player?
 

Duck Tape

Platinum Member
Open Mic nights are the best place for a crappy bands/musos to start out so if you're any good it's only gonna be a bonus.

Just get up there and have a go, it really doesn't matter if you suck.

If you're looking for another way to start though - I joined this website, meetup.com, it has a jammers group and they just hire out a studio every week/fortnight and a bunch of random ppl go along and play.

I did my first one on Saturday and I wasn't expecting much but there were a few okay players there and I had some fun.

I'm in Aus so I have no idea if that website caters to you but I'm sure being in the states you've got a similar site or 10.
 

ineedaclutch

Platinum Member
I think these things gradually boil down to a core group who are pros or hard working semi pros - the audience usually makes sure the best players play most.
That's correct. But, if one feels they are able to jam at a certain proficiency then they should sign up. If they are not up to par then they might learn what it is they need to work on. I have never played an open mic. I have been called as a fill-in for an open mic house band though. It was an early 6-9 gig for $75 on a Thursday, if I recall correctly, which gave me time to get to my normal gig with a kit set up in both locations. After it was over I swore I would never do it again. I don't like to have to tell the bass/guitar/harp/key player what key we are in, or what progression they should play. Apparently none of the players knew what the number system is. They thought it was the fret number. No drummers tried to play that night. After the first gig I figured there was no way the amateur-hour players would show up again. This is why I agreed to do the second gig. After that gig I respectfully declined the house groups offer of a regular gig. Normally I never say no to a gig if I can do it and maintain my work schedule.
I was taught to never turn down a gig unless I can't physically attend (don't say no unless you can't say yes), but I don't enjoy being put in that situation.
 
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Thud

Senior Member
I love Open Mic nights, but I have some reservations. Firstly there are always music snobs who try to put everyone else off. They usually play quite well but they spend the evening telling everyone else how they don't measure up. Don't bother.

Secondly a genuine Open Mic means that anyone can go up and do their thing. Many players have got their first ever experience of playing in a band at a jam night and then have gone on to do the whole nine yards. What we have here is the house band forcing people to groove along with them and sneering at those who don't measure up. That is neither an Open Mic or a jam is it?

What I would say is, Open Mics are fun but be selective. If they set out to humiliate you then just make your excuses and leave.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Don't pay no attention to "Kid Ego bass player". You'll probably run into a few more like him. A legend in his own mind. Crikey, he's sponsoring an "Open Mic Night" .... if he can't tolerate lesser players on his stage, he's at the wrong gig.​
Indeed, go back and really check out the scene. And if it is noob friendly, jump in.​
 

Duracell

Senior Member
Just do it!

I started out with jam sessions. Actually jazz jam sessions, and I don't play jazz! I'd be the kid asking for " Cold sweat ", " Mercy mercy " and " I feel good ". Subsequently I would botch those songs. But the musicians didn't care. They were a supportive lot. Thanks to them I got a band. 'Nuff said....
 

Andy

Administrator
Staff member
Don't pay no attention to "Kid Ego bass player". You'll probably run into a few more like him. A legend in his own mind. Crikey, he's sponsoring an "Open Mic Night" .... if he can't tolerate lesser players on his stage, he's at the wrong gig.​
Indeed, go back and really check out the scene. And if it is noob friendly, jump in.​
Good advice I think. "Small Popes" are everywhere. Mostly failed muso's who think the industry owed them a shot, but it never came. 9 times out of 10, it's their attitude that got them rejected, & they've been bitter ever since. (remember "Bongo John" anyone?) I have zero time for these losers, & nor should you.

Mary, as Harry said, go check out some other open mic style opportunities, & look for other jam stuff too. maybe even consider putting an ad up in a few of the muso sites such as "Join my band" or "Bandmix". I'm sure they're available in the US.
 

PDL

Senior Member
Two things.

As Zappa said "bass is balls" so take what the 4 string goon said with a pinch of salt. Bass players are wanna be guitarists.

Number 2. Blues ain't that hard to thump along to, feel the beat, go with the flow, learn a couple of blues fills/timings and shuffles

But finally go watch, see where you can fit in and then do it, don't go thinking you can't do it as you can.
 

jornthedrummer

Silver Member
Go there a few times without playing, make some friends, notice which songs that usually play and that is also within your range. Go home and practice those songs, come back and join the jam!
 

Kudzu Monroe

Senior Member
Ahhh blues jams …

A subject near and dear to my heart, I started out playing them years ago and then was asked to be the “house” player for the biggest one in town.

That ended for me when it became as too many do, the bastion of politics in music ie: the by invitation pros vs the also rans, (and that included excluding some house band members) The result being a number of members voted with their feet and left the “organization/society”. Some of the former members got together at a little music friendly venue for an impromptu jam when a band cancelled at the last moment, and some of our friends just showed up to sit in … the “Back Porch Blues Jam” was started then and there and has become a Tuesday Night tradition with players literally from all over the world showing up!!! Our little hootenanny is now the hottest ticket in town for an OPEN jam, the us and them pros also split off and regrouped to do a by invitation pro jam on Thursday night, and the original society jam is still operating … We operate as something of a benevolent dictatorship rather than a true democracy, there has to be some structure and trying to match who plays with who to make it work. We reserve the right to restrict volume, playing time, and tune called (it is after all a BLUES jam) it mostly works but we do have our share of train-wrecks and that’s OK it’s how newbie’s learn, our crowd knows this can happen and really encourage players to get back up next week and give it another go.

So Mary and any others I would encourage you to listen and shop around don’t let one rude guy throw you off …
 

MaryO

Platinum Member
Good advice from all. I do plan on working on my blues skills and then working on my own and with my teacher to apply those to several different songs and seeing how I do, even with stuff I've never played along to before...just to see if I can at least play a respectable beat along with whatever's thrown at me. I also plan to go back and see exactly what kind of people show up to play for an actual open mic nite. If they all seem like semi-pro established musicians, I'll probably skip this one and look for another. If there some who appear on my level then I'll work my way into getting up and playing.

I guess this was just not what I expected open mic nite to be. From all I had heard, they were for people like me looking to gain some experience and I guess I was kind of surprised that a member of the band that's been running this same event for over 10 years would have that attitude and it threw me for a loop.

On another note, I found a guy who was advertising on one of the local musician Facebook pages that his wife wanted to start an all girl band playing a lot of music that I like. I've messaged him that I was interested in talking to them so Im hoping to hear back and maybe find some others to play with :) I'll keep you posted on that if anything comes of it.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Mary, there are only like 6 different beats to know when doing open mic BLUES jams.

The shuffle and all it's variations (Texas, swing, double, flat tire, etc.)
The 2/4 country/polka beat (Oom pah - Oom pah - Oom pah etc.)
The 12/8 slow blues (1-2-3-FOUR-5-6)
Straight four on the floor (Quarters on kick, Eighths on hat, halves on snare, AKA The Money Beat) This could also include a very fast tempo'd swing beat where you are doing quarters instead of eights on the ride, halves on the snare, quarters on kick. The fast tempo would prevent you from doing eighths on the ride.
The Rhumba beat (In blues, use a backbeat rhumba pattern rather than Latin tom heavy stuff, generally speaking. Tom heavy stuff does fit but usually they are looking for a backbeat)

Less commonly there's also New Orleans 3 against 2 stuff AKA the Bo Diddley beat.

There's also the funk beat, which are really just variations of the Money Beat, straight time stuff

The less fills you put in Blues the better it works. The beat is King and Queen in Blues.

Keeping good steady meter and a sense of the proper tempo are JOB 1 in Blues. Also a good solid backbeat, not wimpy, is what the others NEED. In other words, play your beats with confidence.
Fills are used only when the song HAS to have one there. Dynamic buildups work well. Drummy fills generally do not. Any fills should retain the pulse of the beat within the fill.
Just keep the beat, and try to follow the ending rather than lead the ending, in this situation.
Treat the guitar solos like a verse in the beginning, start respectfully, and eventually attempt to ramp them up to a peak, using intensity and dynamics, then come back down for the vocals. Play with the dynamics rather than the fills. Playing at one volume the whole song should be avoided. You are in control of the ups and downs.

Don't let the bass player's D-bag comments deter you. He shouldn't have said those things and should be told so. What a D-bag.

Please keep attending the jams and observe what the other drummers do. When you reach the point where you say to yourself..."I can do that'....you're ready.
 
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opentune

Platinum Member
Maybe you're not ready for a stage, but are for playing with others to eventually get there. I may have suggested this before. You live in a busy city. Put out a CL ad to jam with other folks, in your own home or rent a local jam space once a week etc. There may be other guitarists and bassists who are also afraid of open mics but would prefer to come out of the closet to play with others at their level in a less pressurized setting. Seek them out, they may be seeking you.

Also, if you're going to do blues jams, you need to learn at least one shuffle.
 

Daisy

Senior Member
Mary - I have recently played with a blues "open jam" house band at their regular bar venue. I didn't know any of them, never done this before - they advertised because their regular drummer couldn't make it, I answered and they just said "OK, thanks, see you at 7" !! They were all very experienced (me - not so much!).

The routine was nothing like you've described. Everyone in the house band was very open to playing with anyone, whatever ability. Someone (not sure who he was!) was going round the audience encouraging people to come up. Perhaps that's the difference between an "open mic" and an "open jam"?

We had people of all abilities coming up, a few singers, harp players, guitarists, one bass player, chap with a saxaphone (no drummers though). Some were obviously experienced, some were appalling, but no-one cared. It was all about "having a go" and the band was there to support them.

What we played sort of fell into two categories. Some asked if we knew X song (usually a very well known blues classic), and I was able to jam through it because I more or less knew the structure. Others wanted to do something we didn't know: they said what key it was in, and off we went (although I often had to wait a few measures before joining in, to see what beat it was!) and they cued us for stops or eg nodded over to the guitar player so he could do a bit of a solo.

It was very relaxed and just a bunch of people having fun. Things went wrong (like the guy who would wave his arm in the air here and there, which I thought it was a cue to stop, but it wasn't!), but we all just smiled and picked it up. There was a big crowd and from their reaction they obviously loved it.

I agree with what larry says about having the basic beats down. I've played quite a lot of blues and I'm reasonably comfortable with those basic beats (although I'd never done anything like this before)., and blues structures. Where I was really confident of where the number was going next, I'd throw in a very simple fill to bring in the change, but otherwise I just focussed on keeping the beat going. And I suppose it couldn't have been that bad, because a few weeks later they asked me to fill in again.

So Mary - I'd suggest you find an open jam that's more OPEN. Perhaps as a start, you could learn a very well know blues classic that the band is bound to know, and sit on the drums for that one number? It would give you a lot of confidence (it did for me).
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Daisy's fine account is more in line with open mics I've experienced. Most attendees are not of pro level, if they were, they usually get snapped right up. Open mics are like music college, if you treat it as such. Ignore that one guys comment. It didn't even happen. You are to attend all the open mics you can. That's an order lol.

I love your attitude and I love seeing you go from "ground floor" to where you are now. You are like a "project" we all can participate in. I hope you don't mind I said that.
 
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