In any case, there are a few things a guitar player can do to ensure those first forays into playing with others are fun and worthwhile. Yes, it’s supposed to be a casual, no-pressure situation but a bit of planning can go a long way toward making it a positive experience.
First of all, check your ego at the door! This is not an issue for most folks of course. No one should sit in judgment of another’s playing ability. Results may vary of course but even simple songs can be tons of fun to play with others. This is not like, say, playing tennis where two players of widely different levels of ability end up having a mutually frustrating experience. An experienced guitarist can (and should!) keep things simple in deference to those with less experience. One of my former students went to an “open jam” at a big deal music store near Boston a couple years ago and one guy who featured himself the World’s Greatest Lead Guitar Player inflicted his hot licks on everyone and it was an awkward and uncomfortable experience all concerned – until Mr. Hot Licks hit the road and everyone relaxed and proceeded to have a fine time.
Bring along plenty of printed music (lyrics/chord sheets work best) rather than just hoping you’ll remember the tunes you play. And it’s a nice idea to bring multiple copies if you suspect the others may not know your favorite tunes so they can follow what you’re playing.
Now here’s one that may be tough for first-timers: someone has to SING! Don’t worry if you’re not American Idol material. Just go for it and keep a smile on your face. Believe me, no one cares all that much about how much you sound like the original artist. Vocals add structure and a reference point to the music you make with others. And even if your singing up to that point has been something you only do in your shower, you may even find you enjoy it! (Don’t forget your capo, by the way – you may have to change key for others to sing comfortably.)
If you are naturally a very loud or very soft player, be sure to listen to the others who are playing. The object is to play TOGETHER. Adjust your playing to blend as equally as possible with the others, even if it’s just one other guitar player.
Make a list of songs you played together. If you hang out with other players for a couple hours it’s easy to forget what was covered. Having a list will give you something to practice later on and may even make you think of similar songs or artists that you’d like to introduce next time.
And there’s the take-away. No matter what happens, assuming there aren’t any major personality conflicts, DO make the effort to do it again! I absolutely guarantee that every time you play with someone else, you will learn something. Either about new music, or your own playing, or both. Making music with others is gratifying and just pure fun.
Peace & good music,