Jam sessions – a Musician’s haven

Church is an amazing place. Amazing people, amazing music, amazing message from the preacher, all combined to form a service dedicated to the amazing God. After church everyone loves to meet and greet, some longer than others. However, there are a group of people who simply never want to leave. These are the ones people love to hear during the service but become quickly annoyed with after service. They get the stern looks of displeasure from those who see their actions of noise production, while they observe jubilant expressions in singing and dancing from those who can’t get enough of their product. You know who they are. They are musicians, and not just musicians- they are jam session musicians. You know the kind. The ones who cannot get their hands off the keys of a keyboard, the ever-tempting drum sticks or the shiny strings of the bass guitar. They are the ones who would stay back and continually play grooves and melodies based on ventures they took on youtube, learning different chords, scales, progressions and techniques. Whether they may be annoying or enjoyable, they do form an integral part in the Church service experience.

As stated before, these sessions are labelled as “jam sessions”. I love jam sessions! It is a joy to play during the service but even that can be a bit restrictive, which is not a bad thing. However, when you have a set of songs to play for the worship segment, many of those songs might not permit lengthy trials in musical skill. Now note that this is not to say that the “worship in song” aspect of a service should incorporate jamming. This is simply to show how jam sessions can and  should be appreciated. They should be appreciated because they act as avenues for a full essence of musical genius to petrude from the minds, limbs and digits of the musicians who have loads of talent bottled up inside them waiting to flood out. I remember many times, after the prayer of dismissal is made, that myself and the other musicians would engage in a little “jamming time”, randomly playing spontaneously arranged music, making everything up as we go along. Scales would be ran, drums would be beat in rhythms that would amaze, and strings would be plucked and “slapped” (in the case of bass guitars) to mimick styles by Hillsong, Lincoln Brewster, Aaron Lindsey, Victor Wooten and Fred Hammond. There were many times we would be there so long that other would start giving us looks of displeasure, dancing in enjoyment, signalling us to be quiet as we were interrupting meetings or just simply telling us to stop and hurry up catch a ride to go home, as the church van would be in high demand for use and, once missed,  dependence would be made on a ride from other church members which, to be honest, would not always be guaranteed. One may then say “why dont musicians just meet some other time and do their thing?”. Well, the thing is, the week can become so busy with work, school and the unavailability of a space or equipment, that such a venture sometimes can be improbable.

Now, before I continue, if you are reading this and you are not a musician, you probably might feel like skipping up or would just say “urm…ok”. If you are a musician or you have a heavy sense of appreciation of the art of music and the importance of a jam session, you might be lifting your fist in the air, shouting “power to the jam session”…or maybe not. Either way, it is key to understand the importance of such sessions in the church. When I started my studies at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine campus in Trinidad and Tobago, I began attending the Open Bible Standard Church which was located along Tunapuna road in Tunapuna. I learned alot there, especially the importance of jam sessions. They are fun and exciting and are good avenues to comfortably show forth stuff you might have learnt on youtube. They are, however, good avenues to build a good musician-musician relationship. When such sessions are held frequently, you get a sense of your fellow musician’s playing style. When all playing styles are analyzed and comprehended, you can then blend your playing style in an appropriate fashion to produce music that is at equilibrium. Just imagine having a line of trumpet players, giving them a song to play and even telling them what key to play it in, and then allowing them to play at once. Since it would be there first time playing, they would start….well….blowing. Some might be too shy and blow softly while others would basically go beyond the decibels needed for human hearing. Now, imagine if they all then sit down, practice and jam together with a laptop and youtube access, a good sound system and a metronome; heavenly music would be produced.

Having jam sessions is fun and its helpful for the enhancement of the individual and the entire band. Firstly, the individual musician must realize this. Today, for an effective worship experience, musicians (not only worship leaders) must enhance. This would entail individual practice sessions, but most importantly, team work. Even if an individual practices and can play well, it would not sound as good as an entire band that practices and plays well together. The harmony is key, the jam sessions are vital. Maybe we should have one of those adds on tv called “saved jam sessions” where the sad faces of musicians around the world would come across the television screen like a slide show. Or, maybe they should just read this post. Churches must also play a part. If a church body recognizes the importance of music and its enhancement, then time and space can be provided for musicians to practice and jam together. Worship practices can even be a bit longer with added emphasis in properly arranging songs. In this case, a sense of patience would have to be developed within the worship leaders, assuming they can be patient even when musicians might take awhile figuring out certain chords or arrangements.

I am quite passionate about these things, though they may be overlooked by many. The enhancement of the music ministry must occur and it will occur. So, to all my christian musicians out there, lets keep jamming for King Jesus. Using our gift in music, lets BE THE TASTE AND BE THE SHINE!

Blessed Love everytime!

Chad Greaves

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