"Sitting in" is the time-honored tradition of asking to join in and play a song or two with strangers. It is a high stakes gamble. If you are an accomplished drummer, you risk embarrassing the current drummer and vice versa, you under play and embarrass yourself. But there are ways to do it all gracefully and get what you want: musicians to play with.
It requires some courage and a little hubris. But it in the end, it is how musicians announce themselves into a new scene. It is how musicians find others to play with. So, get ready.
1. If you can, go hang out for a few weeks before asking to sit in. Be friendly, at your second appearance the musicians will acknowledge you with a friendly smile. At the third appearance you will be one of the family.
2. Make a note of the repertoire performed by the band. If you know the tunes, great. In a public jam session, the tunes will be standards. I’ve a list here of jazz standards. For Rock and Blues standards try these lists. Blues. Rock. Then go home a learn a few from memory before you ask to sit in. The tune need not be a complicated one, but it you should have it solidly memorized and in your hands.
3. At home spend half your practice time learning the standard tunes of the genre you want to play. Play with the recordings over and over and over.
4. As a drummer learn the grooves of the genre.
5. Practice with a metronome to develop your ear for time.
6. Be humble! Nobody wants to play with a jerk.
7. When you decide to get up their, be fully sober. Save the drinks for later!
8. As a drummer you will have to play a drum solo. Be prepared. My advice keep is simple and uncomplicated, save the fireworks for later.
9. Be fully vaccinated, don't endanger the rest of the band. I know one band personally that spread covid amongst themselves.
10. When preparation meets opportunity music will be made and magic happens.
extra tip: Bring your stick bag and ear plugs!
When I moved to Toronto in my fifties, I put all of these into action. I now play regularly in lots of different scenes: Rock, Jazz, Improv, and more.
If I can help you get ready, call me.
A drummer is an accompanist who creates beats, textures, parts, tone, and excitement.
In short, they are a team leader, team player and exhibitionistic showman/woman all wrapped up in one.
Drummers make it feel, sound, and look good.
Drummers make the other musicians glad they came to the session. In short, we bring joy and competence to the stage/studio/jam.
How do you go about this?
A caveat, the following ideas assume the student comes from a place of privilege with access to time, money, and resources in a supportive family situation. For those lacking these privileges, some societies offer community recourses or school programs. So don't give up. Seek out opportunities in community centres, possibly churches and city/town recreational centres. People want to help.
The school bands are returning soon. One of my students, in anticipation of resumption is getting ready. We are working on his rudiments, coordination, and repertoire from his school text. He'll be ready.
Does your child need the same support and encouragement? Call me.
1. Call local teachers of other instruments. Ask them to connect you with students who match your level of accomplishment and enthusiasm.
2. Ask at your local music store. If they know you and trust you they will offer some suggestions.
3. Go to a local jam session and sit quietly in the corner for the first week or so to get the lay of the land. Then get up there and participate week after week. Make friends. Talk it up. It won't take long.
4. Online is cool, I guess. But, without some human intervention, you might just meet crazies.
If I can help, call me.
Playing drums alone has its joys, but eventually you likely want to try it with a group. I've been playing over 45 years with groups great and small: Forty-five years of joy, excitement, disappointments, embarrassments, and more than a few triumphs. I've a few miles left in me yet too. So, let me offer some general suggestions for those looking for their first group.
Prepare to play: A review of critical skills to play in a band or orchestra
Conclusion: Be ready to play, be confident, know some tunes. Do you need to have professional skills to play? No, there is a group for everyone.
The Hunt: Where beginners can start.
For school age musicians.
A young musician goes to an audition. She is keen, she has practiced, mastered her time, learned the repertoire, paid her dues. She is ready she thinks.
The band members quiz her." Can you play 32nd note paradiddles with your feet?"
She eagerly responds, "Of course, now do I have the gig?"
"Why, I actually won a drum contest doing that."
"That's why we fired the last drummer. Guy put them everywhere"
Moral of the story. Play the song. We drummers are accompanists. Remember Buddy Rich had to start his own band.
If you'd like me to help you on your journey, call me.
Part 2 of finding people to play drums with.
The big leagues: Toronto at age 55
At the Jamie Aebersold jazz workshop in Louisville Kentucky I met a drummer from Toronto. When I arrived in Toronto, I looked him up and found that he ran a jam session on Thursday nights in the garage behind his business in the East end of Toronto. I joined in for about a year. What a great bunch of folks.
My new Toronto jazz drum teacher recommended me to some friends who were looking for a drummer for their classic rock trio that he was retiring from. I spent the next couple of years playing with that band every Wednesday night until the untimely death of our bassist. We played regularly at open mikes around Toronto and even a street festival one summer. Rock On!
Then I found that one of my new students ran a jazz jam session every Thursday night just around the corner from where I lived. Now this story is going to get truly funny.
What to do if you are a Newbie
A decade of playing the drums I've learned a thing or two about finding other musicians to play with.
1st some prerequisites
Now let's go hunting.
David Story, drummer, pianist, qualified online music teacher