Listening to: The music in my head, which is sweet and flowing and always in tune =)

So, I’ve discovered an incredible creative experience. I can’t really believe that, in all my years of practicing this art, I never found this out before, but…

Jamming is a fantastic form of music.

My brother plays banjo (and about 12 other instruments), and he’s on this side of the country for once. I’ve seen him jam with his friends, and seen him play by himself, and both are awesome to watch.

Even more awesome, though, is jumping into the fray and jamming myself. Which I just did for the first time a week ago, at a party my brother held at my dad’s house.

The night before the party, knowing that there would be impromptu music played, I practiced playing freestyle. Now, I know that sounds rather counterintuitive, but you have to understand–I had never, in all my years of playing violin (12 years now, with a 6 year break after high school), played without sheet music in front of me. I didn’t truly realize that until I picked up my instrument and started trying things out.

It was awesome. The only thing I can compare it to is those transcendant moments of writing, when your brain shuts off and your instincts take over. It was, in fact, just like that.

So I really looked forward to the next evening, even as I was a bit nervous. All the Vagabond’s (that’s what we call him sometimes) friends would be there, as would my sister and brother-in-law.

Well into the night, after many drinks had been consumed and one of my brother’s male friends had worn my tank top while doing shots of rum and posing for pictures*, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard someone strike up the guitar in the living room. Then I heard my brother’s banjo kick in–he has a very distinctive sound, almost like he’s playing classical music–and I knew it was time. I snatched my violin from its case and ran to join the crowd. Someone pulled out a harmonica as I walked in. I listened a bit, then let my arm and fingers take over.

It. Sounded. Amazing.

The boy who had worn my tank top earlier provided percussion with a cooling rack and a ladle, and about six or seven others just sat and listened. I can’t tell you what notes I played, or even hum the melody, because I made it up as I went along and forgot it as soon as we finished. Everyone came up to me afterwords and said how great it sounded, but the best compliment came from my brother:

“I have never been so proud of you in all my life,” he said.

So, after the thrill and melody of that night, I was a little depressed coming back to J-town. No one to jam with! And after that night, I was hooked. Sure, I know a few people who play various instruments, but I didn’t think any of them would really be up for jamming.

Then serendipity happened.

I was hanging out at the cafe I patronize after work, and the boyfriend of the-most-awesome-barista-in-the-world was the only other person on the patio with me. A song played, something with an awesome violin part, and I commented on how great it sounded. We got to talking, and I discovered that he plays acoustic guitar, and in fact gives lessons at the studio down the street. I mentioned my jamming experience, and he invited me to join him for a session sometime.

We haven’t had a chance yet, but I’m now carrying my violin with me every time I go down there. I just finished jamming with my brother (on the front porch–how country are we?), who’s back in town for a few days, and he thinks I’m getting the hang of it.

There’s nothing like it, especially with a group. If you play an instrument, and you ever get the chance to jam–go for it. You won’t regret it.

*Another story for another day.

One thought on “Jammin’

  1. I piddle around on the violin, but I don’t have much actual playing experience. I played for 2 years in my 20s and I took it up again last year. My fingernails on my left hand are down to the quick, but my callouses come and go with how much I practice.

    I got good enough (in my 20s) to not be thrown out of a community orchestra when I had the chutzpah to join. I barely kept up, but playing in an orchestra was awesome. I’ve never jammed, though. Right now, I’d rate my skill at advanced beginner.

    I also play piano. At present, I’m more practiced with the piano than the violin. I’m a solid intermediate here, and I’m working on a wonderful Mozart sonata.

    I play a lot by ear because my daughter is always requesting me to play things for which I don’t have the sheet music. I also can transpose quite readily, especially on the violin. I had been playing “Over the Rainbow” in D-major, but I switched it to C-major so I could play vibratos without shifting off an open string. I kind of liked it.

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