Open mic nights and jam sessions are a great way to get stage time and to meet other musicians – perhaps musicians who are looking for someone just like you for their project!
Here are three things to keep in mind, to avoid wasting your time and the opportunity:
1) Before you go, find out: Is it an “open mic night,” where you’re expected to accompany yourself, or a “jam session,” where there should be a more or less full band and people will be swapping out on all instruments?
Will there be a house band? If you are a non-instrument-playing vocalist and you want to go to an open mic night, you might want to take a guitarist or keyboardist friend with you to accompany. (Or you can team up once you arrive.) *Note: I’m not sure whether there’s a consistently clear-cut definition between “open mic nights” and “jam sessions,” so best to just ask how the venue runs, or just go to observe the first time.
2) Pick your songs, and know their keys and tempos. Pick twice as many songs as you might need, and pick very popular, common songs.
Not necessarily *currently* popular songs – I’m talking about songs heard over and over at open mic nights, which become part of every house band’s repertoire. Stevie Wonder, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Van Morrison are highly represented in these selections, for example.
Often you’ll have a chance to sing 2-3 tunes. Come prepared to sing 5-7, so that if the band doesn’t know the first song you mention, you have others to choose from.
3) Talk to people! Make friends! Have a good time!
If you’re at an open mic night to find musical opportunities, it’s not just about your voice and stage presence. Part of what other people are looking for is whether you’re someone they’d want to actually spend time with. How personable you are OFF stage will have just as much to do with whether a new project takes shape, as how personable you are ON stage.
(c) 2010 Adrienne Osborn