Now that playing live is safe in some places, people are either celebrating or looking forward to their first in-person jams/gigs in a year.
So how can we make the most of this to connect through music?
I remember feeling frustrated as a young classical musician by the inability to play in situations outside of prepared classical concerts.
When my friends formed a rock band in high school, I felt anxious and left out.
One vivid memory I have from that time is when I was playing bass for my songwriter friend Mike. He showed me the chords to a song, which I still remember.
I said, “You can’t play a D7 after an A major chord”. His response will forever be emblazoned in my mind:
“I just did.”
Experiences like these motivated me to want to understand how the rules of jamming applied in fiddle playing, rock bands, blues, gospel, R and B, jazz, Flamenco, EDM, pop, and more.
Whether you’re a player feeling left out on the sidelines or a teacher who wants to create a “jamming culture” in your school/studio, the question of how to jam (or collaborate musically in general) can be answered by breaking it down.
1. Knowing when, what, and how to play in any style or ensemble configuration.
A common reason why classically trained musicians struggle with this is because of missing the distinction between fundamental musicianship (when and what to play, i.e. the harmonic and rhythmic construction of tunes) and nuanced conventions of style (how to play, i.e. inflections and licks).
2) knowing how to communicate with other musicians. Basically, we want to give musicians permission to tell us what they want.
Once you get clear on these distinctions, the other part is just about doing it.
Casey Driessen gets it. He’s a master of being able to jam and collaborate with musicians in many styles and situations.
He also Does It in the biggest of ways.
The soulful fiddler’s new album Otherlands, is a travelogue of on-location recordings, short films, and essays documenting musical collaborations through Spain, Ireland, Scotland, India, Japan, and Finland.
Yep. He took his family around the world to jam/collaborate, learn, and share it all with us.
Casey and I both had our “first” post-vax jam together on my back porch in Asheville.
During our hang, we listen to clips from the album and talk about his process.
We talk about chopping/rhythm, and other aspects of jamming and musical collaboration We even jam some.
It’s a good time. Come on over and hang with us on my back porch.
On Today’s Episode…
Join me with soulful fiddler Casey Driessen as we talk about his latest album Otherlands, chopping/rhythm, and musical collaboration. We’ll play a tune too!
Our discussion includes...
- Background on the Other Lands project (0:00:42)
- Song: “A Miña Burriña” Galicia, Spain (0:03:14)
- Discussion on “A Miña Burriña” (0:08:05)
- Reflecting on time in Spain and Spanish music in Galicia (0:09:38)
- Laying back playing rhythm to work on forms and growing musically (0:11:15)
- Learning melodies vs learning chord changes (0:17:45)
- Song: “Musical Priest / Toss the Feathers / Lucy Campbell’s” Doolin, Ireland (0:20:27)
- Discussion on “Toss the Feathers” (0:25:00)
- Song: “The Smith’s A Gallant Fireman / Donald Blue / S’iomadh Rud a Chunnaic Mi“ Highlands, Scotland (0:26:49)
- Discussion on “A Gallant Fireman” (0:32:53)
- Understanding the words to get a sense of a song (0:34:40)
- Song: “Baaro Saadhanakerige” Bengaluru, India (0:39:51)
- Discussion on “Baaro Saadhanakerige” (0:44:00)
- worldofchop.com (0:45:25)
- Chris and Casey jam (0:50:16)
- Background on “Ecchu-Owara-Bushi / Sakura, Sakura” and time in Japan (0:52:46)
- Song: “Ecchu-Owara-Bushi / Sakura, Sakura” Tokyo, Japan (0:55:56)
- Discussion on “Ecchu-Owara-Bushi / Sakura, Sakura” (0:58:43)
- Where to listen to and stream Other Lands & YouTube channel (1:01:39)
- Song: “Jos sä olet minun hellunani” Härmä, Finland (1:03:37)
- Discussion on “Jos sä olet minun hellunani” (1:05:24)
- Learning from this project (1:06:24)
- Wrap up & plugs (1:11:44)
- Song: “K” Galicia, Spain (1:13:45)
Casey Driessen knows about the art of collaboration. His Chop Notation Project, a free resource created in partnership with Spanish violinist Oriol Saña and in consultation with other recognized choppers, is helping to spread the practice worldwide. You can check out his latest project, Otherlands, here.
If you’re a player looking to get off the sidelines in any musical style/situation, or a teacher who wants to foster a jamming culture in your program, join an upcoming online Creative Strings Workshop