Jam sessions can be a lot of fun and a great learning experience, but there is a certain etiquette that one should follow if they plan on being invited up on stage more than once.


1. Most jam sessions have a sign up sheet to make sure that everyone gets a fair amount of stage time. If you plan on playing, make sure you get your name on the list. Don’t just get up on stage whenever you feel like it, unless the host has given you permission to do so.

2. Don’t play off on the side while other performers are on stage.

3. Play what you need to play in a few choruses – don’t take a ten minute solo.

4. Don’t play what you don’t know.

5. If there is a singer, don’t play over them.

6. Don’t try to show up other players.

7. Go prepared with a few tunes, but know that the leader may have you sit in on something else instead. Just have a few songs in mind in case the leader asks you what you would like to play.

8. Play in tune.

9. Remember that jam sessions are a place for you to learn, gain experience and have fun. Don’t worry if you make a few mistakes on stage. Just make sure you do it better the next time around.

10. If you want to make sure the jam session is around for a while, be sure to support the venue where it is hosted by buying food or a few drinks (if you’re old enough, soda if you’re not). But don’t drink too much. It’s not professional to drink so much that you can’t get up on stage and perform well.

11. Check out the jam session before you plan on sitting in. Take notice of whether or not there are any regular tunes that get played, and if there are, learn them.

12. Listen to the other players.

13. If there is another perform that plays the same instrument as you, play with them (not unison, find harmonies) or take turns. Don’t try to play over each other.

14. Respect the leader and make sure you thank them for any time you get on stage.

15. Thank the house band as well.

16. Two songs tend to be the standard. Staying on stage any longer than that is considered rude. But check with the leader for approval before staying up on stage for more than one song – you may only be “invited” up for one song and then another much later in the night depending on how many people are waiting to perform.

17. Make sure you have the permission of the house band if you plan on using their gear (their guitar/bass/amp).

18. Don’t noodle between or during songs. Tune and then stop playing until you’re on stage.

19. And then don’t noodle while you’re on stage. Play well thought out fills, the melody, comp or solo, depending on what your responsibility is on stage, but that’s it.

20. Look to the band leader for your cue to solo.

21. Be aware of volume and make sure you balance yours with the rest of the group. Don’t play three times louder than everyone else on stage.

22. But most of all, listen. Pay attention to what’s being played around you both while you’re on stage and while you’re in the audience.

PS. Have you seen our Jam Session Directory? Find jam sessions in your area or add one of your favorite sessions to the list!

Want to learn more about the music business? Check out our popular FREE eBook – Advice for Young Musicians: From Established Music Professionals.

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Published by Shannon Kennedy

Shannon Kennedy is a vocalist and saxophonist living in Southern California. She is author of "The Album Checklist" and the founder of Teen Jazz. She has been contributing articles to music magaizines and websites since 2004.