Gimme some tunes for the jamming!

January 20, 2010 11:37 AM

What are some good songs to jam to?

I've started a weekly jamming session with some friends, and I've found it goes much more smoothly when we are prepared with some written progressions and changes. What are some great, simple (ish) songs and progressions that have yielded success for you?

It's usually drums, bass, two guitars, and we tend to play rock/folk/blues.

posted by ORthey (8 comments total)

Neil Young, Down By the River. Good tempo, a couple chords, good lyrics, and vocals that can go from quite easy to quite involved. A perfect arrangement for your instruments at hand, and basically the definition of a rock/folk/blues tune.

It's fun because you can have an extended jam and experience that point where everyone is in tune and ready to go to the chorus and BAM! it hits and feels great. Or instead of hitting the chorus just take the dynamics from LOUD to soft instantly from one measure to the next, while staying in the verse.

Really any song like that, with good dynamics to exploit, is great to jam to.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 12:43 PM on January 20, 2010

Apologies if you know all this already, but Blues uses some pretty standard major and minor progressions. That makes blues really easy to jam/improv on because everyone knows where its going.

Solo on a minor pentatonic scale and your all set:

You can add a lot of chord variations and substitutions, but thats more or less the basic blues structure.
posted by jpdoane at 3:11 PM on January 20, 2010

Agree with jpdoane re blues as a basis (or chair as Lennon had it). "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love" (Bad Company); "Crossroads" (Robert Johnson & Cream); "Cocaine" (JJ Cale & Clapton) all leap immediately to mind as suitable raw material for jammin'. Old Brit '60's stuff like "Rosalyn" (Pretty Things & Bowie) or "Black Magic Woman" (Fleetwood Mac & Santana) would also be worth kicking around. 'course you could always do "Jammin'" by Bob M...which would be kind of ironically cool........
posted by MajorDundee at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2010

ORthey, what are a couple of songs that you guys are really digging so far? This is a pretty darn broad field.
posted by snsranch at 7:09 PM on January 21, 2010

"feeling alright" by traffic was an old jam stand by - two chords - em7 to A - what could be easier?

also, there's a reason why "louie louie" ( a, d, em, d), "gloria" (e d a) and "hey joe"(c g d a e) were garage band staples - dead simple

this progression - g to c to d to c back to g, pretty much covers a LOT of african music

and of course, the blues - which, if you give it a shuffle boogie beat can be played on ONE chord like john lee hooker did

also check out "taking care of business" by bachman turner overdrive (d c g) - or "all along the watchtower" by dylan (am g f g)

the simple e to a - or g to c - or a to d - progression has been the basis of a LOT of songs - who needs 3 chords?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:50 AM on January 22, 2010

Look also into old-time music-- various jigs/reels have fun but simple progressions for your rhythm players to practice their inversions on, in addition well-defined melodies that can give you a better starting-off point for improvisation than just a I-IV-V progression. Stack two or three reels onto one another and you've got a set that doesn't get boring and can provide a lot of structure to a session. Some of my favorites:

- Booth Shot Lincoln
- In the Pines
- Bonaparte's Retreat
- Wayfaring Stranger
- Speed the Plow
posted by The White Hat at 11:10 AM on January 27, 2010

I'm in a similar situation. We're playing the following, all of which you can get tab for easily by just using Google:

I'm a Believer by The Monkeys (G-C-D with G-C-G-F-D now and then).
What I got by Sublime (it's all D-G with a C at the end of the verse).
Mrs. Robinson by The Lemonheads (nee S&G).
I Will Survive by Cake (nee Aretha).
You Really Got Me by The Kinks.
Lady Madonna by The Beatles.
Kiss by Prince.
American Girl by Tom Petty.
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:39 PM on January 28, 2010


I am trying to break your heart is nice, because it lets you jam in between verses and the lyrics are interchangeable enough that you can just wing it.
D Am G G

Cut your hair is also fun, cuz your vocalist(s) get to do funny voices and the slightly odd time teaches you to trust each other.

I've always been a fan of playing a bunch of 1 4 songs back to back like:
What I got, Take a walk on the wild side, Mr. Wendal, 1979, Sweet Avenue, El Scorcho...

on a similar note, the 90s gave me:

or Em C G D (AmFCG):
Disarm, Building a mystery, Demon, Save tonight, Passanger...

or G D Em C (etc):
When I come around, Glycerine, Good, Today
And always, ALWAYS jam on Random Rules.

posted by es_de_bah at 6:30 PM on February 2, 2010

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