Open Mic Nights - How To?

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
The left handed thing can be tricky depending on the kit provided. I have stealth racks and its not possibly to swap the snare and floor toms around, and I will sometimes bring a double pedal which makes it harder too.
I've done a few show choir festivals where they provide a drum kit - and it's usually from one of the drummers who's young and plays with the group hosting the festival. Oftentimes I think it's just inconsiderate to have all your gear on a rack, or have cymbals attached to other stands - even if you're right-handed.

The curse of the modern drumset is that everyone can personalize what they play, so even if you are "of the same hand" it would be at the very least, inconvenient to play.

When I provide a drumset, everything is on it's own stand, and it's a four-piece. So if anyone has to adjust anything, he's only having to adjust that one item. That cuts down on alot of time when switching things around as well. I saw one kids' provided kit, and everyone just started playing it the way it was because you couldn't adjust anything without the whole erector set coming apart. Worst yet, I've seen guys provide drumkits and the throne is not adjustable.

So I don't just complain because I'm left-handed, right-handers have a hard time as well. It would be one thing if the instrument was a piano, but if your job is to provide a kit for the drummers, make it easy for everyone to play. Now, I just haul all my own stuff and have them move the provided drumset when I need to play. For one, the client is paying me for a good job, so I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to make that easier to do. If the providers complain, I just tell them I'm left-handed ;)

This seriously cuts down on my "sit-in" time at an open mic event, but I think I've done ok in my lifetime having only gone to two or three of those.
 

RockNGrohl

Senior Member
I play many open mics in my town. Here is how they usually go. You show up. I bring my drums or play a house kit provided by the guy running the show, who is always a musician with a great P.A. and lot of songs in his arsenal. He starts it off and sound checks as well. If you are a singer/ guitarist, you sign the list and okay three songs when it is your turn. We always have me or another drummer as house drummer and a couple of house bass players. Surprisingly I get called up to play a lot. People like having drums I guess.. I always either have my drums or sit in on a drum buddy's kit I know well. But if It was a stranger's kit, I'd just adapt or ask to move something if I had to. You can always ask to set it up lefty after you've found someone to play with. Sometimes I just go to listen. Find one and scope it out and listen. Ask about coming back and playing next time.
 

RockNGrohl

Senior Member
Things to keep in mind:

A: Be easy going, be patient waiting your turn, listen to everybody, and be supportive of the great local talent pool.
B: Don't get bummed if you don't get asked to play, or it's all acoustic with no drums.If there's no drums at all you can ask to bring a small kit and be the drummer or even a hand drum like a djembe. Make connections first, scope it out, and people will be interested in having you drum.
C: Bring many kinds of sticks and multi rods/brushes. You will backing up acoustics so work on those dynamics, too! I play Hot Rods or brushes a lot and a good feel can cover lots of ground. You ca still groove and get a fat backbeat at those lower volumes.
D: Don't be flashy! You are backing up acoustics covers and singer songwriters. Keep rock solid time and your goal is to make the them and the song sound good. If it is appropriate to add in some nice licks, do so, but you're the time keeper first.
E: Have fun, grab a beer and talk shop. The hang is as much fun as the music.
 

Macarina

Silver Member
You guys have got my attention. This sounds scary as hell, but fun.

So I'm relatively new coming back into the drumming world (25 yr break).

I live in a relatively big town in the Midwest, which I won't mention {cough, Arch, cough, cough}

How does one find these open mic and jam sessions?
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
You guys have got my attention. This sounds scary as hell, but fun.

So I'm relatively new coming back into the drumming world (25 yr break).

I live in a relatively big town in the Midwest, which I won't mention {cough, Arch, cough, cough}

How does one find these open mic and jam sessions?
Yeah, I'm having trouble finding these things, too.

Hey, have you ever been to St. Louis? i hear it's a pretty cool town. ;-)
 

Michaelocalypse

Senior Member
I've done two open mic nights. It's best to ask questions where it's being hosted.

One I had to bring my gear. The whole band did. It was a very diverse open mic night. Dancing, comedy, poetry, music... Basically they set up two mics and you had to work with that. We tried to set up and tear down quietly during the proceeding and following acts, because we only had a few minutes to play.

The other one I did, was by force actually. My friend's cover band hosted an open mic night at a bar the played at a lot. Not many people got up to play, so they usually just went through their set list until someone wanted to plug in or play along. Once my friend just pointed at me and yelled, "Come play the last three songs so I can have a beer with my wife!" So I picked three songs on their list and played with his band.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
If you don't see any jam sessions advertised on craigslist then visit some restaurants, bars or bowling alleys, ask if you can have a jam session there. Then place an ad on craigslist inviting people to the jam session.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
If you don't see any jam sessions advertised on craigslist then visit some restaurants, bars or bowling alleys, ask if you can have a jam session there. Then place an ad on craigslist inviting people to the jam session.
This is a great idea. Take the bull by the horns. Organize it yourself. What a great way to get into your local music scene.
 

bertdrums

Member
I live in central ny, to be honest here almost all open mics locally show a very low awareness for drummers...
most of the host bands expect you to know their songs and show little attemp to or interest in others.
It mostly comes down to the behavior of the individuals and thier own private awareness of musicians compentancy .
 

danondrums

Well-known member
I find open jams to be a complete bore. It’s too loud to talk with and meet people and you play as steady and boring time as you can for 15 minutes while everyone else solos. I’m really just not into them.

I’d much rather go play a 3 hr gig and get paid.
 

timmdrum

Silver Member
I live in a relatively big town in the Midwest, which I won't mention {cough, Arch, cough, cough}
Hey, have you ever been to St. Louis? i hear it's a pretty cool town. ;-)
Hey now, he could've been talking about Oak Brook, Illinois, where McDonald's is headquartered... :LOL:


I find open jams to be a complete bore. It’s too loud to talk with and meet people and you play as steady and boring time as you can for 15 minutes while everyone else solos. I’m really just not into them.

I’d much rather go play a 3 hr gig and get paid.
It's unfortunate you never attended any like one I used to play regularly- It was jazz & blues based so no one was pounding pop/punk or metal, and only vocals, acoustic guitar, and a smidge of bass drum was in the PA (no one ever brought an upright bass), so the volume was reasonable, even fairly close to the stage. Plus, it was a fairly large room, so in the back, it was like a stereo was playing at a volume that no one had to raise their voice over, so there was lots of socializing and networking. It was very well-run and organized also; players were partnered with like-minded folks, so the blues guys weren't forced into jazz standards if they weren't into it, and vice-versa, although some folks like myself played both. If they wanted to, the drummers and bassists were given just as much time in the jazz tunes to solo (an entire A section, or were included in trading fours) as everyone else. It was very nurturing to not-too-new) beginners, and also drew more experienced players filling a void on a typically off night (Monday). It was a great scene for the couple of years it lasted before the venue closed.

Re: 3 hr gig- well, yeah, wouldn't we all? 💯:) I'd rather play a well-run open mic night like this one than stay home & Al Bundy on the couch with my hand in my pants, watching reruns. :D I love playing drums.
 

BruceW

Senior Member
You guys have got my attention. This sounds scary as hell, but fun.

So I'm relatively new coming back into the drumming world (25 yr break).

I live in a relatively big town in the Midwest, which I won't mention {cough, Arch, cough, cough}

How does one find these open mic and jam sessions?
Facebook. Evil as it may be sometimes...lol. Here in little backwoods Maine, there are at least a dozen "Where Are The Bands Playing" sorts of groups, and open mics/jam nights are advertised there. It's also a good place to keep an eye out for people looking to add a player or form a band, or just get together.
 

Vandalay

Member
Open mics/Jam sessions can be very hit or miss. In my experience you'll run into a variety of characters, from people looking for musicians for a project, to misfits who have control/ego issues who can't function in a band situation, to regular folks who just do it for a fun night out. I've found that for the most part, guitarists rule the roost, and drummers are fairly low in the pecking order.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
In my area the serious musicians keep their eye out for new talent at the open mic jams. Word spreads fast about a good player. Good players are snapped right up and get gigs pretty quick.

All my musician connections I made after my 20 year break came from the OMJ's, so naturally I highly recommend them.

Getting to be a vital part of your local music scene starts at the OMJ's. People have to see you. The rest is how well they like your playing.
 

mikyok

Platinum Member
It depends on what you want from them.

If it's just a let your hair down jam with people you don't play with playing songs you'd never get paid to play then that's cool.

In my neck of the woods they're not something you'd get work from.

I do get annoyed when the local one gets filled up by bands who aren't good enough to get their own gigs and hog the stage playing original stuff nobody cares about or wants to listen to and usually act like they're headlining Woodstock to boot. Really annoys the regulars who show up week in/week out and keep it alive who don't get to play when this happens.
 

Xstr8edgtnrdrmrX

Well-known member
I find open jams to be a complete bore. It’s too loud to talk with and meet people and you play as steady and boring time as you can for 15 minutes while everyone else solos. I’m really just not into them.

I’d much rather go play a 3 hr gig and get paid.
ugh...i have never been to an open mic session that wasn't a big "ego stroke" for the few running it, and around here, they almost always turn into a "flame the drummer/bassist" fest...they are almost always blues based, and it is a room full of SRV wannabe's (in the worst way)..it is always a bunch of "arm chair quarterback" guitar players or singers coming out of the basement for their bi monthly dose of glory....no thanks

and the jazz ones are worse because if you are not "on the scene", don't even unzip your stick bag...

I would rather seek out punk house shows, or just jam with street musicians on buckets....way less ego there, and usually way more inspiring and creative music making
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
I have seen many discussions that mention Open Mic nights, but I don't know how they work.

As a drummer, do I just show up and hope there's someone to play with? Also, I play left-handed. Will they let me switch the kit around? Do they have a kit?

Some information would be very helpful :)

Thanks!
I'm the host drummer for a big bi-weekly jazz jam in our area and I've found this works the best:

1. We post the weekly set lists on our webpage - so I highly recommend that in our case - a drummer comes in and knows which songs they want to play. That's by far the easiest way to coordinate the evening.
2. Show up early to discuss - if that jam starts at 7 - roll in at 6:30 with your stick bag and people will know why you're there and the host drummer should be open to discussing the songs you want (per 1) or if 1 doesn't exist it's the perfect time to discuss the flow of the evening and where you can sit in.

What never works is someone just showing up and then like expecting things to flow or people to understand your needs or requests.

The biggest problem you'll have is the lefty thing...that's maybe showing up early to discuss with the host drummer would be great - if it were me - I'd say something like "Ok - so why don't you take the first three songs - we'll set it up lefty or at least a basic version of left that works for you then we can do a quick change together after your stretch" something like that.
 

mrthirsty

Junior Member
One very important rule of Jam Night etiquette is don't use the floor tom as a table for your mug of draft beer.

This did happen to me when I hosted jams.
 
Top