My friends and I come together once a month to jam with our machines. We set up a few ‘stations’, so that everyone of us has some drums, a sampler, a mono synth for basslines, digitone for melodics, etc. These nights are a bit hit 'n mis. As long as we are playing our patterns back to back, like a dj, it’s fine. But when we improvise together, it can quickly decend into chaos. We are not trained musicians. I can play some chords and some scales and I know my way around a sampler, but the other guys have no musical background.
Lately i’ve been trying to streamline the process by defining some rules beforehand. What style we are going to play, tempo, key, etc. We also try to define roles beforehand, a bit like a band. Who does drums and bass, who does melody and who does mixing and effects. I usualy try to prepare some ‘bare’ patterns in advance, so we don’t lose momentum by spending too long selecting sounds.
This has got me wondering what approaches you take when jamming with multiple peope. And how do you avoid everything decending into a horrible mess of sounds? Resident Advisor recently did a piece on Sebastian Mullaert’s ‘Circle of Live’ project, where he invites a rotating cast of musicians to participate in a live jam. It seems to me that he’s the conductor of sorts. In the sense that he decides on the arrangement. The rest provides a lot of loops and lines to choose from?
So, how do you and your friends jam it out?