Your take on jamming with live musicians


How do you approach jamming with other musicians that play live instruments?

So recently I’ve been invited to some jams with other people playing live instruments - drums, guitar, bass, vocals. While I’m trying to do stuff on OT + Ocoast (and have Digitone comming). It’s been fun but I feel like I’m looking for “my place” - it’s tricky to have patterns running since tempo isn’t stable. So most of the time I’ll do some fx/pad sounds or play Ocoast live, also enjoyed runnig guitar or synth through OT and messing with other players sound.

So again how do you approach live jams?


Working within an organic context of live musicians, using electronic groove/beat-based instruments is a challenge, as you noticed. An easier option is obviously to jam with other electronauts where tempo is easily synced which allows for the greatest expression without it turning into a train wreck.
However, given the opportunity to jam with other live musicians is always worthwhile, so I would stick with it if you guys/gals are making good music and having fun.
I watched soundtribe sector nine grow over the years and they often struggled to maintain a coherent groove due to the inherent difficulties of blending digital and analog (live instrument) sources. I actually prefer their earlier stuff because you could tell how damn hard they were trying and had some awesome tracks. I’m sure their success and budget has allowed them to now have some form of tightly synced music, but it loses its organic feel. Ok. I’m done. Stick with it. Who knows?! :thup:


i play drums in several bands and have been playing drums in bands for many years. i got into producing my own electronic music within the past two years and have slowly introduced electronic aspects into each of my bands. the real key has been making sure that i have proper monitoring of the beat-dependent parts. so long as i can hear the beat clearly, i can keep in sync with it, and the rest of the band can stay in sync with me and it’s pretty smooth sailing. there are occasional points where we might deviate from the tempo slightly, but are able to slide back into it pretty easily.

i would highly recommend making sure that your drummer can hear what you’re doing very clearly. it is also dependent on the drummer’s ability to play along to a consistent tempo; some drummers struggle with it. people try to say that having a drummer play to a click makes the music sound robotic and unnatural. i completely disagree. the drummer can easily play in a way that sounds natural and play with plenty of swing while staying on time.

how you go about doing it is up to you. it might even be helpful to generate a click that is synced to your setup, and send that click to the drummer via headphones/in-ear monitors. i occasionally use this free app on my phone, and send the click to my headphones through a mixer. works great!

tl;dr - make sure drummer has ample monitoring of any beat-dependent parts of your sound. and practice practice practice!


Done that a few times and What worked best for me personally came in from the point that the drummer decided to leave his drum set and started play percussion instead. My role became to control the Pattern based main beats and fills and breaks and stuff and on top of that some fx, synth lines etc. In midi terms you as master and the rest of the band as slave. If the band is any good they will able to adapt to the key your ready made tracks are in. Kinda fun is you master the mix too, sends to fx and play in real time with the instruments playing.


Best that the band follows your tempo but for the other way around the tap tempo function is your friend. Do it with the sequencer off and hit the play button on the one, the band can adjust to match by ear if slightly off… If anything just use it to find the tempo as they play a portion of the groove they want to do and then start over with you starting first.


The dead ones just don’t have the same commitment. And their timing is suspect too.


Lots of good thoughts here already. If you take the lead in the jam, you sort of dictate the tempo and from there you can do your thing, but of course that takes away from the energetic interplay and vibes of a live jam. Alternatively you play your sounds live rather than your patterns (eg finger drumming). Playing FXs is also an option, see dub crews for example, they will occaisonally have someone who’s job it is to play the tape echo delay :slight_smile: I think what’s important is to know/find your place in a jam. As electronic instruments are difficult to mix with acoustic instruments for the amplification alone, I tend to take a step back / into the background and look for my “place” or “purpose” in the jam there…So in such situations, I usually provide SFXs, interesting “background noise”, and atmospheric stuff. If I use the sequencer, I do so for recurring sounds but rarely (read: never) for grooves. Lastly, playing a synth is always an option in these settings, and if you do that you’re simply just another one of the musicians as pitch, tempo, groove, dynamics, expression are all controlled by you in real-time with each note played or not played (so you can flow with the vibes).


Thanks everyone for sharing thoughts. I found that if I come with some prepared patterns then people are willing to follow that. Anyway it found out the obvious - get to know gear you are using :slight_smile: So I’ll keep working on my OT skills and now that DN arrived I feel I’ll have more to bring to table (note to self -keep practicing piano).


I play in a duo with a sax player. I play OT and Lyra 8. We don’t have any beats in our songs so synchronised timing is less important.

I also attend a monthly electronic music jam session. Everyone syncs up via midi.
Personally I think it always sounds like a mess, but I’m sure it will come together one day.


I work with a drummer and he gets in ear monitoring with my signal and a click track. If I play with a larger group of musicians where I want to blend in I play my synths “by hand” without patterns.


not pressing play and still work the machines is possible


I was in a band for a couple of years in which my role was to process the sounds of the two other band members ( electric violinist and electric upright bassist ) through my Nord Micromodular and a Damage Control delay pedal. I wasn’t smart enough to figure out a laptop-free method of managing Micromodular patches, so I always brought my laptop along just to load patches and manipulate virtual knobs and stuff. Later, they encouraged me to also bring my Emu Command Station, so I used it for ambient synth textures. We were free-improv oriented - no fixed beats for more than a few seconds at a time - so I didn’t use any sequence patterns, just the arpeggiator, which I found a better fit for the improv.

It was fun but my main problem was I was lazy and not particularly creative in how I used the gear to process my bandmates’ signals.


Next band that I played with using electronic gear was a band in which I processed my own string instrument (viola) through a device (Octatrack). Again, the music was freely improvised with hardly any set beats. No 30 min. jams in 4/4 time. But this time there was a lot more pre-planning/structure - for this many min. we will explore idea A, then for next X min. we will explore idea B, etc.

The Octatrack was looping viola rather than drums or some other percussive thing, so it was easy to create free-floating, cloud-like loops, and use the sequencer without having it impose a rigid beat on everybody, unless there was an idea that specifically called for it. I did use it to sync a Bassbot TT-303 for one piece.


Everyone has to play his role! :grinning: