Jam and Flearn
How social media and people mix to learn and enjoy music
A little over four years ago I started a meetup group to bring people together to jam and learn how to play their instruments and sing with others.
This idea came about as I found myself playing my bass along with records, CD’s, MP3/4, and Spotify in the home studio. I was not really learning much about playing well. I thought that if I’m in this situation it’s likely others will be too.
Music stores are selling instruments, and amps, leads, etc etc to thousands of people daily, music teachers are teaching thousands about how to play and sing, and many music schools hold band camps to demonstrate and encourage people to form bands. There are great tried and tested ways to launch people into practicing their new art. There are also web services for matching musicians to a band promoter so members for fledgling and established bands can be recruited.
There is a gap though, for those seeking to find a non-judgemental place to play with a group of others willing to help each other, a group where people form friendships and relationships as they grow together through the experience. I liken jamandflearn to the concept of a “men’s shed” for musicians from both sexes. Women, while underrepresented in the membership, are integral to the success of the group as they typically bring a love for singing and for different genres of music. They are also more likely to be multi skilled, singing and playing together (easier said than done in the formative period).
I started the meet up group and called it jamandflearn, taking the concept of 'flearning' from the startup movement (learning fast by failing and learning). Over the years, 45 jam sessions of four to five hours in duration have allowed 100 or more people to enjoy hundreds of hours of fun and the best opportunity to learn and play great music. The cost per person of the jam sessions, held in a professional studio, averages $15. Typically the instruments and other gear people bring is fantastic quality and the process of learning involves people getting an understanding of how to use a PA and how to play to levels in a sometimes noisy room.
The group has been very inclusive, with people of many backgrounds and ages involved. The average age of the people involved is over 40. The youngest has been 14, the oldest 70ish. It has proven to be a friendly non-judgemental place to be, and a pleasant experience for everyone. While blending the use of technology to connect people each member is teaching and demonstrating to each other how to play songs written and composed by a broad range of original artists.
The group has spawned three bands to entertain hundreds of people at gigs in pubs and clubs and at parties and corporate events, as well as birthdays and at holiday time in the backyards in suburbia. The quality of the bands and the sounds vary, but it’s always good enough, and very energetic, as the players have a passion for music and playing for others and with new friends. The audience is very appreciative and hardly hear the small mistakes that might be made.
Some of the power behind this group comes in the social media and other web service technology, such as online music tabs and lyrics as these connect and encourage and attract community members to this group and enable a faster learning process. The real power is in the process of breaking down and arranging the well liked songs into parts so they are put together in a simplified replicable way ie the arrangement. The first time it's played, the noise can be a little raw, by the second or third time is often very good and the looks I’ve seen from the players around the room tells a great story, as it usually all comes together. Visitors to the jams watch and show their appreciation as well. How good is this!
The technology used via mobile phone and bluetooth media is fused with the energy, effort, and good humour of people: relaxed, stress free and appreciative of the development of their skills and the progress of others. Many of the members have gone from unskilled to skilled and “with it” musicians in a rapid and surprisingly successful way.
In Part 2 I will outline the benefits for me personally and how much the jamandflearn group means to me as the promoter.