Sitting in with a group of more seasoned musicians is an experience that every aspiring jazz pianist must encounter.
The prospect of performing with players you want to impress can be daunting.
These tips will help you to prepare and step on to the bandstand with confidence and composure!
- Prepare a Tune – When you sit down at the piano, you want to have a few tunes ready to suggest that you are completely prepared to play. Ideally, you will have heard this group several times and learned a few tunes that they frequently perform. Think of it like a job interview. You always want to have questions prepared specific to the company to show that you’ve done your research. In the same way, learning a groups material shows that you respect their work and have taken the time and effort to prepare.
- Over Listening > Overplaying – A lot of people can play awesome solos. Not a lot of people are able to sit in and blend in with a group intuitively, offering support where needed and laying out to create space. This is what will get you hired. It is better to blend in and be tasteful than to stand out and be overbearing.
- Don’t Rush – It’s exciting to sit in. With excitement comes the tendency to rush. This happens when you are focusing so much on what notes to play instead of locking in with the rhythm section. By focusing your mind on becoming one with the rhythm section, your playing will become more natural and often times you will play “better” notes than if you had been focusing on note choice the whole time.
Most importantly… have fun! Playing with great musicians is so much fun, and even more fun when you are prepared. Now go find some players you want to perform with, learn their stuff, and make an impression!