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Jam School: FAQ


Q01    What is Jam School?

A01    Jam School is a place where formally trained musicians (like school band and orchestra players) can come to enter the world of informally trained musicians who play by ear. This is where a clarinet player in middle school can see the secrets that country and rock guitarists take for granted. You can get a peek at how bands work without written music or a conductor. This is a place where you get a look at how people learn to play by ear, and write and arrange their own music.

What Jam School is not:

Q02    How does Jam School work?

A02    Jam School recognizes that informally trained musicians are trained--well...informally!  The best example of this is the guitar player who learns his first three chords and starts playing songs right off the bat. Using those same three chords, the player has hundreds of songs to explore and he might not consult a book or teacher again until he finds something that he doesn't understand. In the meantime, he will have become quite an expert at harmonizing those three-chord country and rock tunes.

Jam School is designed to work in the same way. We recognize that young band and orchestra musicians generally don't play by ear because they don't really know where to start. Each of the activities is a starting point. The idea is to talk the player through each starting point and provide any demonstrations that might be helpful. Then, the player learns on his/her own. For example, the first starting point involves playing a song by ear. Several examples are provided along with an explanation of how it's done. Now the student takes over. The idea is that the player will learn new songs all the time and perfect this technique in the process.

When the musician wishes to explore another skill, he can return to Jam School and do just that. For example, someone might want to learn 30 or 40 songs by ear before trying to learn how to write them down. He might start learning to write by just putting down the pitches--and come back later to find out how to put in the rhythms. Our goal in Jam School is to provide the player a starting point, and whatever learning resources we can.

Q03    If people do this by ear, why do you refer to music theory books?

A03    Because it is important to understand music. This is especially important for players of band/orchestra instruments because most of the instruments are melody instruments and are not meant to be performed on alone without accompaniment. For players of these instruments, playing always involves a group of some kind, even if it's just two people. We need the other people and must learn to communicate to them what we need them to play. That could mean calling chords to a guitar or piano player, or writing a harmony part for clarinet or violin player. The  player must understand music, and know the language in which musicians communicate. To aid in this, Jam School recommends certain study materials and provides online help for those who work in the Master Theory Workbook.

Even though Jam School teaches by example, those examples are much more understandable to someone with some theory under their belt.

Q04    What if I need help with the activities?

A04    First, check out the recommended study materials. There is a lot of information in the recommended books. Also, I've opened a forum on Delphi where users can gather and discuss the activities. I will try and visit as often as I can. You may also be able to get help from a musician that you know. Maybe your band director or a church music director. Remember that these activities are only starting points, not your whole source of information. Get to know people who do this stuff. They can show you much.

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