Spent the morning at DJ and Ginneh's place having my first jam session in... years. Since my License Server days, I've picked up another instrument and gone from "nonexistent" to "could use a lot of work" in my improvisation skills; and gained enough confidence to start messing around and learning on the fly as I play with other people. (At that point, the learning just gets exponential.)
Today was getting to know each other (as musicians - we've been friends for years), swapping songs, getting a feel for what our instrumental combinations could do. I spent my time swapping between keyboard and guitar and refusing to sing; DJ was our bassist and male vocalist, Ginneh our female vocalist and "hey look a random instrumental part!" on cello.
We started with Eric Clapton's "Change The World," which was quickly revealed to be a "Mel needs to practice more guitar" piece. 8 stops 7's "Uninspired" was more successful, followed by Keane's "A Bad Dream" which is going to sound fantastic when we nail it (problem: no accurate chord transcriptions exist - need to fix this before next rehearsal - same thing for "Kill The Headlights" by The Colour). Then DJ put on the Avett Brothers and we played "Head Full Of Doubt, Road Full Of Promise," which is going to be a fun song to improv solos on, and possibly a good one to try out splitting percussion on.
I should explain that last part. We have no percussionist, so the thinking was to rig up a bunch of footpedals and have everyone take one on the simple songs that need percussion - one person's foot working the kick while they play piano, say, and another doing the same on hi-hat. Apparently the Avett Brothers do this sometimes and it sounds pretty good. "Colorshow" is another Avett Brothers song we might do that on.
"The Light Before We Land" is a grandiose orchestration by The Delgados, and the opening song for the anime Gunslinger Girl. I believe this was Ginneh's suggestion. It's a rich, complex song - and my job for next time is to strip it down, down, down to a drastically modified cover (as opposed to three people trying to imitate a full orchestra). Another fun one is going to be "Handlebars" by the Flobots, which is a rap; DJ is going to do the rapping (and bass), Ginneh is doing pizzicato on the cello, and I... am learning how to play the drums.
Ginneh will be running vocals for "Brooklyn's On Fire" by Nicole Atkins, and I will be purchasing a capo and covering the guitar part in the right key (oops). She's also singing "Fidelity" by Regina Spektor, which is a fun percussive piano piece to play. DJ is going ninja on a cover of Radiohead's "All I Need," which has a tricky bass-vocals combo (while Ginneh and I hang back with simple chord progressions and enjoy the music). I persuaded them to try doing an OK Go cover a capella, so we're doing "Return" (Ginneh and myself on double-alto backing vocals and DJ on lead).
All in all, a good start. I'm looking forward to the next one.