In our jams at the FREIGHT AND SALVAGE everyone gets a chance to solo, or not solo, if that’s what they want or don’t want to do. The other day, when we were playing solos around the room and I told the bass player it was his turn, he looked at me a bit dumbfounded. You see, bass players don’t often play solos and unless you were John Entwistle or Jaco Pastorious, that may not be your proclivity: taking solos. So, what I said to the group was, yeah, he doesn’t need to take a solo, per se, but it was an opportunity to let the bass shine. In other words, the rest of us should bring our sound down a bit or play some thing of the higher end/treble so that the bass players lines were featured.
When I did this I could hear better what the bass player was doing. His lines were pretty interesting. This idea could be a boon to your playing in a jam: if you focus your sound in a area of your instrument — treble, bass, single string or more chordal/harmonized — that is not being heard or represented you start to hear things you may not have heard before.
Since guitar is my instrument I am acutely aware that guitarists often fall into rote rhythmic devices and lead/solo phrasing; e.g. playing the same two string spread rhythm, or strumming the same “cowboy” chords, playing the same pentatonic licks, etc.
Trying something new can be a bit daunting, but keep in mind, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The communal style playing of many West African tribes sound very complicated to the untrained ear. But isolate any individual’s part and you’ll find the ideas may actually be simple. It’s becomes more complicated as more parts are added.
One of the things I have guitar players do in my blues classes is play different rhythms together. If one person is playing a two string shuffle, then another person will play a “Charleston-type” of rhythm — chordal accents on the first down beat and second upbeat of a four beat measure. Another might play a walking bass line; or possibly a repeating single string line.
Remember: simple is good; especially when there are many players and many voices to accommodate.