Much has been said and written about the dynamics of relationships between couples. Quite naturally, what with the many couples needing counseling, marriages needing saving, and broken families needing mending. My topic here though is the dynamics within a different group, not as common as the domestic front but a family of sorts just the same – the rock band. Yes, the typical rock band, and its similarities and differences to couple relationships.
It all starts with the first meeting. For couples there are dates, blind and otherwise. For bands, there are trial jams and auditions. Both are exploratory and for the most part, both fun. Courtship is simpler for couples with the male usually initiating and the female playing hard to get. For bands though, the mix gets complicated with some playing the role of the male while the others, the female. Worse, every now and then they may switch roles adding further complication. Then imagine what happens when, usually, at some point, everyone plays hard to get.
For couples, it's “yes”. For bands, it's “welcome to the band”. Couples can go steady. Bands can play regularly. Couples give each other corny names like sweetie pie, and lovey-dovey. Bands call themselves funny names like Sheila and the Insects.
The honeymoon stage
For couples there's the romantic high. For bands, there’s the musical high. Bedrooms for couples and jamming rooms for bands. Couples strip off their clothes. Bands strap on their instruments. In both cases, everyone makes loud noises. You can use your own room or you can rent one by the hour. Couples want large mirrors so they can see themselves doing it. Bands want large windows so they can let others see them doing it. In both cases, everyone wants to do it regularly, and the longer the better.
After a while, if the relationship is not going anywhere, couples stop seeing each other, or in the case of bands, they stop practicing. Others though move on and get serious: Couples get married, bands get bookings. Some couples decide to have children; some bands decide to have compositions. Some couples divorce, some bands disband. Some may choose to have multiple partners or multiple bands. In one, it is cheating, in the other, it isn't. There will be jealous partners or jealous bands naturally.
Finding the right partner or band mate is a most difficult exercise. More so in the case of looking for prospective band mates because the fact that not everyone can play an instrument narrows the choices by a huge factor. Simple rules of probability dictate that it is easier to find two compatible people than it is to find four or more compatible musicians. So to say that bands are harder to put together than marriages is almost a certainty. Band members naturally learn early on through sheer necessity the art of compromise and the power of diplomacy. Something you most likely won't find a common trait for most people you meet down the street.
Can we then conclude that band members make better husbands (or wives)? Or why not dare the proposition that a lot of marriages can be saved by getting husbands and wives to form bands of their own, like a learning workshop perhaps. And for similar advantages, why not replace politicians with musicians? Wouldn't that be a blast? Peace love and rock and roll! Imagine instead of all those boring campaign speeches, we'd get head banging rock performances. Election season would become concert season! And imagine instead of suffering confrontational political debates, we'd enjoy collaborative free jams!
Speaking of free jams, much can be learned from this spontaneous meeting of musicians. A free jam is when two or more musicians simply play music together by feel and by instinct and without following a program or written sheets. It is a free flowing session that is spontaneous and unpredictable.
I personally don't jam pretty well, me being not much of a technical musician, which severely limits my musical repertoire. But I still enjoy doing it with the band. Which is the point exactly. Jamming isn't mainly about making music. It's about having fun. It's about enjoying the company of the other. It's about contributing and sharing a part of yourself. It's about playing it by ear and in harmony with the jam. When the jam goes into a chord change, you change your notes with it. It's about constant adjustment to stay in harmony.
The most important skill you can have in a free jam is not how well you can play your instrument, but rather, how well you can listen to the other musicians' playing. And to keep the jam fun for everyone, everyone takes turns taking the lead, and no one hogs the time.
In short, a free jam is the perfect metaphor for a relationship and how it should be.
Couples can learn a thing or two from a jam, obviously. In conclusion, when in a bind or a jam, maybe you should jam, and when a relationship gets rocky, it might be a good idea to rock.