You see it at just about every jam, whether in the living room or the festival parking lot: the wall of guitars. Almost everyone holds a flattop guitar, and when someone kicks off a song, the air fills with six-strings ringing out the same chords.

Best-case scenario, people listen to each other, hold down a solid rhythm, and don’t drown out the singing or instrumental solos. Worst case—the cumulative sound is like a slow-motion train wreck with a familiar song playing in the background.

But, you play guitar, and that’s the instrument you have at the jam. What to do? One approach is to figure out a part in a different register. If everyone’s strumming open chords in G, for instance, you could put a capo at the fifth fret and use shapes in the key of D instead. A better idea might be to skip the chords entirely and simply play bass lines on your guitar. 

From the January 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar: a lesson on playing bass on guitar, with tab and video examples based on the chord progressions from “Wagon Wheel,” “The Weight,” “Margaritaville,” and “Moondance.” Read/watch here.