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What’s a word, phrase, or expression that means to get together with people informally to play music? Something that doesn’t imply any particular style — could be Jazz, Rock, Classical, Rap, etc.

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    Yep, you're gonna jam. And occasionally the term is used sort of metaphorically to describe a session of, say, video game players.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 28 '15 at 21:34
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    @HotLicks Maybe if they're playing GuitarHero, but I'd have always called that a LAN. :-)
    – NReilingh
    Mar 29 '15 at 4:35
  • @NReilingh: Hot Licks is right. A "LAN party" is something specific but to "jam" has become a broad term. Even programmers do jams. Mar 29 '15 at 17:23
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit I'm not going to belabor the point further, but to me the broader use of "jam" has always connotated something productive (instead of consuming media like video games), synonymous with "hackathon" in the programmer sense you mentioned. I would be very surprised to hear a book club having a "get-together to read books" and calling it a "jam", for example.
    – NReilingh
    Mar 29 '15 at 17:35
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It is called a jam session. It is sometimes shortened as jam. (jam is used as a verb as well.)

An informal gathering of musicians to play improvised or unrehearsed music. [TFD]

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  • Do you think it works for classical too? Or does it lean towards more modern music such as Rock or Jazz?
    – ademartini
    Mar 28 '15 at 20:24
  • @ademartini: Its origin is from jazz but now it has an extended sense to cover all genres. You can search for "classical jam session", "rap jam session" etc. and find results.
    – 0..
    Mar 28 '15 at 20:27
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    @ademartini Check this Mar 28 '15 at 20:34
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    In Celtic music, it's usually shortened the other way to session. See e.g. thesession.org.
    – imallett
    Mar 29 '15 at 4:26
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    Session works in many other style contexts as well, but broadly would also be assumed to mean "recording session" in many cases.
    – NReilingh
    Mar 29 '15 at 4:39
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I don't think you'll find a term that is completely devoid of genre context; though I agree jam is the most widely-applicable.

One term a bit more in the vein of classical music would be a reading session. It's semi-formal, since it's not a performance and the participants are usually volunteers, but there will still be a conductor and perhaps a librarian facilitating. The purpose is to play new music to test it out for the music director or even the composer. The term is also used in styles other than orchestral, like jazz big band or classical chamber music.

Another option in the informal sphere might be a hang. As in, "the cats are going to hang at Miles' place after the gig" as a verb or "meet me at the hang after the gig" as a noun. But the playing of music is not necessarily required or assumed with this term like it is for the others--at best it can be defined as "socialize".

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  • This "hang" is highly localised; I wouldn't expect to see it outside of the United States of America (perhaps North America as a whole). Mar 29 '15 at 17:24
  • Well, I agree it's highly specific to Jazz, which itself is highly localized to the U.S. But I wouldn't be surprised to hear its use in jazz circles internationally, particularly if the people involved have ties to the U.S. jazz scene.
    – NReilingh
    Mar 29 '15 at 17:29
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    No, I mean, "hanging out" and all of its derived terms, are a North American phenomenon. We don't do "hangouts" or "hangs" in the rest of the world, regardless of context. We call them other things. Mar 29 '15 at 17:30
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There doesn't seem to be a word that ignores how you are going to play the music together, so which word you use depends on how you will play.

If you're going to be emphasizing improvisation, you could call it a "jam". If you're going to be reading music together, you could call it a "reading session". If you're going to take turns playing something with other people following along, you might call it a "session" (without "jam", because you're all playing the same thing, more or less - Celtic music is often played this way in impromptu groups).

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