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Volume, Psychoacoustics, and Playing Ability


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Hello. One of my practice routines is to play a walking bass line over a standard 12 bar blues progression with my LH while playing the "blues scale" in 8th notes in the corresponding key in my RH. I do this in all keys. The idea is to coordinate the two hands, and become facile with basic blues elements all the keys.

 

Recently, I've noticed that I am more likely to get confused and make mistakes with this exercise when I play at louder volume. Quieter volumes and everything goes smoother with fewer mistakes. This has got me wondering about the effect of volume on my brain's ability to concentrate, coordinate, and successfully complete complex musical tasks.

 

On a related note, it has always seemed to me that playing with a band is (for me) a more difficult musical task than playing alone. It seems that I lose some of my keyboard skills when playing with others. And of course, playing in an ensemble generally occurs at a louder volume than solo play.

 

So I am wondering if anyone has noticed an effect of volume on their keyboard skills. Your thoughts and insights?

J.S. Bach Well Tempered Klavier

The collected works of Scott Joplin

Ray Charles Genius plus Soul

Charlie Parker Omnibook

Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life

Weather Report Mr. Gone

 

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That's a really interesting concept. I personally play better alone because I've always had significant performance anxiety, even when it's in front of band members or one person sitting in the room where I practice. I've gotten better at pushing through it, but it will always bother me.

 

While I haven't noticed a direct link between volume and my own playing (from a number of different bands and gig venues), I can say that my last band would experience volume creep during practice over the course of weeks and get progressively sloppier. Then we'd agree to turn down and like flipping a switch we would be tight as ever, but I assume that's from everyone playing more relaxed and being able to hear each other clearly.

Keyboards: Nord Electro 6D 73, Korg SV-1 88, Minilogue XD, Yamaha YPG-625

Bonus: Boss RC-3 Loopstation

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As my old guitar teacher would say you need to practice the same way you gig. So if standing on the gig stand when you practice and so on, so easy to see how volume would become a distraction is not used to it. Adam Neely's recent video talks about how we hear pitch different at high volume. I know from guitar world you can't just suddenly turn up or use a big amp and think things are going to be the same. At high volume the guitar and amp both respond different and for guitar playing difference playing techniques are needed to control things. I'm new to keyboard and doubt at my age if I'll in a loud playing situation but I'm sure you longtime keyboards can comment on differences in playing normal and loud.

 

 

Also this touches a topic Howard Roberts guitar legend and founder of what is now MI would talk about in the early day of MI. That you need to learn to control keeping focus. To be able to control staying focused on playing for the length of typical songs and block out distractions. For OP not letting volume be a distraction is part of working on focus.

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I personally play better alone because I've always had significant performance anxiety, even when it's in front of band members or one person sitting in the room where I practice. I've gotten better at pushing through it, but it will always bother me.

 

I have also always thought my problem playing in an ensemble was performance anxiety. Now I ask: what if some of that difficulty is a more challenging cognitive task because of the greater volume? Improving skills will always make things better, but perhaps I should be using IEM in a band situation as a way to reduce the problems loud volume has on my brain/playing skills.

J.S. Bach Well Tempered Klavier

The collected works of Scott Joplin

Ray Charles Genius plus Soul

Charlie Parker Omnibook

Stevie Wonder Songs in the Key of Life

Weather Report Mr. Gone

 

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When playing alone, one can play to one's own "groove".

When playing in a band, one must adapt. If everybody can put aside concepts and just "feel" the groove together, it is there and it is good.

 

Playing live requires "shape shifiting". Restraint is also needed, leave big open spaces for others to fill. It is my observation after thousands of gigs that most players tend to play in a group the way they play by themselves. That is not going to provide the best result. There is lots of sand on a beach but only a few seashells. Be a seashell.

 

I used to have intense stage fright, that was a long time ago. Somehow, it just went away. Other than playing live often, I don't have any advice for that affliction.

 

Like Moe, my profound moments of transcendent congruence have all been when playing live with others. If that never happens, consider jamming with other musicians until you find it.

 

If it never happens, allow it. It might not be "them".

It took a chunk of my life to get here and I am still not sure where "here" is.
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I personally play better alone because I've always had significant performance anxiety, even when it's in front of band members or one person sitting in the room where I practice. I've gotten better at pushing through it, but it will always bother me.

 

I have also always thought my problem playing in an ensemble was performance anxiety. Now I ask: what if some of that difficulty is a more challenging cognitive task because of the greater volume? Improving skills will always make things better, but perhaps I should be using IEM in a band situation as a way to reduce the problems loud volume has on my brain/playing skills.

 

Well I know it's anxiety because I have social anxiety in general. That's not to say it couldn't be 90% anxiety and 10% volume affecting me subconsciously. When I gig, I usually hit the bar and have a few drinks to take the edge off before I play.

Keyboards: Nord Electro 6D 73, Korg SV-1 88, Minilogue XD, Yamaha YPG-625

Bonus: Boss RC-3 Loopstation

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I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total clam fest.

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total clam fest.

 

Dune reference, nice. I've been pushing through the anxiety for years, you can't eliminate it, you just manage it better. I once played Piano Man to an audience of like 150 drunk people singing along through a 10 second black out. Nailed every note of the solo while my heart was pounding out of my chest.

Keyboards: Nord Electro 6D 73, Korg SV-1 88, Minilogue XD, Yamaha YPG-625

Bonus: Boss RC-3 Loopstation

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Possibility: At higher volumes you start rocking out and don't pay as close attention as you do at lower volumes.

 

I'd rather play in front of 10,000 people than one person. A crowd gives you energy that one can't, but with one there's still someone to hear your mistakes.

 

I only had stage fright one time. It made no sense because we'd played the same place two or three nights in a row before that night without a hitch. Came out of the blue. Weird. Never since.

 

I just reread the Dune books--all the Frank ones, not the Brian ones--a month or two ago. First time in ages. I was amazed/ashamed at how much I'd forgotten. Some parts are etched indelibly in my mind, but it seems that perhaps others aren't as well anchored. Of course, it had been...crap...twenty or thirty years since I'd read 'em.

 

Grey

I'm not interested in someone's ability to program. I'm interested in their ability to compose and play.

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Possibility: At higher volumes you start rocking out and don't pay as close attention as you do at lower volumes.

 

Yes, I agree with that one.

 

I'd say ALL rock musicians are vulnerable to it (jazz or classical; not so much...) -- and it's really bad when ALL members of the band have a really bad night or song.

 

It takes extreme discipline, much devotion, a good ear and a sharp focus "not to lose it" when the volume is red-lined, the crowd is digging it (and the girls are cute) and you start rocking out.

 

Old No7

Yamaha MODX6 * Hammond SK Pro 73 * Roland Fantom-08 * Crumar Mojo Pedals * Mackie Thump 12As * Tascam DP-24SD * JBL 305 MkIIs

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So I am wondering if anyone has noticed an effect of volume on their keyboard skills. Your thoughts and insights?

 

For me, the greater the similarity of the surroundings to my rehearsal environment, the better I'm likely to play at a gig. I never play any song very well at rehearsal the first time, because there will always be too many elements that are unlike my home practice surroundings. I find this unfamiliarity distracting.

 

At rehearsal I endeavour to create an environment as close to live gigging as possible. This is not usually too difficult to do which in turn helps mitigate distractions and performance anxiety (which I do suffer from but have developed a heap of techniques to deal with).

 

Attempting to create a similar on-stage environment at each gig really helps too.

 

I've never really thought about volume playing into this scenario before, but can't see why it wouldn't.

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I only find volume is an issue when playing piano in a loud band. If I'm with a loud band, organ or synth stuff works fine, I think it's to do with dynamic range. The piano has a great dynamic range, and at a lower volume, the feedback I get from my fingers lets me know how hard and when to hit the keys. At a loud volume, I'm always hitting harder and at the top of the range, which lowers my accuracy. My experience is that guitars, bass and drums tend to play in a more limited dynamic range , and to match that I have to hit the piano harder. I don't find it an issue with organ or synth.
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