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being reliable


dcr

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OK, sort of baring my soul here, so go easy. ("Don't snigger, Pearson.") The jitters thread got me thinking about what makes me jittery, & I think 99% of it is that I don't feel in control enough--really, I'm afraid of muffing it. It annoys & frustrates me to know end when I do dumb-@ss stuff, like missing a chord change, or going to the verse when I should have gone to the bridge, or something like that.

 

I'm really struggling with this. I'm hoping that with more experience at regular playing (my playing out has never been frequent, much less regular) I'll just get it out of my system. But I'd really, really like to speed up that process. Taking as a goal, "Don't screw up," isn't really viable. The goal should be to do something. One thing I'm trying is just getting the charts I use & practice, practice, practice, not for riffs, runs, or fills, but just to get absolutely solid about keeping a step ahead of myself & seeing where to go before I have to go there. It's simple, but that's the task, especially if you're really an "ear" player.

 

Please help! What specific suggestions do you have for things I could do that would help me have, & feel that I have, better control, so that I can nail it & be dead reliable, & not so durned jittery? Thanks in advance!

 

(PS Can you name the obscure Python reference?)

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At practices sometimes I go WAY out on the tightrope, playing fills I don't know whether I'll be able to pull off, just bold as snot but with an ear to whatever turns-on-a-dime I might get thrown even in brand new songs. I throw in chords for accents I don't think will be covered by the guitarists yet, step in and out of some effects - in general really stretching what I think the song might have in it.

 

After coming at it from that angle, it's actually pretty easy at gigs to see where I might make mistakes, and I can lay back just a tad and it then seems like it's going by in slow motion. Easy! And actually I've pretty much done enough of the mistake making already to have the biggies out of the way ; }

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Practice ya azz off. Preparation is one of the keys to conquering jitters. If you know that you can rock the material, (or, like me, are delusional enough to believe that) doing it on stage is cake.

 

The other key is experience. Play out as much as you can, and believe it or not, you'll eventually be comfortable or blase on stage.

 

One thing: mistakes are all but inevitable. Even if you play perfectly, there's every chance that someone else in the band will miss an entrance, or go to a different section. Keep cool, listen and (very important) maintain eye contact with your fellow bandmembers. Don't make a face if you or someone else messes up. Playing through mistakes and recovering from them is a far more useful skill than trying in vain to avoid them.

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I thought this thread was going to be about showing up on time. Anyway, I don't really have too much to add to what's already been said. Preparation is key, but you will always make mistakes on stage even if you are ultra prepared, because there are so many variables and circumstances that crop-up in a live environment. Every musician I know makes mistakes. The key though is, if you play out enough times, you will eventually master the art of recovering and playing off your mistakes. 95% of the time, no one notices mistakes anyway, other than the other musicians.

Don't sweat it too much either; if you constantly think "don't screw-up", that will distract you, and you will screw up. Also, think of the song in the big picture. I place more importance on nailing beginning's, endings, and transitions. If you miss a chord change in a verse or the bridge, don't sweat it, unless you constantly miss that change because you just don't know it. Hope that helps.

 

Someone once said (I think it was Miles Davis) "if you make a mistake, keep playing it over and people will think it's avant-garde" :P

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It's cool you were so open with this concern.

 

Let's turn it around and ask you what you think when you are in the audience and listening to a band and one of them makes a mistake?

 

When I hear someone screw up, it makes them human and more approachable to me. When they laugh about it onstage or smile, it's letting everyone know, 'Hey, we're human and made a mistake...it's all good'. It doesn't make me hate the band, or think they suck. It actually makes me like them more.

 

All the people in the band I'm with now are like that. We make a mistake, we laugh about it, or rib each other onstage about, or after the song, make a joke about it to the audience. One time, I kept missing the same change thru most of the song and the singer told the audience, "Tom is still only in book one of his music lessons". We had a laugh and went on.

 

All the above posts had good nuggets of wisdom in them, so I'd like to say all you need to do is lighten up on yourself, don't beat yourself up afterwards, and accept you are going to burble. Ain't no big thang!

 

As the previous posters suggested, practice extra on the songs you think you may have a problem with, and learn to recover quickly from your burbles (that's a biggie). 'Cause you're human, man....it's gonna happen, man....so lighten up!!

 

Hope this was helpful to ya.....now, where's my coffee?.....

Bassplayers aren't paid to play fast, they're paid to listen fast.
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The rule of 5's. ( as presented by the ever elusive, efervesent, chewstermaniac )

 

This is simple. Make 1 mistake, play the song through, with CD, 5 times. Make 2 mistakes on the same song, play it through 10 times. ect. This dosen't have to be all at once. A few here and there, to keep your memory fresh. Show some disciplin, and actually do it.

 

You should know the basslines as well as you know the lyrics to your favorite tunes.

 

Oh ya, have fun! Nothing is more fun than totally rocking through a set! Practice within your group and by yourself is key for making that happen.

Check out my work in progress.
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I'm with Fig on this one.

 

Mistakes happen. Don't sweat 'em. You just have to roll along. It's part of the journey.

 

I heard the ultimate comment on this subject in an Arby's (of all places) in Miltenburg, PA (of all places.)

 

A very affected manager type was training a new hire, who was obviously quite nervous. The new hire (a young woman) was kinda freaking out because there were so many customers. The manager calmed her down with this wisdom:

"OK, really, all you have to do is accept, receive and move on to the next order."

 

Now, I'm sure these terms probably have something to do with Arby's computer order-taking program, but the words are a great metaphor for life, music, etc.

 

Making mistakes in your set?

Accept, receive and move on.

 

Just an idea.

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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I don't think I've ever played a "perfect" set (although I did nail a couple of piano recitals as a kid!). Inevitably there's something that I played that I didn't think was right. However, I also have never come off stage feeling like I blew it.

 

I have taken with me, though, one message from playing competitive sports that has helped get me through some of my more mediocre performances (as cliche' as it is): Did I do what I needed to do to help my team win, er, that is, my band have a great gig? As a high school cross country and track runner, I was never the fastest on the team in my events, but was I able to make sure that I beat the other team's #3 runner, or #5 runner, or whomever to ensure a victory? I may not have run the "perfect" race and achieved my own personal best time, but I was successful. Going into a gig with the mentality "I've got the ability to make the gig a success," rather than "My playing will be perfection -- or damn close to it," keeps me a little looser.

 

I also echo what others have said about practice, but I'd add something that really helped me as a kid learning classical piano. Rather than trying to play through a whole tune after making a mistake, my teacher would have me isolate the phrase where I erred and then practice that until I could do it 3x in a row perfectly. Then I would expand to the passage which contained that phrase, and have to play it 3x in a row perfectly. I did not have to play the whole piece 3x in a row perfectly, but by honing in on my trouble spots and practicing those repetitively, I would succeed in playing the piece perfectly in performance, when it really counted.

 

I hope this helps.

 

Peace.

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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ya ya, practice. You should, and I'm sure you do.

 

And there's STILL the issue of whadaya do when things DON'T go right? Everyone screws up sometimes, no matter how hard they work to avoid it.

 

I think the "other half" of being pro (the one half being doing everything you can to do things right) is handling the "wrongs" gracefully. I've lost TONS of respect for musicians who I previously thought the world of, because they've "given up" on a gig simply because they missed a chord change, boofed a fill, or can't get their "trademark" sound from their gear, can't hear themselves in the monitors, etc.

 

Especially if you pride yourself on good preparation and knowing your stuff, it can be really difficult to pull yourself out of a kick-yourself mode. But I think it's ESSENTIAL that a good player develop the discipline to do it effectively. The bottom line is - once you've made a mistake, LET IT GO and MOVE ON!! The only thing to be done is perform your ass off on the rest of the gig. And the way you do THAT is to forget about the mistake.

 

Here's some stuff that I do to try to bring myself back around:

 

1. In the moment after the flub, strive like hell not to give away to anyone that you missed something - maintain head bobbing and ass shaking and general physical groove-making. I've found that even though I know (and occasionally the rest of the band knows) that I forgot it was a double chorus and played the first note of the bridge, NO ONE ELSE DOES!!! But the second I make eye contact with the drummer, shrug-shoulder, laugh, and "break" from focus, suddenly everyone knows the bass player bit one. The song is what's important, not my own personal angst about muffing a single note.

 

2. In that same moment, while continuing to groove/bop/shake, think ahead to the next kick-ass riff/fill that you can't wait to sink your hands into (preferably in the same song as the one you just muffed). And after that song is over, think of three more in the set. And make sure to play those moments as well as you can. This way, there's something for you to remember about the gig aside from the flub. And it shifts your focus off the flub and onto the rest of the music, which is what you SHOULD be paying attention to anyway.

 

3. Say NOTHING about the flub until all your gear is packed away and you've done all the crowd-shmoozing that's expected of you. Don't even let it enter your mind. You'll be surprised at how few people noticed, and you'll likely feel a lot better from all the strokes you get from people. And no one likes a whiner - people who come up and talk to you after a show don't want to hear you whining about the iddybiddy mistake ... they're coming up to talk to you because they really ENJOYED it - it's bad form to let them know that they didn't notice some trivial mistake, and it's self-centered to assume they were paying attention to your part anyway ...

 

4. Finally, if you're STILL obsessing about the mistake after everyone has told you what a great show it was ... well then finally, ASK one person in the band who you respect whether he/she noticed it - and I'd suggest waiting until the next day. If it really was noticeable, well then apologize to the band at the next rehearsal, and move on ...

 

Of course, some players really should take their mistakes more seriously than this. But I'm guessing you tend more toward the hyper-critical side, which I think is really destructive to performing ...

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Like the others, I suspect you're practicing enough to get the job done at home. It's in the heat of battle (sorry, just read Rudyard Kipling book) that you are concerned.

 

Like others, I'll advise that your mistakes are not really important. Few hear them, fewer (if any) think the less of you for it. Remember that (we all keep repeating it) - it's for your own mental health (and we all are reading it for ours).

 

But the issue is also improved performance. Christopher mentioned experience and watching. Those are two things that have worked well with me.

 

Experience - play everywhere you can. It doesn't matter if it's church, coffee houses, bar gigs, jam nights, whereever. The more you get used to the "feel" of playing with others in public (those are two separate concepts), the more you'll feel in control.

 

Watching - different music groups have different ideas about watching and signalling. I find in rock bands, keyboardists are the worst - they never look up (all those years of playing alone). Work out as much visual confirmation as you can. That way, you'll all be on the same page when you play, and if somebody (not only you!) messes up, you know how to pull it together.

 

I've listened to tapes of my band. For me, the issue is often concentration. It's easy for me to go on autopilot and then realize I'm not mentally prepared as we come to some part that I need to pay attention to!!

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Yall ever see that Steve Martin movie All of Me, where Lily Tomlin starts to takeover part of Steve Martins body? My favorite scene is where Steve Martin and his blind sax player buddy are at a gig, and since Lily Tomlin has taken over Steves guitar playing ability, he really sounds like crap; nothing but wrong notes and shitty comping. But, in his defense, the blind guy says to the conductor What? You didnt like that?

 

So, though most mistakes come on the fly and are so fast they are rarely ever noticed, when you REALLY hit a zinger, just look at your band mates and ask them: What, you didnt like that? Make sure you have this totally incredulous look on your face like there must be something wrong with them for not appreciating your artistic geniusness and expressionism

"Arf", she said.
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A lot of good replies here, especially music-man. As he said, isolate the section or phrase that's giving you problems and burn it in. Don't dwell on a mistake, my experience tells me that if I think about a mistake another will soon follow. You must get past it and move on.

 

Wally

I have basses to play, places to be and good music to make!
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a music teacher in junior high told me something that stays with me to this day and was touched on earlier in this thread: if you screw up, you're probably the only one that noticed. and it's true. too much coffee before a show and screw ups abound, that's the show everyone thinks i nailed. i play a perfect show and people tell me i didn't drag the beat enough in the ballads. what're ya gonna do?

 

in my experience, the more you worry about it the more you screw up. walk in like king shzzntt and you'll probably be fine. if you keep thinking "i hope i don't blow this change" then you probably will.

 

quick anecdote (on topic, i promise). once in high school i was part of the rhythm section playing a sax players original composition. the piece was all groove and the drummer and i nailed it countless times in rehearsal. the piece was a close to perfect as you can get for a rhythm section. well the show comes around and the drummer and i are grooving so hard that we play the whole thing straight through with no changes. there were no key shifts or tempo shifts so it didn't sound wrong. as for the rhythm, we were the rhythm SECTION so it was fine. the composer blew a gasket, but everyone in the hall said it was the best thing they'd heard in a while and that it had a monster groove. the composer then chilled out and changed the carts.

Eeeeeehhhhhhhhh.
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  • 4 weeks later...

Hey, I want to thank everyone who posted on this thread! I took the advice I got here seriously enough to work it up into a "checklist" for practice (with & without the band), and IT WORKED! Today I played with plenty of confidence, and mistakes just didn't seem to crop up. (Well, it was an odd situation, & there were some snafus in the band, but I kept my head.)

 

I was going to share my checklists/routines with the forum, but I don't think there's much point since such a thing has to be tailored to the particular needs (&, er, weaknesses) of each player. But in a nutshell, two things really made the difference.

 

First, I really changed how I practiced. I started sight-reading (out of a typical hymnal, fwiw) on a regular basis. I was surprised how quickly this improved my skill. I started grabbing charts & playing along, focusing on keeping all the parts in the right places & following directions for repeats, codas, etc. I didn't realize how much of a "by ear" or "by memory" player I was, so I concentrated on making sure I was following the chart & going where I was supposed to. The idea was to practice so that I wouldn't have to move when I heard other people moving, but to be prepared to lead the way.

 

Second, I worked on staying completely focused in the actual playing situation. Sometimes I think I have an attention disorder! (Maybe I do--grade school was hell!) I think it really helped that I felt I had the material totally under my belt, so instead of fretting about mistakes or wondering where we'd go next, I was there. I found that being really prepared takes your mind of making mistakes. The other thing is to "enter" into the song; you've got to think about something other than "Don't screw up!" & what better to redirect your attention to than the song itself!

 

Thanks again for your advice. I had a few bad sessions, & was starting to get a complex (or at least into a slump). Thanks to the advice I got here, I've become a better player since just a couple of weeks ago!

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dcr

I don't know if this helps but one thing I've found is that writing out grooves helps me remember them.

I've been playing over 20 years and about ten years ago I was in a corporate/wedding/casuals band that had an insane amount of material and a lot of reading. The only problem was that a lot of times you wouldn't get a chance to even pull up the page with the chart because everything was a segue and the bass and drums were always going.

Each bandmember was responsible for keeping the charts up in their respective books and I found that by writing the charts and playing the song at home a few times, I generally would be able to hit the groove for each section even if I couldn't pull up the music. So I guess that is another part that falls under preparation like everyone else has said; but being able to visualize the written page has definitely helped me out especially when you have reams of material.

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Two things to add to this:

 

1. Relax. I find that the more relaxed I am when playing, the less likely it is that I will totally hack something. Let your hands play and just listen to what's going on around you. Obviously, it gets harder to do this if you don't know your parts cold; which brings me to point number 2.

 

2. Know your parts. Well. Know them so you don't have to think about anything. Know the other player's parts too (especially the drummers parts). Somewhere I once read that an amatuer will practice it until they get it right, a professional will practice it until they never get it wrong. Good advice.

 

2b. Slight addition to my advice: be able to recover well. If you do totally flub something, don't dwell on it. The more you dwell on a mistake the more likely it is that you will screw something else up. Let it go and move forward.

 

Story time, based on point 2b. There was a gig my funk band did when I totally ate it, hard, for most of the 1st set. It started early, when we were playing Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" and I was not only playing the bass part, but singing the lead on it as well (such a bitch to do). I got lost in the repeating chorus figure not once, but TWICE!! This is because I got really uptight that I screwed up the first time and my head was just a disaster area of thoughts.. trying to sing still, figure out what the hell just happened, and trying to stay true to the bass part (which gets more and more complicated as the song goes on). *sigh* Stupid mistake. I promised myself after that gig that I would never let one mistake ruin me for the rest of the evening. :)

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Well, another chance to plug a book I'm reading. Some of the posters mentioned the role "nervousness" or self-confidence plays in turning one mistake into 40.

 

"Effortless Mastery" (available on Amazon) deals with developing the proper mental approach to practice.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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dcr, that comment about staying focused hit home (again) with me. I played last Thurs, and sometimes I was fine. But I played a riff on the wrong string (still figuring out my 5), and while the audience didn't have a clue I was very embarassed...

 

Glad to hear things are better for you!!

 

Tom

www.stoneflyrocks.com

Acoustic Color

 

Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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Wow, alot of great replies!

 

I'll add my $.o2...

 

Get as much experience in improvising as you can. Go to jams and play everything with everyone. eventually you will get so cauloused to the weird crap that goes on on stage and weird songs that you'll be able to hang no matter what.

 

Like Tom said, try to quickly figure out what you bandmates' visual signals mean. For some a head shake means "yes, go to the bridge aftrer this solo is done", or it can mean "yes, I'm the greates guitar player ever, listen to my glorious solo". One band mate of mine had ONE and only ONE look that he gave me to convey any message he was thinking like "go to the 4", or "there is a break coming", or "take a solo" it all looked the same ;)

 

Back on inprovising and listening...It will give you the skills to anticipate where songs are going (or realize where they just went), so even if you don't really know the song you can figure what is coming

 

and that whole practicing a bunch is a good idea too ;)

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I get hyped up over mistakes too.....but what's it worth? A smile between band mates! Half the time the people watching (hey, you lot should be listening) don't even catch on. And if they DO? They've forgotten by the next tune.

 

Relax....it's only music..NO-ONE got hurt, died, woke up with a bad tattoo etc etc.

 

On the other hand the pursuit of perfection is a very noble cause.

;):D

CupMcMali...this monkey's gone to heaven :freak:

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