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Practicing alone vs. Band practice vs. Performance

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  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 293
    Wow, this conversation has really taken off. A few thoughts about my original observations are in order.

    First, even though I mentioned feeling a little funny in the fingers, I in no way felt particularly nervous or like I was “choking.“ I really expect to be able to pull off that Django solo in “I’ll See You in my Dreams“ when I want to. I’ve done it lots of times and I know I can do it. But here’s the thing: this music can be very hard to pull off under any conditions. It’s a lot harder than when I was when I was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan, Creedence Clearwater, or any number of other kinds of folk rock and blues. I never felt any nervousness or problem driving my strat and taking an audience with me during the groove of “Green River.“

    Second, a lot of this has to do with my personal dedication to being as good a musician as I can be. I’m my harshest critic. It may be a mistake to hold myself to the standard of our heroes, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try to make the effort.

    Third, for the moment, I think I’ve isolated one issue with my own playing in a group to the ability to hear myself in relation to the band. To that end, I’m experimenting with some technical solutions through amplification set ups. I’m hoping that when I can hear myself better, I can play in a more relaxed way and with a lot of dynamics.

    Finally, I’m happy to be able to finally get out and start playing in public. Also, I’m fortunate enough to have bandmates who happen to be friends. It’s hard enough to get people to play together in a serious way; it’s a fortunate thing to have friends to do it with.
  • ChrisMartinChrisMartin Shellharbour NSW Australia✭✭ Di Mauro x2, Petrarca, Hoyer, Epiphone x2, Burns x2, & Paul Beuscher resonator.
    Posts: 710

    @Chris Martin This isn't all directed to you but just in general. However, I would recommend you get to a point where you go out in public for something low stress. Maybe a coffee shop gig. Maybe just practice somewhere public. Maybe busking. Somewhere different from your bedroom/basement/garage where you will gather an audience. Shake things up and maybe you'll see you're closer to the competency you seek!

    I hear you and yes for some what you say might be appropriate.
    I never really had any stagefright when knocking out Chuck and Bo covers all those years ago in London, and sure most of the 'coffee shop' or busking type gigs you refer to are probably not populated by hard-nosed Bireli/Angelo fans critical of every fluffed note and probably happy with the regular Minor Swing, Nuages, Douce Ambience, Djangology repertoire but......well there is something I have tried to avoid posting in public. My wife has cancer and as her carer I can not right now commit to traveling far or fixed rehearsal times. This is why for now I am forced to practise alone and am trying to get comfortable with solo arrangements in the GJ style. I have found also that one really needs to get a good grip on 'La Pompe' to understand the style even though there is no chance I can be playing rhythm behind anyone else right now (much as I would like to) as I am in a small town area 60 miles south of Sydney.

    So yes, of course, if and when the circumstances improve, I will try to get out more and play with others, but for now, if I wanted to do anything locally, even just busking in the park, or at the Sunday market, I need to work on a solid solo repertoire that I can be sure I have nailed; there is nowhere to hide for a soloist!
  • Posts: 3,543
    Chris, I'm sorry to hear about that. I really hope she comes out victorious.

    Yeah, nothing harder in my mind than solo pieces, the chord melody stuff. I'm so impressed by how your countryman Jon is doing it that well. Well, I guess it didn't come without hard work.

    I know @Chiefbigeasy , we had a show two nights ago and exactly that happened. Some small bits I can play at once home, I flubbed there. And I tested myself last night, I sat down and said "ok, am I just saying I can play this here but I really can't?", picked up the guitar and played it fine. Sped up more than what we would play when playing fast, still fine.
    I felt pretty relaxed at the show, I'm way passed stage fright feeling but still...
    I do know that I was thinking about the part coming up, kinda like "oh-oh there's that part", so I was overthinking it for sure. Call it choke or something else, it's a different feeling or attitude than at home and there's some tension. During band practice, I'm 50:50 on parts like that.
    I also know I have curious eyes so at the new place like that I keep looking around like a security camera. That doesn't help. And that's where what I was writing about different sensory stuff comes to play.
    I know if I could play those well a couple of times during the show, I'd be able to move them to that semi aware zone. I didn't try to employ any of the strategies from earlier, I just let it take it's course. I'll try next time, more woodshedding meanwhile.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 293
    Hey brother Chris, I second what Buco said. Best wishes for your wife's swift recovery. On the music front, please don't let anything we say here get in the way of your musical journey. Music is it's own reward. I've been studying Gypsy Jazz for years before I decided recently to play in public. What drove me all that time is the beauty of the music itself. You may end up being the monster player no one's heard about except for a select few who happened to hear you in a non-commercial setting.

    Buco, those last observations where spot on. It's sometimes little things that can throw you, and you may not even realize it until later. I've had a great pro like Russell Welch tell me that he's forgotten his place in a tune while comping and just did rhythmic muted strumming until he recovered.
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Altamira M10
    Posts: 641
    Hey Chris,
    I'll third what Chief and Buco said. Take care of your family first and best wishes on her recovery too from me.

    On the playing front, I wish you luck on your solo/chord melody pieces. I'm sure everyone will be awed by their beauty. These songs have great melodies and, yes, NSW is probably not the hot bed for GJ such that people will be critiquing your use/non-use of double down strokes! They'll just love that it isn't heard widespread in your area so will be a refreshing change.

    Last thing on judging our own playing--Everyone is their own harshest critic. I remember one time when I was somewhere in about the 7th grade and I wanted all new clothes for the school year. I told my mom that everyone would remember the clothes I wore last year so I needed to get rid of them. Well, she told me something that I keep to this day. She said, "Who are you to think you are so important that everyone is paying attention to what you are wearing." Goes for everything else in life too. I get a drop of pasta sauce on my shirt during lunch and go the rest of the day explaining to people about it assuming they see it (they probably don't.) If you flub a note in a gig, many might not even notice. (They are probably so worried about their own spots on their clothes!) Some might notice the flub but perhaps they are enjoying the performance enough that they just note it and move on to the next line that is well played knowing they aren't on the stage and maybe don't even have the skill to consider being up there.

    My call to you was really just trying to be encouraging. I'll bet you are a great player and you probably have something to share with the world that people will find enjoyable. The world needs more live music in my opinion. I wish you nothing but happiness and success in your musical journey. For me, I play for the enjoyment it brings to me and to others...not to try to prove I'm the baddest cat in the land (which Buco will attest I am most certainly NOT!)
    Buco
  • In short "Effortless Mastery" by Kenny Werner. study it, do the meditations, relax and listen to what others are doing and do not think about what you are doing. Its only when ego gets involved that we all try to execute things that we do not have mastered. Often simplifying, plying fewer notes and staying in the groove rather than losing it to find a note results in a product that the audience enjoys more.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Posts: 3,543
    Well that's true Jay but at the same time
    Jazzaferri wrote: »
    and do not think about what you are doing.
    that is the hard bit. Isn't that one of the reasons Kenny himself turned to jazz? I think in the book he says at one time he felt like piano playing as a profession was lost for him because of the demands of the expectations of classical music. Then he discovered jazz and was freed.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • BonesBones Moderator
    edited March 2018 Posts: 3,141
    Hey Buco, yeah I think you (and Jazza) answered your own question. You were 'thinking about' it. If you have to think about it it's not automatic. Compare that to licks, melodies and stuff that is automatic. You don't think about it at all you just do it. In fact, if you think about it you may mess it up. Like walking or talking. When you talk you don't think about how your mouth forms every letter or word you just do it. (Self) conscious thought is way too slow. I'm not saying you can't think at all, just not right in the middle of 'doing'.

    Yeah jazz is 'freeing' i.e. not being stuck to some exact written piece as I mentioned in the other thread about the guy who is giving up GJ and doesn't like improv.
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 293
    Since this has morphed back to our familiar discussion about improvising, I'll add that I'm happy to be technically advanced enough to often attempt to be mentally free-flowing about my improvising.

    I shoot for being melodic always, but find it much easier to be so for slower tunes and ballads than for more zippy tunes. Of course, that makes sense. For the fast tunes, I'm more reliant on emphasizing the energy of the beat and syncopation. That's were some licks can be a handy item; they are pre-packaged little melodies one can insert as needed. I think the idea is to learn from them, vary them, improvise off the licks themselves, perhaps by quoting and then rephrasing the same lick, for example.

    I think we are training ourselves to hear "faster" in order to more successfully improvise more melodically at a quicker pace when needed. Fortunately, the guitar is simultaneously percussive, melodic, polyphonic, with the added ability to produce notes between notes with bending and vibrato. Those are a lot of tools to use when improvising.

    But to do this well, I need to concentrate, lock-in, flow with the groove, and/or all the above. The origin of this post has, at its core, the question of how to reliably achieve this when alone, in practice with others, and in performance.

    I'm railing against the "at best 75% as good" in performance comment only in the sense that I think our performances are more often characterized by moments of brilliance interspersed with more average playing dotted with the potholes of flubs along the way. Maybe the figure is a numerical way to express the whole performance. But my brain tends to ruminate on the flubs rather than the hoots of approval for pulling off the speedy chromatic lick near the end of "Minor Swing" or the applause I might have gotten after a solo. Such is the state of being my own harshest critic.

    Thankfully, my memory of the flubs is fading and I'm remembering the gig a little more realistically. I've got a better idea how to set things up technically for the upcoming performance next month. I'm in the woodshed honing the chops. Before then, I'll play for some friends at the St. Patrick's party. I'm looking forward to performing again.
    Buco
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,141
    Since this has morphed back to our familiar discussion about improvising, I'll add that I'm happy to be technically advanced enough to often attempt to be mentally free-flowing about my improvising.

    Ha yeah, thread officially hijacked :-) Well, actually not really. The OP was kind of about performance anxiety or not being able to pull off the same stuff in public as you can at home. I think that applies to all aspects, rhythm, heads, and improv. If you've practiced it enough that it is automatic at the selected tempo then there will be much less chance of a flub or nerves at the gig. This applies also to all skill levels, we all have stuff that we can pull off automatically without thinking even if we are not 'experts'. I'm mostly a rhythm player but there are still solo lines or heads that I can play without consciously thinking about. In fact, if I try to think about something like my left hand fingering pattern or right hand picking pattern I would probably screw it up. Kind of like if someone asks you how you play a certain lick or phrase you'd probably have to stop and think about it for a moment to be able to verbalize to them the strings and fret positions and right hand picking but to actually play it you don't really think about it. You just do it.

    I hope that makes sense and helps you out on your next gig!

    PS- if there is something arranged that you really feel like you can't pull off exactly just simplify it until you can get the chops up to pull it off at the gig???
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