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Practicing alone vs. Band practice vs. Performance



  • edited March 2018 Posts: 3,707
    To clarify a point about the thinking.

    Thinking is a conscious process as opposed to the subconscious process involved in (to use the modern multi-disciplinary lingo0 BEING IN A FLOW STATE.

    Think unconscious competence....similar concept

    When you eat with your knife and fork, you don't think about how to cut your meat, you don't think about where to put the fork, and for the vast majority of us we don't miss our mouths and put the fork in our eye or nose.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • BonesBones Moderator
    edited March 2018 Posts: 3,181
    Ed Zachary! :-)

    Oh I almost forgot, another phrase that I have heard used that I think describes it in a way is "muscle memory". Of course, our muscles don't have their own memories but once we practice something enough times they seem to 'remember' how to do it on their own. We don't sit down with our guitar every time like it is the first time we picked it up and had to 'think' about every little movement. In fact, even a relative novice has developed a significant level of 'muscle memory'. Rhythm players have to be able to switch from chord shapes to the next automatically. There isn't enough time especially on an up tempo song that if you have to think about how to grab that Dm chord forget it, you are too late. Back to the shed. Same with soloists. If that melody line or that E7 arp isn't automatic it's too slow. Sure on a ballad or medium tempo you can get away with more conscious thought but not at faster tempos.
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,711
    Lately I've been trying to take Jay's advice and play with my eyes closed.

    It feels good, but sometimes I still jump up to a fret above or below the one I was aiming for!

    But for me, avoiding looking at my fingers is a good way to avoid falling into cliches and ruts.

    When the Django movie finally came here last year, somehow our cinema got the version without any subtitles.

    My comprehension of spoken French is, um, shall we say "imparfait", but it was my impression that the Django character in the film told one of his backup guitarists not to look at his fingers!
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • Posts: 3,654
    Maybe not all of us share the same experience when it comes to the title of this thread. If some of you guys don't find no difference in your performance between different environments then you're lucky.
    Thing is, some things that I have arranged ahead which I flub a lot live, in my practice room I can pick up a guitar and play them. I don't need to warm up, start slowly etc, I just play it. Repeat several times, still fine. So they are in my muscle memory. Easiest answer for me is I just need to woodshed on it more.

    When Bones says you can't think about it playing live, I understand that well.
    If you're walking down the stairs fast, and start thinking about which leg comes next and then next and so on, you might start tumbling down instead of walking. I get that. I just don't seem to be making the point across that I can't put my mind in the same state as when I'm in the practice room just like that, at will.

    Kenny's book is great and many people witness that it helped them a lot.
    It takes what I don't have much of at the moment though, time and focus.

    Actually I remembered yesterday that I did a similar thing like with "Choke", I took bullet points of what I thought was the gist of the whole process:

    Effortless mastery

    Step one: go in the "space", pick up your instrument and play a note as if for the first time ever.

    Step two: play something simple without trying to make music, or play as fast as you want without caring about the notes, in any case play detached.

    Step three: play something correctly without trying to sound correct and notice where the mistakes are. There are going to be parts that are easy and some that are not, the goal is to make the whole thing as easy. The step three is about taking inventory, finding out what you can do and not more. And accepting whatever comes out.

    Step four: take everything you play to the level of effortless mastery. Play the whole piece like that as slow as it needs to be or small pieces fast. But it has to be without thinking about it.

    In all of these it's important to take your hands off the instrument often.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,181
    Yeah Buco, it's hard and frustrating for me to do it with music too. That's why I used the sports example because I know the feeling from sports. The stairs analogy is another good one. For me with music, since I'm not accomplished to the point where I can just let go, it's harder for me to just get into the mental 'zone' and just let my 'muscle memory' (or whatever you want to call it) take over. But that is just a matter of needing more time in the 'shed'. You are a good musician so just keep at it! If I'd been playing music as long and with the same dedication that I'd committed to sports I'm sure I'd be a lot further along. And I don't think it is an all or nothing kind of thing. As we progress we spend more time in the zone and less flubs, or at least it's easier to play thru our flubs and recover. At whatever level we are at we are all miles ahead of where we started. Little by little we make progress. I think about when I couldn't even play chords in first position or I was fascinated by and had no idea how Django played one of his famous solos and now I can pretty much approximate it (give or take, if a fair bit slower) :-).

    The point for me is the more time I spend in the 'zone' the easier it is for me to recognize when I am getting out of it and then (almost) force myself back into it and turn off the stupid internal dialog (or whatever). I.e. if I get distracted or self-conscious I recognize it and immediately turn it off. For me, the way I turn it off is I FOCUS on the music. If you are totally focused it doesn't matter where you are or what is going on around you. By definition, if you are totally focused you cannot be paying any attention to anything else except the music and that includes 'conscious thought' or whatever. And if you are playing in a loud coffee house with the espresso machine going off and lots of ambient noise, just crank up the amp a bit so at least you can hear your bandmates and 'zone out'!

    Good luck and I hope that helps a little :-)
  • ChiefbigeasyChiefbigeasy New Orleans, LA✭✭✭ Alves de Puga DR670; Dupont MDC 50; The Loar LH600
    Posts: 293
    OK, back to the topic at hand.

    Having taken delivery of my new Schertler David amp, the Ischell pick up, and the Peche a la Mouche pick up, (yeah expensive, but now I’m ready for anything),I’ve discovered something that – for me – makes quite a bit of difference in the way I play while practicing, while at band practice, and on stage. In a word, volume.

    When I practice alone, I play softly. Even though I am using down strokes and can play with a lot of energy, the volume is still pretty low because I don’t need to be heard over other instruments except for the backing track playing.

    When I practice with the band, I need to play harder to increase the volume. When I use more force to do this, it changes the way that I play. It’s different from playing at home alone, to be sure.

    When I play on stage, I need to be heard over the other instruments like in band practice, and I also need to project to the audience. It’s a way more complicated level of presence control which includes volume and projection, while trying to maintain a sense of dynamics for each tune and the different sections of each tune when soloing or comping.

    No wonder it’s hard to get in the zone and easy to make mistakes.

    A little bit of amplification goes along way toward having to change my technique to get the audio volume and presence I want. It may not be the best way to maintain my acoustic technique, but it sure does help when playing with the band and playing on stage. It helps me relax, and when I relax, I play better.

    I suspect this is not news to most of you. The question is this: do you think it’s detrimental to lean on amplification versus learning and practicing how to play with more volume acoustically?
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited March 2018 Posts: 1,711
    Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about, Chief.

    When the crowd gets loud, the band's gotta crank it up... but the more you turn that acoustic guitar up, the more it starts feeling like an electric... like you can just barely touch a note and it lasts forever.

    I can't really do this at home, but I suspect the best thing is to practice at as loud a volume as you possibly can.

    Not because you really WANT to play at that volume, just that sometimes you find yourself playing at that volume whether you want to or not, and you've gotta be ready for it.

    My two cents, I'm sure many will disagree...

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • edited March 2018 Posts: 3,654
    One thing I noticed at Django in June is that with the players that come to teach there, they don't seem to adjust their picking according to the occasion they play in. It looks like whether it's them playing solo or they are in a big circle jam, they pick the same. They don't try to get more volume out of the instrument during a large jam. They're neither playing softly nor trying to get louder, they rely on the guitar to carry the volume. They have their tone and technique down and it doesn't change, at least it's the impression I got.

    Yes there's a player like Rino who's playing forcefully but he does it all the time. Then there's a player with a soft touch like Samy Daussat and he also sticks to his game regardless of what else is going on around him and who else is playing.

    PS I've been trying to do same when I'm drawn to play louder, not as easy as it sounds...
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited March 2018 Posts: 1,711
    Yes, I noticed the same thing last time I was there back in 2013.

    They used to do this thing where some guitar collector brought in a whole bunch of really valuable guitars, and they'd have three or four great players at the front of the room demonstrating how the guitars sound.

    Then after they played a little while, the next guitar would be brought out and everybody in the front row would pass their guitar over to the next person.

    It didn't take me too long to realize that whichever guitar Rino happened to be playing was the loudest of the bunch, and sounded the most Django-esque....
    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • Posts: 3,654
    Ran across an interesting article that can be tied to this conversation:

    Basically it talks about repetition being the key for any success.
    But what really stood out is this line that says "stay a beginner".
    Which kinda ties into Kenny's method, step one, that says pick up your instrument every day as if for the first time ever.
    Which kinda ties into what Koran Agan once told me when I asked him how did he get his tone, and I consider his tone as some of the best in business, besides him being such awesome player and composer overall. He said something like: "I don't know, I never did anything specifically to work on tone. One thing I did a lot when I was in college, which may or may not have anything to do with it, is I'd pick up a guitar and play a single note. And then another note, without any connection to previous one. I just listened to the quality of the note, and I did that a lot...".

    Kinda interesting how different musicians, even people in different fields come to the levels of mastery using similar methods, deliberately or not.
    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
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