Dealing with a bad night, no groove...

Icetech

Gold Member
So... normally i warm up for a bit then play for 2,3 or 4 hours.. just relaxing and enjoying.. now and then though i have nights where my brain won't calm down and i just can't relax and let stuff flow. Last night i pretty much forced myself to play and it just makes it worse. Normally i have methods to relax but decided to quit that since it's what's been fueling my depression (i feel amazing also.. so that's a good thing)
My question is though.. guys that play in bands or paid engagements how do you deal with a night like that? I mean you can't just say "naw.. not feeling it... gonna go home". I'm sure i can't be the only one that has this happen. took bout 2 hours last night to get in a decent place and ended up playing some marvin gaye and just slower stuff to relax and get some feeling going.
 

Neal Pert

Well-known member
I've performed through all sorts of conditions: newly cracked ribs, stomach flu, various other injuries, but also grief, intense anger, anxiety, depression. I don't know what to tell you except that you just do it. Usually playing made me feel better both physically and mentally once I was doing it. It's like going to church or the gym: The worst part is getting yourself psyched up to do it.

But yeah-- for gigs, you just gut it out and hope for the best. And really, the gap between my best gigs and my worst is not THAT big when it comes to actual results. A lot of the time that I'm subjectively struggling it's actually forcing me to do surprisingly good work because I HAVE to be intentional and focused. I've played a lot of gigs where I'd get compliments after sets that I thought were awful.
 

Mighty_Joker

Silver Member
When I gigged a LOT, bad nights became MVP - minimal viable product. I had to get through night doing just enough to satisfy my professional requirements. Nothing flashy, no solos (at times, I often requested no solos when feeling bad), nothing adventurous or experimental, just do the job and get out. I'd often find I'd warm into it and cheer up once I started playing, anyway.

It happens though. You can't force it to flow when other factors are negatively affecting you. If you're being paid, you just do your best to stay professional.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
So... normally i warm up for a bit then play for 2,3 or 4 hours.. just relaxing and enjoying.. now and then though i have nights where my brain won't calm down and i just can't relax and let stuff flow. Last night i pretty much forced myself to play and it just makes it worse. Normally i have methods to relax but decided to quit that since it's what's been fueling my depression (i feel amazing also.. so that's a good thing)
My question is though.. guys that play in bands or paid engagements how do you deal with a night like that? I mean you can't just say "naw.. not feeling it... gonna go home". I'm sure i can't be the only one that has this happen. took bout 2 hours last night to get in a decent place and ended up playing some marvin gaye and just slower stuff to relax and get some feeling going.

I think when you're playing a lot there's a sort of a base level...I'm not sure I ever really have a "bad" night - just nights where the groove maybe not be what you want on your best hits video compilation.

I think with practice and preparation one tends to have pretty decent nights overall.

What I love is were there's something in the air or maybe XY band member is in a good head space and you really hit a HIGH - those moments where you sort of transcend the song and take it to another place - those peaks are awesome. Valleys though - they don't happen that often - and if they do...just move on.

Also - I've found that there can be a big disconnect between how you feel on stage and what's projected...we've had a couple recordings of various shows where we didn't feel great - but upon listening to the show...sounded totally fine if not good.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
I don't know what to tell you except that you just do it.
Ditto.

I take the mindset that every next tune will be better, and regardless of the outcome, I’m gonna smile, laugh and have fun with my mates ‘cuz, after all, we ain’t stuck in Afghanistan.
 

Cmdr. Ross

Silver Member
When I gigged a LOT, bad nights became MVP - minimal viable product. I had to get through night doing just enough to satisfy my professional requirements. Nothing flashy, no solos (at times, I often requested no solos when feeling bad), nothing adventurous or experimental, just do the job and get out.
Been here too. The best part is the band sees you made the effort & your phone still rings for the next show.
It's worth it for sure.
 

C.M. Jones

Well-known member
I think with practice and preparation one tends to have pretty decent nights overall.
That's the solution. Practice, repetition, and discipline lead to consistency. Consistency all but guarantees that regardless of your internal state, you'll be able to deliver a quality performance time and time again. You might not feel top-notch every night, but your output can still be copybook accurate.
Also - I've found that there can be a big disconnect between how you feel on stage and what's projected. . .
Undeniably so. Self-assessment and external observation occupy dramatically divergent vantage points. Neil Peart was once asked to gage his satisfaction with his performances, and he said something to the effect that he was pleased with his playing only three or four times per tour. I'm sure his audiences never knew the difference. Practice, repetition, and consistency, as outlined above, made certain that he gave them a professional product with unfailing reliability. The drummer and the observer live in two different universes.
 
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larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Also - I've found that there can be a big disconnect between how you feel on stage and what's projected...we've had a couple recordings of various shows where we didn't feel great - but upon listening to the show...sounded totally fine if not good.
This is so true. I'll go as far as to say that if I'm having a bad night, it's the way I feel about it, not necessarily my output.

At the risk of sounding nuts, (because I am) every time I had a "bad" night I would check my astrological calendars afterwards and more times than not, the moon was in void of course when I was playing. Void of course....I'm not supposed to start any projects during VOC. They usually do not work out. It's really a thing. Now I check before the gig so I know beforehand if the moon is in a favorable position or not. It probably sounds nuts but it rings true in my life and I've proven it to myself many times over.

My point is...sometimes external factors affect us without our awareness of it. The moon has more control over my life than I gave it credit for.

Who factors these things in?
 

Paul Blood

Junior Member
Yes, with enough preparation and experience you'll be a the at very top of your game, and the drums will basically play themselves so it won't really matter if you're in a bad mood or not feeling well.

Besides lots of practice and performing experience, you need to learn how to let go, not let your thoughts get in the way. Become one with the music. If you can do this, whatever was bothering will be completely forgotten while you are performing, and you'll probably feel better for awhile after the performance too. Playing music can be therapeutic.
 

Icetech

Gold Member
Thanks guys.. I think my main problem is if i sit down and i feel like i'm rigid and just off, instead of trying to relax and get it working, i get mad which just feeds more into throwing me off. Luckily i only play for me :) So.. no real pressure other than on myself.

There are a million drum lessons talking about technique and form, but it seems no one ever talks about the mental aspect of drumming/music in general which is where i am lost :) Some nights things just flow and it's like my brain is off and it's just feeling coming out and other nights i can't get out of my own way and let it go.. i want more of the flowing nights:)
 

someguy01

Well-known member
There is a saying in golf that the hardest 6" to cover is the 6" between your ears. It applies to everything in life. Sometimes, it works best to just not think and let go and let it happen because your body already knows what to do.
 

NouveauCliche

Senior Member
Thanks guys.. I think my main problem is if i sit down and i feel like i'm rigid and just off, instead of trying to relax and get it working, i get mad which just feeds more into throwing me off. Luckily i only play for me :) So.. no real pressure other than on myself.

There are a million drum lessons talking about technique and form, but it seems no one ever talks about the mental aspect of drumming/music in general which is where i am lost :) Some nights things just flow and it's like my brain is off and it's just feeling coming out and other nights i can't get out of my own way and let it go.. i want more of the flowing nights:)

Oh you for sure don't want to get in your own head about it - getting mad and frustrated is the EASIEST way to throw off a whole night. I've been there - where I was playing a gig I wasn't into and someone wanted to play some lame version of a standard or whatever and it threw me off the song for sure if not the evening.

I would absolutely google "How to get into a flow state" - there's tons of high level information out there about how to get into a flow state in a repeatable fashion and a lot of it deals with small things that lead into big things...focus on your posture, your breathing, the first note of a song, maybe zen out and wait for a favorite fill or something, etc. while your body keeps the beat on auto pilot.

Just getting out of your head will help you a ton.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
I'd say it's easier to get out of your head when you are playing with others...as opposed to playing alone.

With a band, there's always someone else to focus on.

Which is the antidote for me when I'm stuck in my head
 

Icetech

Gold Member
thanks guys.. i'm gonna google that, i had never heard it put like that :) i'm fairly hyper.. and keep being told i'm ADD or whatever it is and my mind runs 1000 miles a minute non stop.. sunday i drummed for 4.5 hours and felt amazing last night i could barely hold a beat. thanks for all the input :)
 

ottog1979

Senior Member
I think we all have these nights once in a while. I find that what works for me is that when I'm nervous or feeling off or just not into it the trick is to tell myself just to go "towards" the music. That is, focus on the song at hand and mentally and more importantly emotionally dive into it. That tends to clear my head of all the distracting stuff that's going on and brings my mood & playing to a better place.
 

roncadillac

Member
I one time played a gig about 4 days after having hemorrhoid surgery... There was only one "groove" I was worried about that night! Haha. Gig ended up going really really well actually, most of it was accompanying hip hop artists so I had a ton of simple steady 4/4.
 

danondrums

Well-known member
Thanks guys.. I think my main problem is if i sit down and i feel like i'm rigid and just off, instead of trying to relax and get it working, i get mad which just feeds more into throwing me off. Luckily i only play for me :) So.. no real pressure other than on myself.

There are a million drum lessons talking about technique and form, but it seems no one ever talks about the mental aspect of drumming/music in general which is where i am lost :) Some nights things just flow and it's like my brain is off and it's just feeling coming out and other nights i can't get out of my own way and let it go.. i want more of the flowing nights:)
Meditation is one healthy way I can think of helping to achieve flow states more often.
The reality is that we're probably rigid and lacking flow more often than we're in a flow state. I try to get my worst days to be good enough to keep people dancing and I'm happy with that and then I look forward to the times when flow states are achieved.
For me, I think anxiety and worry are the emotions that block that flow state and we have to be forgiving with ourselves in modern times where there is so much fear and hate being thrown around so casually by the media and the public.
I have a subscription to the calm app and I do think the daily meditations help a lot.
Best of luck to you.
 
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