My live playing sucks

Mark_S

Silver Member
I know there have been threads on this before.. but..

My live playing is killing me; I just can't switch off and play like I can in the practise room or even when rehearsing. My mind is going all the time and I can't even pinpoint what it is thinking about, other than telling myself to stop thinking!

Fortunately, nobody in the band or in the audience notices.. but I sure notice.

Things like : -

1) Sometimes my left fingers become hyper aware of the stick and I feel like I'm going to drop it. It also affects my ghost notes.

2) I go to do a fill, just a basic fill, and I feel like I have to force every stroke out (I don't mean play forcefully). I sometimes feel pinned to the snare too, like moving to the toms is difficult..?!

Basically, the feeling of "flow" isn't there, which probably sums up the whole problem.

What gets me is: this is simple cover band stuff. I'm also pretty sure I did not suffer this problem 15 years ago, though some of that was probably youthful exuberance (I hit the big 40 this year).

What's odd is that it varies gig to gig. It helps when I can hear the band really well; I seem to become less self concious, like I'm a little more hidden behind the guitars. The last time I used in-ears I think I played a fair bit better, but it could also have just been a good day.

I think the main problem is my concious mind becomes way too involved. I really don't think it is ego either. I'm just sitting there trying to play well for the band and the audience, and enjoy it.

My ear doesn't suffer.. if I hear the band mucking up, I can usually adjust and get them back on track.

Has anyone else suffered from this? Anyone overcome it?

The only way I can think to overcome it is to gig as much as possible until I get over it. Honestly at the end of some gigs I want to give up. And then I get compliments on my playing and I end up confused as hell.

Example: played Radiohead Creep live last night. I messed up the big fill at 2.42 (the run.. run.. run bit). And I usually love playing that song! I was frozen to the snare and I'm not even sure the timing was right.

Oddly I felt a little liberated after the mess up, but still not right.
 

MrInsanePolack

Platinum Member
You gotta get out of your head. You are overthinking to the point of failure.

I do this with guitar. I will learn something, finally get it working at a slow pace, then completely lose it because I am hyper focused on my fingers Once I start paying attention to what my body parts are doing, it's like the brain becomes confused and none of it works.

You gotta change your focus. Watch the crowd, watch the band, watch the drunk hot chick falling into everyone. Just don't watch yourself.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
You gotta get out of your head. You are overthinking to the point of failure.

I do this with guitar. I will learn something, finally get it working at a slow pace, then completely lose it because I am hyper focused on my fingers Once I start paying attention to what my body parts are doing, it's like the brain becomes confused and none of it works.

You gotta change your focus. Watch the crowd, watch the band, watch the drunk hot chick falling into everyone. Just don't watch yourself.
Good advice right there. It's really the answer you are looking for too.
Make it a requirement, for now, to focus on your favorite player in the band, like you have to write an essay on it afterwards. You'll be so busy with the new mental task, that you shouldn't hamstring yourself. You have to trick yourself into not falling into that rut.

Just as an observation, you used the words "I" and "me" WAY too much in your original post. That's the issue. Try a new game of looking past yourself and see how good you can do.

It's the way out.
 
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No Way Jose

Silver Member
Try looking at something in the distance, not at anyone in the audience. That helps me avoid distractions. I try to not think when I am playing, just feel. Use my feelings instead of thinking.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
Larry's "I" and "me" point is dead on. if all you're paying attention to is you, it's really easy to screw something up. The music should be propelling everyone forward and giving you something to hang your hat on. You should be listening to everyone, including yourself, and all the components.

I play my best when I stop worrying about things and just go for it.
 

Jbravo

Senior Member
Sounds like overthinking, with a bit of early middle age anxiety mixed in :) You’ve got good advise already here- just focus outside yourself.

Just wait fifteen years or so until you ask yourself “did I really just complain about that out loud?! In public??!
 

GruntersDad

Administrator - Mayor
Staff member
Mark Schulman,drummer for Pink et.al. has a great bit in his book on this. It is a classic case of Stage Fright, and he considers this a bit selfish , his words, not mine. worry sbout the band, and not yourself, and get your mind on the band as a whole. Besides being a drummer, he is a well paid motivational speaker on many subjects including drumming and performance. Check him out . I bet he can help.

http://markschulman.com

http://markschulman.com/the-author/
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
The bike analogy works here too.

If you are focusing on the pedals and not the road, you're gonna crash.
 

motojosh

Member
Something that has worked really well for me is meditation. I try to do just 10 minutes each day (though I'm not perfect on that...), using the Headspace app/site. One of the guided meditations on there is for giving big speeches/performances, and if I'm feeling particularly nervous, I'll go through a quick 5 minute session with that. It's essentially a reminder to stay focused, and if you start feeling nervous, to switch your focus to the physical sensation of being (literally) grounded (for example, the weight of your body on the drum throne, the feel of your feet on the floor). Similar advice to the others here--switch your focus--but a different target for the new focus.

A friend who gigs for a living also swears by just enough of a drink to get her out of her own head. For her, that's usually about a shot of vodka in a giant 1L water bottle, nursed over the entire evening. Clearly not a "get drunk before getting on stage" thing--in fact, I don't know that it's even enough to feel anything. But it works for her.
 
All good advice above . I went through this a few years back for a little while. It happened in a small setting performing with my bagpiper and I made an obvious blunder ( to ME and in MY mind) . I recovered quickly and in all honesty no one probably had a clue of my mistake but it stuck in my mind to the point where I focused so much on my playing that at times at the next few gigs my right hand would freeze up to where I had almost no control over it. This was definitely a case of self conciousness and stage fright over fear of making mistakes . Once I realized the problem I reminded myself the real reason why I play ,...... because I enjoy it and I remembered that when I didn’t worry about such things performances went smoothly. What I guess I’m saying is that my fear was getting in the way of the joy of playing and I wasn’t going to let that happen . I just told myself to go think and go back to when I never cared if I made a mistake and to just have fun . I focused completely on the pipers playing and my hands just followed. Truth is no one really notices most mistakes anyway . I do now also enjoy a shot of bourbon right before performing lol !
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
All good advice above . I went through this a few years back for a little while. It happened in a small setting performing with my bagpiper and I made an obvious blunder ( to ME and in MY mind) . I recovered quickly and in all honesty no one probably had a clue of my mistake but it stuck in my mind to the point where I focused so much on my playing that at times at the next few gigs my right hand would freeze up to where I had almost no control over it. This was definitely a case of self conciousness and stage fright over fear of making mistakes . Once I realized the problem I reminded myself the real reason why I play ,...... because I enjoy it and I remembered that when I didn’t worry about such things performances went smoothly. What I guess I’m saying is that my fear was getting in the way of the joy of playing and I wasn’t going to let that happen . I just told myself to go think and go back to when I never cared if I made a mistake and to just have fun . I focused completely on the pipers playing and my hands just followed. Truth is no one really notices most mistakes anyway . I do now also enjoy a shot of bourbon right before performing lol !
Yea, fear, bad. I heard the best quote the other day from Will Smith of all people.

He said "God places your wildest desires just beyond your fears."

So true.
 
Yea, fear, bad. I heard the best quote the other day from Will Smith of all people.

He said "God places your wildest desires just beyond your fears."

So true.
Yup. Pretty much . I was so focused on making mistakes during that short time, that looking back now it was always there in my mind , and would start as soon as my piper would call and tell me we had another gig and build with intensity right up to the point of playing . My god that sucked . What helped to realize I didn’t completely suck was performances for at functions for friends and family in familiar surroundings . I never had such stage fright before or after that period , and thank GOD it’s gone . It was a terrible feeling . I really feel for the OP. Hang in there . YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT !!!
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
The worst balls up on the drum kit will always sound better than the best playing on the bagpipes.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
Lots of good advice. Listen to the music, not yourself. You've been been playing for awhile. I bet it doesn't suck at all.
Its mental - I'd suggest one casual beer beforehand, take the edge off. Doctors orders.
 

New Tricks

Platinum Member
It helps when I can hear the band really well;
My vote is for this *

I hate hearing too much drums where anything imperfect seems to stand out. It's probably a good mix out front but it's hard to trust that hope.


And, no one in the audience noticed or cared that you missed a fill. Maybe it's sad, but it's true.
 

JustJames

Platinum Member
And, no one in the audience noticed or cared that you missed a fill. Maybe it's sad, but it's true.
Which also means if you aren't 100% confident, simplify fills or even leave them out altogether. And I speak as one who occasionally uses both of these techniques. Heck, I even simplify grooves if I have to.

Playing a simplified part with authority rocks. A wobbly groove, not so much.

If you do what it takes to sound confident, your band and audience will dig it.
 

paravil

Senior Member
As others have said, it doesn't sound like your playing is the issue. Sounds like anxiety. I'm in my late thirties, and have been playing live since I was a teenager. A couple years ago I started having anxiety attacks (for lack of a better word) on stage. I play mainly at church, and I would get in my head about all kinds of things, all irrational stage fright-ish fears. My hands would go numb, and then I'd panic over the fact that I was panicking.

I eventually pushed through it. I had to train myself not to go there mentally before the set, not to look the crowd in the eye (which was a major trigger), and to basically distract myself while I was playing. And the whole time, my actual playing wasn't an issue. No one in the band or the crowd heard anything unusual. It was 100% happening in my head.

I hope you can push through it. It's awful when something that's always been so much fun suddenly becomes something you dread doing.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
As others have said, it doesn't sound like your playing is the issue. Sounds like anxiety. I'm in my late thirties, and have been playing live since I was a teenager. A couple years ago I started having anxiety attacks (for lack of a better word) on stage. I play mainly at church, and I would get in my head about all kinds of things, all irrational stage fright-ish fears. My hands would go numb, and then I'd panic over the fact that I was panicking.

I eventually pushed through it. I had to train myself not to go there mentally before the set, not to look the crowd in the eye (which was a major trigger), and to basically distract myself while I was playing. And the whole time, my actual playing wasn't an issue. No one in the band or the crowd heard anything unusual. It was 100% happening in my head.

I hope you can push through it. It's awful when something that's always been so much fun suddenly becomes something you dread doing.

Excellent observations here, too. I've been playing for over fifty years, and these things still happen occasionally. The last time it happened was when a band member remarked that I was playing a song too slow. Then I played it too fast. So, I started practicing to a metronome (which was a big help), but I became obsessed with starting a song at the right tempo and maintaining it throughout. My internal "clock" got all messed up - especially when I started playing whole songs while monitoring the metronome!

I had to go through a real period of calming down and just going with the flow of the band again. In looking back, I think the well-meaning remark by my bandmate played right into my personal insecurities and sense of . . . well . . . being a good drummer.

I learned a lot of lessons about myself and my drumming through this horrendous time of self-doubt, but it made me a much better drummer.

GeeDeeEmm
 
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