Thoughts on live playing

When I came back to music, and still today sometimes, people think I don't enjoy it due to my facial expressions. I just get intense listening to and trying to vibe with the other musicians.

From the moment at 26 when the room mate 1st brought drums home the intent was to perform live. So while it's understandable what you posted, it personally hasn't been a deterrent at all. Just a motivating feature for some amount of growth.
 
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I find that I really struggle to enjoy myself when I play live. Not because I don’t enjoy playing live, but because of getting into my own head so much when I’m on stage. It may sound foolish, but I think about if I’m looking down at my hi hat too much, or how I’m feeling when I make eye contact with people in the audience, or if I look like I’m board, or if I look like I’m into the music or not, and things like that. I’m thinking about all this kind of stuff so much that it doesn’t allow me to actually enjoy just being on stage and playing with my band. Also I’m thinking about my technique. If I’m hitting too hard or too soft and how that affects my physical playing. I find that when I play too hard, it negatively affects my feel and how I’m able to execute the parts that I play. But I worry that if I don’t play hard enough that I’m not projecting enough volume and also how that affects how I look on stage because of my smaller controlled motions.

I’m trying to find the best way to be myself and just play the way that feels best to me and still enjoy myself while on stage (same can be said for being in the studio and even band practice and practice by myself). I tend to overthink everything in life that I care about so this is just a part of how my mind works for better or worse.

Does anyone else deal with these kinds of things? If so how do you approach them to where you are able to enjoy your time on stage and not get so in your head that it takes away the joy of the live experience?
How often do you play live? I'm only playing live a few times a month, but with same jazz cats for 2+ years and same blues guys for last year. Blues guys a solid group no nerves I just go play relax have fun we all know material no sweat. The jazz combo I do sometimes get uptight because it's more difficult and expectations are higher. Having said that, we just did a jazz brunch show yesterday hadn't practiced or played with cats in over a month and it was a great little show I was not nervous at all because we chose our easiest most familiar material. So for me it depends on comfort with material.
 
When I'm playing for pay I am working, technically speaking, and thus subject to some of the same thoughts and feelings created by my day job. It's pretty normal to worry about performing well and the worry (when not crippling) ensures a certain level of attention to detail.

One thing that helps for sure - preparation. Know the material cold and that will go a long way towards freeing up mental cycles for other things.

Drumming and playing with fellow musicians is exciting and fulfilling for sure but I try not to imbue it with mystical feelings of satisfaction and delight when I'm performing in front of people. It's a complicated business and not something that most people can do.

When I am en route to a gig, I listen to the setlist in the car and run through my performance mentally, and make a pact with myself to focus on one or two things - usually simple things like looking up more and smiling occasionally.

One last point - the more you do it, the easier it gets. Unless you suffer from crippling anxiety, you're probably going to improve in all areas by virtue of simple repetition. You can take some comfort in that. The fact that you care is a good thing.
 
If I had to impress anyone, I would want to impress my band mates first. And that comes from playing well, grooving, time keeping. Those are the things I primarily think about when playing live.
After years of playing live my playing is at a level that I can afford to think about the way I look a little.
It is entertainment, so I look like I'm into the music, I also play confidently rather than just loud. But all these things have become second nature to me also, so I don't have to think about them.
So if you want to enjoy playing live my advice would be to take care of your playing first, ignore the audience. once you've got a good deal of experience taking care of your drumming and pleasing your fellow musicians, THEN you can worry about what the audience thinks.
Agreed!
What I've found - in my limited experience - is that concentrating on the music gets me by. I feel uncomfortable between songs - that's when I get self-conscious.
I don't know how to react to applause - and don't want to appear smug, or alternatively, miserable. The facial expression mid-way between the two must be even more uninsipiring.
I might try chewing gum to give my face something to do.
 
Anything I would have to add has already been covered in the thread. I'll just add that you're not alone, I face some of the things you do, as well. Catching myself looking down for too long is one that I fall back into too often, certainly.

I can't tell you how I address it, specifically, cuz its usually a case by case basis. I can be a bit of a goof ball at times, so I try to just make a face or two at someone in the crowd, and pretend that I'm a rock star or something (nothing too overly dramatic, mind you). I don't have to be me on stage, I can pretend. A little.

Over thinking is a challenge, certainly.
 
Are you by any chance a perfectionist as well?

As posted, I wrote a lot of software, also in coding language C(++).
C code is very strict and it won't compile if you mess up even tiny details like switching or leaving out (semi-)colons, type an uppercase character where a lowercase one should be, etc. So you become a real nitpicker.
I would watch a movie and start thinking: hey, the 2 tower speakers next to the TV aren't angled exactly evenly to me, I should fix that.
Or the volume of the left rear surround speaker should be slightly lower and the right slightly higher.

Over time I eased up and started accepting that not everything has to be perfect.
Life is not about you or everything being perfect but about enjoying it while you can.

After a 10 year drum break I recently joined a band again and I was about to cancel the 1st tryout because I felt I was too rusty and might not perform well.
I reminded myself to relax and just go, play and enjoy. Even if I would screw up entirely, so what?
I will still live my life tomorrow and can always try again.
I am very much a perfectionist. I also have had ocd since I was a kid so that’s definitely a part of it.
 
You will be doing the audience a favour by looking like you want to be there. Enjoying your bandmates performances is a good way of showing that even if it's hammed up a bit. It's good for the band to get some encouragement from you too
 
It sounds like you might be taking your practice mentality into your performance? Remember we are “playing” gigs so by the time you hit the stage it should all be second nature and you really shouldn’t be thinking about how you are hitting the drums or where you’re looking. Appreciate that’s easier said than done. Not sure anyone can help with your predicament outside of suggesting that you iron out such demons at rehearsal and remember to enjoy yourself, that we’re all human and nobody is perfect…so go easier on yourself. Hope you sort it out so you can enjoy smashing it!🙂👍
Agree with Al. I often play some of our songs too fast at rehearsal, but 'live" I seem to get into the zone pretty quickly & play at the right tempo.
HOWEVER, & this is my biggest problem (o_O), I tend to stare at my kit as I play & rarely smile (I tell my bandmates that I'm concentrating:rolleyes:), but watching some video footage of a recent small gig, I DEFINITELY have a face like a bulldog licking pI$$ off a stinging nettle....
.
I could improve my playing in 100 ways, but I'm aware that the AUDIENCE would be more impressed if I appeared to be having a good time, not looking to gouge the rhythm guitarist's eyes out...

Although that may be WHY I look like a psychopath:rolleyes:
 
Agree with Al. I often play some of our songs too fast at rehearsal, but 'live" I seem to get into the zone pretty quickly & play at the right tempo.
HOWEVER, & this is my biggest problem (o_O), I tend to stare at my kit as I play & rarely smile (I tell my bandmates that I'm concentrating:rolleyes:), but watching some video footage of a recent small gig, I DEFINITELY have a face like a bulldog licking pI$$ off a stinging nettle....
.
I could improve my playing in 100 ways, but I'm aware that the AUDIENCE would be more impressed if I appeared to be having a good time, not looking to gouge the rhythm guitarist's eyes out...

Although that may be WHY I look like a psychopath:rolleyes:
Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a lovely way with words mate!!? :unsure: Next time I see a bulldog I’ll think of you, stinging nettles and your rhythm guitar player! :ROFLMAO:(y)
 
Go full Death Metal band member and put on a face covering as some type of costume. No one has to see you now as there is theatre showing and not your mug.
¯⁠\⁠_⁠(⁠ツ⁠)⁠_⁠/⁠¯
 
I switch off on stage. I'm on autopilot a lot of the time. Autopilot gets switched off when there's a song I don't usually play.

If I had to think about playing Brown Eyed Girl for the 50 millionth gojillionth time I'd be on round the clock suicide watch!

pilot airplane GIF
 
I find that I really struggle to enjoy myself when I play live. Not because I don’t enjoy playing live, but because of getting into my own head so much when I’m on stage. It may sound foolish, but I think about if I’m looking down at my hi hat too much, or how I’m feeling when I make eye contact with people in the audience, or if I look like I’m board, or if I look like I’m into the music or not, and things like that. I’m thinking about all this kind of stuff so much that it doesn’t allow me to actually enjoy just being on stage and playing with my band. Also I’m thinking about my technique. If I’m hitting too hard or too soft and how that affects my physical playing. I find that when I play too hard, it negatively affects my feel and how I’m able to execute the parts that I play. But I worry that if I don’t play hard enough that I’m not projecting enough volume and also how that affects how I look on stage because of my smaller controlled motions.

I’m trying to find the best way to be myself and just play the way that feels best to me and still enjoy myself while on stage (same can be said for being in the studio and even band practice and practice by myself). I tend to overthink everything in life that I care about so this is just a part of how my mind works for better or worse.

Does anyone else deal with these kinds of things? If so how do you approach them to where you are able to enjoy your time on stage and not get so in your head that it takes away the joy of the live experience?
any setting you find yourself in you immediately adjust your volume (pressure) to the surrounding situation
from the first note and you're constantly aware of (also) the size of the room or no room , temperature of the crowd/ bored/interested..
Probably better to err on the side of too low a volume than too loud. Some band member (err singers) could maybe care less to hear drums.
Like salt on a salad you can always add volume but harder to take it back
So as the chef season dish appropriately
 
What I do is I concentrate on the music that's happening all around me, and I'm just happy to be a part of it. The only time I really concentrate on myself is when we are playing a new song we've never played live before. Otherwise, I just do my best to enjoy the moment.
 
What you're describing is quite common.

I highly recommend The Bulletproof Musician by Noa Kageyama.


He is a performance psychologist on staff at The Julliard School of Music.

His course is fantastic and worth every penny.
I’ve run across his website. Nice to see an unbiased thumbs up here. I’ve often wondered if the course was worth the investment. I don’t get stage fright per se, but I struggle with rumination after a blunder. It’s hard to let go in the moment without going into analysis mode. I manage it, but it throws me off. Does he address anything like that? Sorry. I hope this is on topic enough in regards to the OP.
 
Agree with Al. I often play some of our songs too fast at rehearsal, but 'live" I seem to get into the zone pretty quickly & play at the right tempo.
HOWEVER, & this is my biggest problem (o_O), I tend to stare at my kit as I play & rarely smile (I tell my bandmates that I'm concentrating:rolleyes:), but watching some video footage of a recent small gig, I DEFINITELY have a face like a bulldog licking pI$$ off a stinging nettle....
.
I could improve my playing in 100 ways, but I'm aware that the AUDIENCE would be more impressed if I appeared to be having a good time, not looking to gouge the rhythm guitarist's eyes out...

Although that may be WHY I look like a psychopath:rolleyes:
I find that there are certain drummers who can really pull the psychopath thing off. I knew a dude who was the coolest and nicest guy off stage, but put him behind the set and he looks like he’s going to plow through his drums and kill the first guy who looks at him sideways.

YEEEAAAAHHH!
 
I find that there are certain drummers who can really pull the psychopath thing off. I knew a dude who was the coolest and nicest guy off stage, but put him behind the set and he looks like he’s going to plow through his drums and kill the first guy who looks at him sideways.

YEEEAAAAHHH!
You talkin to me? Sorry I couldn't resist. I've had band members and audience members tell me that I look like I don't want to be there, which isn't true, and I ain't worried about nothin. I try to compensate by getting into the music and channeling Dino Danelli of the Young Rascals, RIP. He was a very exciting drummer to watch.
 
I’ve run across his website. Nice to see an unbiased thumbs up here. I’ve often wondered if the course was worth the investment. I don’t get stage fright per se, but I struggle with rumination after a blunder. It’s hard to let go in the moment without going into analysis mode. I manage it, but it throws me off. Does he address anything like that? Sorry. I hope this is on topic enough in regards to the OP.
Yes he addresses those concepts but his info on effective practice methods to improve learning speed and retention are what drew me to him initially.

His methods are state of the art and in line with current practice of athletics and arts at the highest levels
 
I do not get nervous on stage. I just love the interaction between band members and the interaction with the audience. For me it is just fun. Occasionally I will focus on a certain part that I have practiced but not perfected, but that is rare. Aside from playing with the band I am in, I also play a lot in a duo or trio format with a small kit or percussion instruments (Cajon, Djembe, Bongos etc). In this format I often have no idea what the solo artist I am playing with will play. Sometimes I know the songs, sometimes I don't, especially if they are songs he has written but not released on a CD. For covers, he often has his own version of the song that adds elements of blues or bluegrass. Depends on whether he is playing electric guitar, nylon string guitar, banjo/guitar etc. I just find the groove and have fun.
 
If I had to impress anyone, I would want to impress my band mates first. And that comes from playing well, grooving, time keeping. Those are the things I primarily think about when playing live.
After years of playing live my playing is at a level that I can afford to think about the way I look a little.
It is entertainment, so I look like I'm into the music, I also play confidently rather than just loud. But all these things have become second nature to me also, so I don't have to think about them.
So if you want to enjoy playing live my advice would be to take care of your playing first, ignore the audience. once you've got a good deal of experience taking care of your drumming and pleasing your fellow musicians, THEN you can worry about what the audience thinks.
Absolutely, audiences are easily impressed for the most part... especially if there's booze involved. Bandmates are something else. If they're happy with your playing then the audience will be. As for how you look just wear what you like and fugedaboutit.
 
Ive been playing live in original bands for over twenty years and have a weird relationship with it. When I go more than a month without a gig I get anxious on the verge of depressed. The hours leading up to the gig are usually stressful and frustrating. During the gig I have a great time but I always find myself playing in crappy sound system situations where I can't hear damn near anything. Frequently these situations are outside in the blazing sun or roaring rain. Then after the gig I have a crazy uplifted euphoria and feel on the top of the world for hours.

So I love it and equally hate it but can't live without it and don't ever plan on stopping entirely. Currently I'm on a brief voluntary hiatus due to the upcoming birth of a child... It's been a week and a half since my last gig and two weeks since my last band practice and it already feels weird.
 
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