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when you're off and you can't find the groove


KeysBear

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saw some of this discussed regarding rehearsal time but I'm thinking about when you're at your gig and you've played a couple of tunes and something is just off, kind of a disconnect from the usual casual perfection. I usually settle in rather quickly to a feeling of competency regarding the basics of the tunes and then start to embellish wherever my crazy brain takes me. But how about those nights where you're struggling and the mistakes just keep coming? How did you get there? Sometimes when I'm rushed at setup I don't settle down and collect myself before downbeat. Sometimes the sound is pure mush and I feel like I'm trying to play at the bus station instead of a stage. Sometimes it's physical and you just can't hack it because of how you feel but I have to say I've played some perfect gigs with a pounding headache or a really bad cold. How about it?

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saw some of this discussed regarding rehearsal time but I'm thinking about when you're at your gig and you've played a couple of tunes and something is just off, kind of a disconnect from the usual casual perfection. I usually settle in rather quickly to a feeling of competency regarding the basics of the tunes and then start to embellish wherever my crazy brain takes me. But how about those nights where you're struggling and the mistakes just keep coming? How did you get there? Sometimes when I'm rushed at setup I don't settle down and collect myself before downbeat. Sometimes the sound is pure mush and I feel like I'm trying to play at the bus station instead of a stage. Sometimes it's physical and you just can't hack it because of how you feel but I have to say I've played some perfect gigs with a pounding headache or a really bad cold. How about it?

 

 

Most of the time for me its a lousy monitor deal that is at the root of it. Played a fri night show where we had a guest songwriter an their acoustic band up first. The stage was set up for them initually. I failed to move a floor monitor down in front of me. When we sound checked everything seemed like it would be fine. I ended up in a situation if i would have goosed my volume enough to hear like i needed to it would have been too loud on stage and prolly too loud in the mains. NO dedicated soundman so you end up playing where you really cant hear yourself well. My fault , lived though it. Corrected it on the sat night show. I dont think i played bad and i do think it sounded good out front from what i was told. I just could not hear myself well. Oh well the show goes on.

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saw some of this discussed regarding rehearsal time but I'm thinking about when you're at your gig and you've played a couple of tunes and something is just off, kind of a disconnect from the usual casual perfection. I usually settle in rather quickly to a feeling of competency regarding the basics of the tunes and then start to embellish wherever my crazy brain takes me. But how about those nights where you're struggling and the mistakes just keep coming? How did you get there? Sometimes when I'm rushed at setup I don't settle down and collect myself before downbeat. Sometimes the sound is pure mush and I feel like I'm trying to play at the bus station instead of a stage. Sometimes it's physical and you just can't hack it because of how you feel but I have to say I've played some perfect gigs with a pounding headache or a really bad cold. How about it?

 

 

Just muscle through...unless it's a catastrophic 'total and complete failure' imminent thing, which is not what you're talking about, I don't consider a full-stop to the show to suss the issue out as any kind of option...

 

Having confidence that I DO know the material forwards and backwards, and that any disconnect like you're describing (and that I've definitely experienced myself), must be due to some sort of temporary circumstances, and I know I'm player enough to work through that situation has been sufficient for me. Although for me, a REAL mistake (or rarely, two) will almost certainly be ample wake-up to me to nip things in the bud no matter what.

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I've come to realize that when I have that "...something is just off..." feeling - there's a very good chance that it's all in my head. We record pretty much every live performance (not great quality recordings mind you ... but quality enough to hear the groove and to hear outright mistakes (be that individual clams or group screwups). I've compared the recordngs from nights where I felt I/we were simply on fire and hitting everything on all cylinders - to those nights where I was convinced that "....something is just off..." on numerous occasions. What has really jumped out at me is how consistent our overall sound is from night to night - and how often the difference between a "we're on fire!" night and a "...something is off..." night is virtually indiscernable in the recordings.

 

As I opinined in a another recent post - muscial performance is very comparable to an athlete's competitive performance. In many instances there's little difference between the performance of the first place finisher and the last place finisher - and that the perception of feeling "on" is really in the mind of the athlete more so than in their actual physical performance. Learning what you need to do to feel "on" is as important for a musician as it is for an athlete ... so is recognizing that feeling that "...something is just off" may vary well be all in your head. You gotta have a little faith that even though you're not feeling "on" during a given performance - it doesn't mean that your performance is in the {censored}ter.

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Just muscle through...unless it's a catastrophic 'total and complete failure' imminent thing, which is not what you're talking about, I don't consider a full-stop to the show to suss the issue out as any kind of option...


Having confidence that I DO know the material forwards and backwards, and that any disconnect like you're describing (and that I've definitely experienced myself), must be due to some sort of temporary circumstances, and I know I'm player enough to work through that situation has been sufficient for me. Although for me, a REAL mistake (or rarely, two) will almost certainly be ample wake-up to me to nip things in the bud no matter what.

 

yep the "muscle through" thing is where I go immediately which is not where I like my head to be while playing. I bring myself into a strong real time grip with the mechanics after that first mistake, pull back on the embellishments, and try to do no harm. Then as relaxation sets in and all the neurons are connecting I start to find the groove. It's rare that an entire evening will be off.

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What has really jumped out at me is how consistent our overall sound is from night to night - and how often the difference between a "we're on fire!" night and a "...something is
off..."
night is virtually indiscernable in the recordings.


As I opinined in a another recent post - muscial performance is very comparable to an athlete's competitive performance. In many instances there's little difference between the performance of the first place finisher and the last place finisher - and that the perception of feeling "on" is really in the mind of the athlete more so than in their actual physical performance. Learning what you need to do to feel "on" is as important for a musician as it is for an athlete ... so is recognizing that feeling that "...something is just
off
" may vary well be all in your head. You gotta have a little faith that even though you're not feeling
"on"
during a given performance - it doesn't mean that your performance is in the {censored}ter.

 

I have found gold in our live recordings that I never realized while on stage, even with my own part of the performance. I remember one festival event where I felt devastated afterward because I wasn't on my game. The videos captured a flawless concert that day. It was all in my head.

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Purposely hitting some "old standard" hard (basically taking a few seconds, settling down, sucking it up and pushing the lead in an extra bar or two to get the exact rhythm) will often do the trick - Folsom Prison comes to mind - simple and easy to get into.

 

One of us can sometime drag the other one up to speed with a little push/pull.

 

I think if its "right" it just sucks you along sometimes no matter how {censored}ty you feel...

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I have found gold in our live recordings that I never realized while on stage, even with my own part of the performance. I remember one festival event where I felt devastated afterward because I wasn't on my game. The videos captured a flawless concert that day. It was all in my head.

 

 

Yeah - me too - video of something is great - I thought it just sucked...

 

Guess that says its mostly psychological...

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...(basically taking a few seconds, settling down, sucking it up and pushing the lead in an extra bar or two to get the exact rhythm) will often do the trick...

 

 

It is easy to get too nervous about what is right, and jump into the song w/o settling in.

 

I have played with a few old pros and what they do is ride the intro until the groove is there, then start. Sometimes for what seems like a longish time.

 

Especially when starting the night, or when you feel "off", as the OP said. The audience just thinks its part of the song, which, I guess, it now is, at least for this show.

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I've come to realize that when I have that "...something is just
off..."
feeling - there's a very good chance that it's all in my head. ... "...something is
off..."
night is virtually indiscernable in the recordings.


...

 

 

I've noticed if I am in a crummy mood I find things somehow sound worse - I'll back off volume-wise a bit sometimes thinking I'm being the problem - but my partner will do a "giddy-up, come-on" to tell me otherwise.

 

I put a huge amount into "listening" to the performance - I probably listen too hard when I don't feel "on" thinking the sound is following along but really finding issues where there are none.

 

I think the reverse is true too - sometimes one of us might feel "too good" and overplay (or too much volume to get too fancy). Then you have to reel them back with an evil eye or otherwise {censored} with them to get their attention.

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It is easy to get too nervous about what is right, and jump into the song w/o settling in.


I have played with a few old pros and what they do is ride the intro until the groove is there, then start. Sometimes for what seems like a longish time.


Especially when starting the night, or when you feel "off", as the OP said. The audience just thinks its part of the song, which, I guess, it now is, at least for this show.

 

I had the privilege of working with an old blues pro a couple of weeks back and the intros were as important or possibly more important to the show as the songs were. By the time we got into the song the crowd was begging for it then of course we'd take it back down in the middle for more interplay and groove before revving it all back up again.

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If I'm having an off night, I know it- More mistakes, sometimes noticeable by the crowd and other times not- but at the end of the gig, I know every mistake I made, and know the difference between a good night with few, or a bad night with many. Why it happens I can't say- Our band pretty much runs on autopilot outside of newer material, but when I'm off, I'm off equally on all of it. Not terribly off, most people tell me I did great, yada yada, but I still feel crappy after playing to what I consider to be poorly. So I don't know what causes it- we play enough shows that the mood and setting and everything else is pretty much the same from show to show. I think sometimes we just aren't 100% and don't realize it til we start playing. I've had the same deal at rehearsals, where an off-night is just completely random, without rhyme or reason.

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I respond to being off that like by simplifying. Since I am most likely on bass or drum set when this happens, I go simple with the beat type or bass line until I catch the mojo again. If not, I just keep playing and be a professional about it and finish the set.

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It's funny. I totally agree with "muscling through". I have, however, experienced the phenomenon of trying to force the square peg into the round hole. And sometimes the forcing is what can be hindering. For instance:

 

Everything you play feels stiff. Feels disconnected and nothing like when you're on fire. So you push and you try to get that groove and...

 

...all you really needed to do was fall back into it as opposed to jumping in. To relax, feel the 2 and 4, the 8th note ups throughout the bar and all of a sudden, by relaxing, you're in that space.

 

Or another:

 

You can't hear your vocal. The obvious thing to do is to turn up your monitor. Well, sometimes you can't for whatever reason. Or you can... but the room modes and resonance of the stage are rendering your LOUD monitor useless. Everything sounds out of tune or masked.

 

The solution? To relax back into it. It's almost as if trying so hard to hear it, you're masking what's already there in your head. The bone conduction of the note, while not wonderfully high fi, is always there. Stop over singing to trying to blast through the wall of noise and instead, listen to the resonance in your head. It's surprising how much you can hear if you relax enough.

 

Another problem:

 

You keep making mistakes. So you try VERY HARD to CONCENTRATE! And you keep hosing everything you play. Whoops! There went the bridge, where was I?

 

Once again, relax back into it. It's counter intuitive, but by leaning forward trying to CONCENTRATE!!! we obliterate everything we know to be naturally there in our memory. Close your eyes and not give a {censored} and it all comes back.

 

On and on. The solution to not hitting your peak, and hitting far below it, is to be very prepared, then shut off all internal chatter and relax.

 

Play dumb, practice smart.

 

 

I respond to being off that like by simplifying. Since I am most likely on bass or drum set when this happens, I go simple with the beat type or bass line until I catch the mojo again. If not, I just keep playing and be a professional about it and finish the set.

 

 

and this ^^^

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If I'm having an off night, I know it....

 

 

Just curious ... are you able to confirm your off night the day after the gig by listening to recordings. Clams are clams ... and you certainly don't need a recording to tell you when you've dropped a few of those in the course of the night .... however the "we off and I don't know what causes it..." type nights can be a difference story. It's those nights that I've come to realize are often mostly in my head ... and not truly in how I'm playing. Many times, it's just that I'm not feeling it.

 

I've found that giving myself a good listen the day after an "I"m not feeling it" night has made me realize that my mental perception of how I'm playing can't really be trusted - and that things are rarely really off.

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It's funny. I totally agree with "muscling through". I have, however, experienced the phenomenon of trying to force the square peg into the round hole. And sometimes the
forcing
is what can be hindering. For instance:


Everything you play feels stiff. Feels disconnected and nothing like when you're on fire. So you push and you try to get that groove and...


...all you really needed to do was fall back into it as opposed to
jumping
in. To relax, feel the 2 and 4, the 8th note ups throughout the bar and all of a sudden, by relaxing, you're in that space.


Or another:


You can't hear your vocal. The obvious thing to do is to turn up your monitor. Well, sometimes you can't for whatever reason. Or you can... but the room modes and resonance of the stage are rendering your LOUD monitor useless. Everything sounds out of tune or masked.


The solution? To relax back into it. It's almost as if trying so hard to hear it, you're masking what's already there in your head. The bone conduction of the note, while not wonderfully high fi, is always there. Stop over singing to trying to blast through the wall of noise and instead, listen to the resonance in your head. It's surprising how much you can hear if you relax enough.


Another problem:


You keep making mistakes. So you try VERY HARD to CONCENTRATE! And you keep hosing everything you play. Whoops! There went the bridge, where was I?


Once again, relax back into it. It's counter intuitive, but by leaning forward trying to CONCENTRATE!!! we obliterate everything we know to be naturally there in our memory. Close your eyes and not give a {censored} and it all comes back.


On and on. The solution to not hitting your peak, and hitting far below it, is to be very prepared, then shut off all internal chatter and relax.


Play dumb, practice smart.




and this ^^^

 

 

I think this is very insightful. There have been many nights when I can't hear myself sing, and I am not nearly a strong enough singer to push through if I can't hear myself. But sometimes, frustrated, I realize I actually CAN hear myself. I think it's exactly what you are saying; I stop listening so hard, and then start hearing.

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