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Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by kimstevens, Jun 6, 2004.

  1. kimstevens


    Nov 12, 2002
    Hi Michael and Steve,

    A couple of months ago, in Bass Player magazine, Lynn Keller mentioned in an article that she likes to drink coffee before practicing, because she had read that it helps the learning process. Do you use caffeine on a regular basis, or did you when you were students (say, the period when you were practicing more than performing)?


  2. x182


    Mar 22, 2004
    its makes you hyper, and your more attentative to things (your playing)...

    i also find that i play with more heart.

    youve never had coffee before? lol

    i like playing after i blaze. its SOO helpful. tom hamlton agrees.
  3. pigpen02


    Mar 24, 2002
    there's a theory and some good supporting research regarding memory and drugs. essentially, if you were to learn something w/ an abundance of nicotine or caffeine in your system, recalling it is easier later if the same chemicals are present. likewise, recall can be more difficult in the absence of those chemicals. sort of an associative memory property.
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    I'd be very interested to know what it was that Lynn has read about Caffeine helping the learning process. I'd have thought that the false sense of alertness that coffee gives would actually do the opposite by extending your work time beyond where you're actually taking it in, but that's just a hunch, so I'd love to see the evidence either way.

    As it is, I really like coffee, and drink a fair amount of it, but have never thought of it as caffeine useage other than on those long drives home from gigs where I want to make sure I stay awake!

    I think the best possible state in which to play music is one of mental and physical equilibrium - with no undue stresses on your body or mind, so no stimulants or depressants in your system, and with a decent diet and exercise plan to maintain optimum body function. It stands to reason that the more control over your body you have, the greater your control over your instrument will be. Playing an instrument is really a minute, intricate dance, and you rarely see trained dancers who get wasted or even caffeined out before performing... ;)

    So, as with all this stuff - the key to it is self discipline, focus and dedication. There aren't any shortcuts. Fortunately, the process can still be enjoyable - discipline doesn't have to be flagellation!

  5. pigpen02


    Mar 24, 2002
  6. kimstevens


    Nov 12, 2002
    Thanks for the replies. I asked the question because I don't use any caffeine (gave it up some years ago), but last night I hardly slept, so I tried having some decaf tea, which still has some caffeine in it -- I can definately feel the effect, and it did seem to help me to get some practicing done. There are no free lunches, though, so I suppose I'll have a mini-crash at some point.

    I've always been curious about others' habits with this stuff; as most know, J.S. Bach was supposedly a huge coffee fan, and lots of musicians do seem to use the stuff, whether out of habit or for a calculated effect. I once read part of a book by Brenda Ueland on writing in which she warned against caffeine as being something that will take you farther from the truth (in your writing). So, lots of different feelings, and no doubt physiologies.
  7. I love getting up (!) in the morning and after my morning cup of rocket fuel, er sorry, coffee (I love Lavazza red, *addict*) I really think it helps me with some of my bass ideas, energising my brain into getting through some changes, scales, phrasing and all that rhythmic stuff - I love it.

    A couple of reformed characters, Mike Stern and Steve Gadd, both big cocaine addicts in the past always do coffee now - next time you go see Stern at a gig check out the espresso count beforehand - he has at least one. As for Gadd a pro drummer friend of mine said that his drum tech spends more time getting him coffee than setting up his gear, and a Japanese guitarist I know also confirmed this saying Gadd was barred from entering Japan until recently because he was always carrying class A drugs.

    I would say NEVER feel like you should try something because everyone else is doing it - if you like coffee and have an eight hour practice stretch ahead of you - or a long four hour set to play - a cup of joe won't hurt - but don't make it a dietry requirement of playing better!

    Peace :)
  8. danshee

    danshee Banned

    May 28, 2004
    Chicago, Illinois
    Good ole' Caff' is a stimulant, therefore givin you a hype. I've found that I'm more in the pocket when I haven't had too much though. If you overdo it, you'll be to j-j-j-jittery to jam in that pocket. As far as drugs in general go, I don't think they improve you as a musician. This is contrary to popular beliefs in the rock world, but it's true. When I was always jacked, I was creative, but it was always sloppy and no A&R guy in their right mind would buy it. After cleaning up over a period of time, I was solid, just as creative and more professional and surprise surprise, A&R's were suddenly intersted. Just my opinion dudes.
  9. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    My experience is that Caffeine makes my playing more jittery and sloppy. I am fairly sensitive to caffeine.

    I also have found that while Caffeine does help me be really productive for a short period of time, in less than an hour of "Caff high," I have trouble concentrating - so anything concentration dependent (i.e., playing my bass) suffers.

    YMMV. Everyone's bodies, minds, and reactions to drugs differs. I find a drink or two sometimes (depending on the situation) helps my playing because it relaxes me. There are other times when one drink will put me to sleep and kill my concentration.

    The key with any drug - and yes caffeine and alcohol are drugs - is to learn to read your body and how you react to them. Many drugs can be tools if used right. Long term, though, your best bet will ALWAYS be to get used to playing dead sober. That is when your brain is at its best.
  10. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    I don't know what it is about me and coffee but I can drink like four cups and don't seem to notice it eaither way. I always drink it black. I drink a lot of coffee at work and I never feel the jitters. Also if I get up on a weekend morning and make a pot, I will drink 4 or 5 cups and then go back to sleep.
    Maybe my system is getting too used to the effects of caffine. :hyper:
  11. Kurisu


    Nov 19, 2003
    Saskatoon SK
    This is what my former bass teacher told me about coffee: Caffeine is a diuretic, so you should drink at least a couple cups of water for every cup of coffee, or else you'll get tendonitis. Which makes perfect physiological sense. But I never do, because I would be so water logged.

    As for state dependent recall, pigpen (if that is his real name) is correct (paraphrasing from one of my psych texts) - if you learn something with caffeine in your system, studies have shown a correlation during recall between that knowledge and caffeine. I don't know how strong that correlation is, but the finding doesn't mean you will learn faster or better with caffeine in your system compared to no caffeine, you see?
  12. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK
    FWIW, from www.news.com.au :

    Coffee 'no pick-me-up for athletes'
    By Kylie Walker
    June 18, 2004

    CAFFEINE may have been given the nod by the Olympic committee but athletes should still shy away from a morning cuppa, research has found.

    Caffeine not only failed to enhance sporting performance, but it could even act as a hindrance, sports medicine expert Dr Melissa Crowe, of Queensland's James Cook University, said.

    After testing athletes as they exercised after consuming caffeine or a placebo, Dr Crowe found caffeine could cause tremors, nausea, agitation, hallucinations and an increase in the time taken to reach peak power.

    "We found the caffeine had no beneficial effect on resting heart rate, blood pressure, reaction time, concentration, plasma triglycerides, blood glucose or exercise performance," she said.

    "Some subjects suffered mild side-effects such as hand tremors, but two had severe side-effects which as an athlete you wouldn't want, such as agitation and restlessness.

    "One female became nauseous and thought she was going to be sick."

    One of the men in the study had visual hallucinations after exercising with caffeine in his system.

    The only positive effect resulting from consumption of caffeine was significantly lower blood potassium, which Dr Crowe said could protect against a condition known as sudden locker-room death, in which people collapse with heart failure after intense exercise.

    To test the effects of caffeine, researchers asked athletes to drink cans of caffeine-free soft drink, some of which had been spiked with an amount of caffeine equivalent to that in four cups of coffee.

    They then tested the athletes' blood before, during and after short, intense sessions on an exercise bike, which Dr Crowe said were comparable with sporting events such as a 400-metre or 800-metre sprint.

    The International Olympic Committee took caffeine off the list of banned substances in October last year, and the substance has become popular with endurance athletes.

    "In endurance sports, caffeine has been shown to help in low amounts, but it is clear from this latest study that consuming it in high doses prior to short-burst exercise is not beneficial and can even be harmful," Dr Crowe said.
  13. Michael Manring

    Michael Manring TalkBass Pro Supporting Member

    Apr 1, 2000
    I avoided caffeine for many years, mostly because I didn't want to get to the point where I needed it in order to function. However, after learning about the health benefits of green tea I like to have a cup whenever I'm feeling a little sluggish. While it can be a nice way to energize a practice session, I try to avoid caffeine around gig time. I find it distracts me from the particular state of mind I like to be in for a performance. The research I've seen seems to indicate that in small amounts caffeine is a benign stimulant but it doesn't improve physical or mental performance.
  14. bovinehost

    bovinehost Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    I went to a party when I was a teenager.

    All my friends were there, and they were drinking coffee.

    "Try it", they said. "Nothing bad will happen."

    Of course I was scared because I knew coffee could lead to harder stuff, like cafe cubano or espresso or those 8 dollar lattes at the fancy coffee place.

    Thirty years later, here I am, still drinking 6-8 cups a day. It makes me NORMAL, inasmuch as I am ever normal.

    Hello, Big Famous Guy Steve Lawson! You knew that sooner or later I would track you down here, didn't you?
  15. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    ...if ever there were a redundant sentence... ;););)

    nice to have you hear Jack! Put your feet up and make yourself at home...