Looking when you play

Discussion in 'Ask Anthony Wellington [archive]' started by iwearpumas, Dec 11, 2013.

  1. iwearpumas


    Aug 12, 2011
    Middletown, NY
    Is it a bad habit to look at the fretboard when playing? I am aware of my surroundings, as well as my fellow band, but most of the time I am looking at my fretboard. Is that something I need to be concerned about?
  2. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Hey Pumas,

    I'm not gonna' say for you that looking at the fretboard is a good or bad thing. For me,…looking at the fretboard is a distraction and would also be an indicator that I don't really know the fretboard. I purposely practice navigating the bass without looking. I've practiced for as long as I can remember. I started by just looking at a mirror while I played so I could still see my hands while looking forward. Then i would wear a sleep mask while I would play. I believe, in my ways, that we 'condition' ourselves that we need to look while we play. But for myself,…I wanted to play 'music' and just use the bass as a tool to facilitate getting the music out. I can tell that a lot of bassist are just playing the bass,…and not really playing the music. Again, for me,…I can focus on the music if i'm not focused on the bass.

    And here's another thing that I know is true for me and it may or may not be true for others,…and that's not really a concern of mine,…

    Anything in life that I do with passion: playing music, kissing, listening to music, tasting a great wine, and some other things that I can't mention,…

    I do with my eyes closed.

  3. freatles


    Jan 9, 2014
    Do you think this applies to fretless bass as well?
  4. FretNoMore

    FretNoMore * Cooking with GAS *

    Jan 25, 2002
    The frozen north
    I try to limit looking at the fretboard to when I need to make a jump in fretting position, and rely on my ears and muscle memory as much as possible. It gets better with practice if you just dare let go of looking at the board all the time. You need to be heads up to look at the audience and at your band members so you are more "there" and involved with what's going on on stage instead of being in your own bubble.
  5. Anthony's exactly right. I would add that if you should find yourself working for an artist rather than playing with your own band, you really need to keep an eye on the artist (and another eye on the MD/Band leader); besides the random cues that may appear, some artists feel that if they can't catch your eye whenever they look at you, you're not 'into' their performance....

    Finally, if you're not watching the crowd, you may miss important things like nekkid women, beer bottles flying toward the stage and fights that might spill into your area...
  6. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Jan 4, 2011
    Yo Dave!

    I've had my share at nekkid woman, beer bottles flying(to and from the stage) and fights(on and off the stage)!!!

    And that's just the sound checks!!!!

    It's a tough job but somebody's gotta' do it!!!!

  7. Precision101


    Sep 22, 2013

    "Cough, cough" singers job :D
  8. I hear ya, Anthony - remember that scene from the Blues Brothers movie where they played behind chicken wire? I've played in bars with chicken wire in front of the stage. And it took a scar or two to teach me to be just paranoid enough. :)

    But primarily, my advice was to keep an eye on the artist - artists are weird....
  9. Yes, at least I try as much as possible. I steal a glance, fretless or fretted, but try to avoid zoning out looking at the FB.