1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Played horribly today

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Mike Goodbar, May 7, 2012.

  1. I gotta get this off my chest...in the three years since getting back into orchestral playing, I played my very worst concert today. If I tried to play worse, I could not have. It was as if I were doing a parody of a guy who thought he could play but really couldn't, or a comedy chase scene where a guy hides out in a bass section, trying to look like he's playing while the bad guys are looking for him.

    The program was all Debussy and Ravel, with some Copland thrown in. I'm sitting third chair. I got the first B-flat of Faun right, but things went in the crapper soon after. Missed entrances, played over cut offs, wrong notes, backward bowing, I played a nice loud solo in a G.P. You name it, it went wrong. To say I played 30% would be generous.

    My confidence, which is never 100%, was totally thrown. The more I tried to fix it, the more things fell apart. We ended with Bolero, which is tough to mess up. But by that time, I was so distracted, I completely missed the entrance after the clarinet solo...by a good eight bars. I'm sure the rest of the section thought I was either drunk or having some kind of meltdown.

    Weird thing is, the dress rehearsal went fine. No problems following the stick, was on my toes, made all the ritenutos, entrances we clean and confident. Just can't explain what happened. Was like Steve Blass, the all star pitcher who walked out on the mound one day and found he forgot how to throw the ball.

    At the end, I packed up and and tore out not wanting any contact with other musicians. I felt absolutely horrible. It honestly would have been better performance had I not been there at all. I felt I made no contribution to the section nor the orchestra whatsoever.

    Next concert is two weeks away. Hope things improve. Another one like that one I'll might be ready to pack it in.

    That's it... just wanted to vent. Any suggestions welcome though. Thanks.
  2. greenfretless


    Jan 15, 2012
    Had a smiliar experience at a high brow gig with my smooth jazz band. We screwed up everywhere. Structure, missing downbeats, wrong notes. It was terrible. But no one noticed it seemed, and the local radio station said they wanted to hire us for some lifestyle events...who knows when. Didn't seem to matter, except for us.

    It was a big letdown because last time we gigged we knocked it out of the park. I think it was due to lack of gigging regularly and not having a rehearsal within the last couple weeks.
  3. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    well, its hard to say, not having any idea who you are, etc. If you are a professional, I'd say yeah thats embarrassing. If you're just a good amateur, no big deal, don't beat yourself up. If its a professional situation, then you clearly need to improve your playing...so I'm not sure what the problem is

    If its sight reading, then get yourself the Starrer book on rhythm, and dandelot, and work on that separately.

    It its concentration, drink a good cup of coffee before performances. I always do that.

    If its a unfamiliarity with the music, well buy a recording, and listen to the parts with the recording, and even study the score, to really know where and when to come in, and also get an idea of whats going on in the music.

    To be honest I could personally stand to do more score study....one of my new years resolutions.... but listening to the peace, and looking over the parts is helpful....and really concentrating... That is ultimately the key. Knowing what's happening before and after your entrances....etc...

    good luck
  4. ekspain


    Feb 22, 2008
    if you want to reduce uncertainty, increase your familiarity...
  5. dbassnut


    Apr 1, 2008
    Good advice from ekspain. I'm only an amateur player but more practice does do a lot for my confidence in playing. I usually download several versions of the same song for practicing so it's easier to get a rough idea of what goes where.
  6. I should mention that I am an amateur player, but I've been at it a long time (30 yrs). This is a regional orchestra made up of many excellent professional and semi-pro players. I had done similar orchestra work in my 20s, but laid off for nearly 20 years while my kids were growing up.

    I agree that more familiarity with the material would have helped, but I think it was more of a "flop sweat" situation. A couple of small mistakes that I normally would have blown off just got under my saddle and threw my confidence off for the rest of the concert. At the dress rehearsal, I was just glued to the stick, all cylinders firing. At the concert, nothing clicked...all that focus was gone. The deficiency was definitely in the mental game.

    I'll continue to play (if they'll let me) and try to develop that poise and confidence that just seems so natural for so many of the other players.
  7. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Sorry to hear dude. I'd bet you are beating yourself up though. I know for myself my mistakes are HUGE in my head and barely noticed my anyone else.

    The 'balance' thread deals with this a bit. I know if I let mistakes get in my head it's gonna be a long night. Basically I overfocus. I am trying so hard to not mess up that it makes me mess up more. Your have been playing long enough that your hand eye connection is there. That just gets impeded or blocked by thinking too hard.

    Next time. But don't build it up in your mind. If you feel like you need to shed the material then do so but not obsessively and I never shed material the day of a show. I feel that if I don't have it under my fingers it ain't getting there same day. Just try to relax and have fun.

    Maybe have a nip of Dewar's before the show ;)
  8. mjt0229


    Aug 8, 2007
    Bellingham, WA
    It sounds to me like something else went wrong at the pre-concert stage. Were you running late to the concert? Did you need a little more coffee before things started? I have gradually built up pre-concert rituals that are very similar to the sorts of things that I do before participating in athletic events.

    I'm careful about what I eat & drink beforehand, I show up very early - both to warm up and to center myself a little bit, and make sure that I'm only thinking about the music (rather than homework, work, or other things). I've certainly had my share of concert flubs, but having a series of steps to get ready for a concert has seemed to make me feel more comfortable on stage.

    Anyway, best of luck, and sorry to hear about it.
  9. Eat a sweet sandwitch and maybe a cup of cofee too before the concert. I find that I start forgetting things and messing things up if I haven't eaten, I take just a simple piece of hardbread(Knäckebröd) with cheese (Oh, right, I'm swedish), and maybe a coffee and five minutes later, I'm as alert as ever.
  10. I like that you gave percentage values!!! I once played in a Xenakis festival with the BBC and Xenakis (who is firstly a mathematician and architect and then a composer) himself came to the concert. The next morning he came to the hall where we were preparing to rehears the next program to 'thank' us. Here's what he said:

    "You know my music is difficult and orchestras around the world are lucky if they get 15% of it right, I must congratulate you all because last night you got more than 25% of it right!"

    Should we have been proud of such an achievement? Dang!!!!!
  11. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    I have a small sports car that I occasionally take out autocrossing. When I first started, I'd blow an early obstacle and then rip up the entire rest of the course, cursing myself the whole way.

    A teacher explained to me to forget the past and always focus on the next set of obstacles because there's nothing I can do about the cone I blew, but I can run the rest of the course perfectly if I focus.

    I found that invaluable advice for any performance situation - forget the last, focus on the next. Be in the moment.

    I heard someone say something related that stuck with me - it's not what you did, it's what you do next. That doesn't mean you won't go back later and dissect what you did wrong, but NOT during the performance.

    The short answer to your issue is to practice the pieces more. You're only at 70% during the gig is a common belief.
  12. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    In future rehearsals play as if you're the principal and the section is relying on you for entrances, bowings, dynamics etc. Once I became a principal player my "batting average" increased dramatically.
  13. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    I found that invaluable advice for any performance situation - forget the last mistake, focus on the next note. Be in the moment.
    I heard someone say something related that stuck with me - it's not what you did, it's what you do next. That doesn't mean you won't go back later and dissect what you did wrong, but NOT during the performance.

    Excellent advice! And this is also true for jazz soloing-- with one addition : Use your mistakes as springboards for new ideas.
  14. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Mike --

    For me, so much of growing as a musician has been about raising my worst up. The best is not the problem . . .

    + + +

    As the noted psychologist Lawrence P. "Yogi" Berra once said, "90% of the game is half mental." Is there something you could do to help focus better? Exercise? Caffeine? Meditation? Sex? Beer?

    I'm confident that you will dominate your next concert. Please tell how it goes.
  15. urbwes


    Apr 30, 2012
    ;)I had an opportunity to play with a semi-professional group as a ringer (but a bad one you will see). I got the music two days before the concert (made the connection through substitute teaching) and shoudn't have said yes.
    The group was top-notch and only a few basses were in the group (concentration on intonation in a small section means less available focus for other things- at least for me...) we had to play some serious music. I made it through the first half with no huge gaffs, but spent losts of my mental focus.. and then we had to play the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony. I'm not a big orchestral player so this piece was brand new to me, and in the early goings I only made mistakes in the scalar sections (Mendelssohn likes to put random skips in scales to fit the chord progression IHMO). However, by then end of the concert I was so mentally tired I made mistakes on easy things. Needless to say, I was not asked back and my confidence was shaken. You may not have lost your supply of mental acuity via concert material, but any lack in focus can cause those types of mistakes.

    Just don't let it shake your confidence as a player. If anything else, just practice more..:)
  16. Not sure that caffeine is the answer to performance concentration and anxiety. Yes, you get a spike but then the bounce that follows takes you lower than before. But hydration is important.

    I find that having a sleep/kip/nap and eating at least a few hours before a performance helps me a lot, or more specifically, I suffer if I don't. Getting to the gig and parking, setting up and trying to be approximately in tune all wear at your nerves even if you are early.

  17. You can calm your nerves by eating bananas. But don't eat too many, or you'll have a different problem.
  18. NicholasF

    NicholasF Guest

    Jan 17, 2012
    There might be something going on that was bugging you that you might not want to recognize. Sometimes little things destract us, last night a string broke playing a gig, I was rattled, if it had happened to me a few months ago I would have messed up horribly. I realized that I am very scared of the worst, missing a note, holding the bow at the wrong angle, I took myself over to the side before this show and every other show and told my self "I'm here to have fun, you left your fears in the car on the way out, worst thing that could happen is your bass explodes. That won't happen." The best way to handle the situation is deep breaths, easy on the food, leave your worries at the door, and just have fun with it. So what you missed entrances and queues, you might want to work on recovery skills take a song you know pretty well, and put on a recording of the song, start playing and randomly stop, keep listening and just jump back in. I havnt done this with a solo, only orchestral, but I imagine it would still work.
  19. anahata


    Sep 12, 2006
    Tucson, AZ
    Courageous post! At those crash and burn times it is good to remember that "Everything is nothing"! :) In your minds eye and ear is the concert you wish you had played. If you persist at inventing ways to come closer to that, you will. Getting rattled for no good reason happens - but so does the chance to reset. I almost look forward to unexpected mistakes for a chance to improve my recovery process and help me redirect my practice.

    A centering pre performance routine of your choice, mental devices to habituate good counting, reading ahead and not being surprised by the challenging sections... There is certainly a lot that goes into being unflappable in a concert. I've gotten a little closer over the years but there is still a ways for me to go.

    Here is the core for me:
    When my mind goes off into a vortex of self-analysis as I am trying to perform, things can get weird fast. 'Entraining' or deepening my ability to take a reliable mental/emotional short cut past the self-analysis to the heart of my self-trust in my work, skill and my ability to recover (Like the moon in "Inception") can help me 'wake up' and prevent a minor glitch from turning into a chain reaction. There will always be plenty of time for self-analysis afterwards.