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Playing Confidence

Discussion in 'Ask Steve Lawson & Michael Manring' started by Ian Hall, Jul 9, 2002.


  1. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002
    Rialto,CA
    I suppose that I could have asked this in another forum but since I have heard a bit of both of your playing, I figure that one(or both) of you will be able to give me the most meaningful answer. I've been playing for about six years, and near everyone that has heard me play (bassists and other musicians) has said that I am pretty good for how long I havce been playing. I am in a band that just finished a 12 song record which is being mixed right now, and we are accepting bids from five major labels. That doesn't relate to my question except that even with all of that ego boost, I still think I sound like crap. Every recording I do, every song I play, I feel like I'm off time, and I hate my tone. Everyone else says I sound awesome, but I am never happy. Am I just an anal retentive perfectionist with my playing? Is this normal? And finally, at the very high skill level that you have both reached, do you still experience this problem of lacking satisfaction with your playing? I suppose it's the constant pursuit of perfection.:)

    Thanks
     
  2. While I'm not Steve or Michael I once read an article on recording bass. It mentions that a bassplayer's perception of his sound is a blend of both his amp and the acoustics of the strings, and for him to be happy about the tone on the recording you have to record the strings and mix a little of that into the final recording.

    Check out the article here.
     
  3. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002
    Rialto,CA
    Very interesting... That does answer part of my question. Good article. I still have my confidence problem, though. I have found that I have a very hard time playing when I am recording. Oddly, I do something kinda sorta similar to what the article says. When I record, I find that it is the easiest for me to play on exact time with consistent tone if I have my bass turned down very very low in the mix, so I can barely hear it. At first, the engineer would turn my bass up, thinking that I couldn't hear myself, but we finally discovered that the lower the mixed bass sound, and the louder my fret and string noises are respectively(unamplified, but I'll try miking soon), the better. Hmmm....
     
  4. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Hi,

    I think part of the problem is the way that we listen to ourselves in a mix - everyone else is listening to the effect of the bass on the overall sound of the song, while you are tuning into every last pop and squeak on the bass track, hearing it as though it were solo'd. It's very difficult to learn not to do that, especially as you need to be able to do that sometimes when you're recording, to make sure there are no huge mistakes... :oops:)

    Ideally, you should try and isolate the things you aren't happy with and work on them - if you're not into your own playing, but are using everyone else thinking you rock as an excuse not to do anything about it, you're robbing yourself of the satisfaction of playing something that really gives you a buzz.

    Of course, it may just be that there are problems with your playing, and everyone's just being polite, or aren't very good with their ears - I know I was in that situation early on in my playing career... either way, don't sweat it, use it as a chance to improve...

    I still do things I'm not happy with, but then just redo them until I get them right! :oops:) If a part is beyond me, I don't labour it, I come up with something else that fits and I can play (doesn't happen to often these days, but occasionally...)

    cheers

    Steve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  5. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002
    Rialto,CA
    I understand what you're saying, in that it is mostly a psychological thing, and that my satisfaction with my playing should depend on me only. I guess what I was poking around for was other bassists opinions on what they play themselves. I wouldn't necessarily say that I am unhappy with my playing; I might have been a bit too harsh with words on the first post that I made. I really enjoy playing and can see improvement in my playing over the last few months, I guess that I just wanted some reassurance from some more seasoned players that improvement is a lifelong process. I have been lucky in the last few months in that I have fallen in to a band with a very skilled guitarist and drummer, who both have more than 20 years of playing under their belts, and a singer who is my age but has incredible natural talent. When I first joined the band I knew that I was not good enough to stand on stage with these guys and not be embarrased, but now, three months later, I feel somewhat comfortable. I would estimate that my skill as a bass player has tripled(literally) since I started in the band, because I had no other choice but to come up to par. I know that I still have a long way to go, and definitely don't suck(I would humbly have to say that I am pretty good for having played for six years), It just helps to have some words of encouragement from people with more skills than I have. I think my best bet as a next step will be to maybe go to some clubs with open stages and pit myself(I don't mean for it to sound like a contest) against more skilled musicians. I probably will lose horribly at first, but maybe I will be forced in to further improving my playing as I have been in the last few months.

    Sorry about the novel.

    If you or anyone else has any more insights or observations, please post, and thanks for your responses.
     
  6. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002
    Rialto,CA
    True. I'll try to make this a quickie. Although I've been playing for only six years, I find that my major hurdle is not playing ability, I have agile fingers and am able to do any technique that I try (two handed tapping, slap, harmonics); I've realized now that I've thought about it more that study may be the answer to part of my problem. I haven't encountered anything I can't play yet if I try, but I just don't always know what to play when. That is why jamming with other musicians is more valuable to me than practicing myself. I think my best bet may also be at this point to restart my studies in musical theory, scales, and their applications, and finally learning to read sheet music better probably couldn't hurt that much either(I can read it Ok, just never needed it that much so never got around to getting good at it) I spend so much time worrying about what to play, I never get enough time to worry about how I'm playing it(technique) until I know the song very well. If anything, this thread has stirred up a few personal realizations about my playing.
     
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    It sounds like you are in a position I found myself in over many years of playing rock/pop-type bands through the 1980-1990s.

    So I could play just about any technique and had loads of ways to impress people - who would invariably say I sounded great - some even that I was the best musician they had ever heard

    But I knew that I didn't really know what I was doing - as you say - why I was playing certain things. So - after all that experience I could usually find a decent bass line to anything by ear and would often challenge myself to come up with something different, not just what I always played; but there was still a dissatisfaction....

    So I addressed it by study - first I got on an Open University part-time music degree; but dropped out after a year as I found it pretty dull - dry and I didn't have enough time to practice piano a well as bass etc. to keep up.

    But later I found a course on Jazz at the local University and this has really opened things up for me - I straightaway realised how much I didn't know - like being a beginner again - I couldn't even play a satisfying walking bassline to a a 12-bar blues!

    And leaning how to play Jazz chord progressions really got me into new areas - it is a fun way to actualy learn about music that is constantly motivating. So each Jazz tune seems to have something interesting about it in terms of theory - scales/modes, time signatures/rhythms etc etc.

    I have met loads of people like Ed (I Imagine) amongs the Jazz tutors I have worked with, who have that elusive confidence in everything they do musically and I can finally see a (fairly painless) way to attain this by studying with them and studying Jazz theory/history.

    The only thing is that my musical tastes have changed completely and now I only want to listen to Jazz ! ;)
     
  8. steve_man

    steve_man

    May 15, 2002
    I jave been playing 6 years going on 7 and I know what you're going through

    I have a couple things that have come up where I was questioning my abilities. There wasn't many people around who could play bass as good as me. Especially for my age. Trying to learn almost became a competition at one point but I realized this...

    Why do I like music in the first place?

    And do I enjoy creating Music?

    Am i creating what people like or am I creating something that is my expresion on the bass guitar according to that interest inside of me?

    I love to play for people. I love it when people enjoy the things that I've created. I have influences and i practise a good bit. I know what your saying about being in a band where musicians are light years ahead of you.

    out of all this I have come to the realization of this... We are always getting better and progressing, we might not have perfected art of music but we are progressing. Our progression may even be progressing BUT! are you having fun with your music. Do you enjoy playing the things you create.

    We may never master the art of music aswell as a whole bunch of other things but get the most enjoyment out of this experience. When you are having fun while playing not really caring about how you are playing you realize how music was supposed to be.

    When you are having fun while playing bass you enjoy learning, therefore learning more becomes an interest rather than an obligation!

    You become more interested and the creation by your music becomes so phenominal that every person you're around can't help but enjoy that music with you.
     
  9. TJC

    TJC

    Jun 28, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Wow! I love these forums! :)



    - TJC
     
  10. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    What a damned interesting thread!!!!

    Yes and Yes! :)

    I can be too! My band did our demo a while back and initially I hated it, one of the tracks was too fast (it destroyed the groove and no-one else in the band thought it mattered, to this day I still KNOW I'm right about it, it deeply, deeply pissed me off that they didnt take my word on that one!)... and my tone was so innappropriate. I'd literally just got a new bass and was playing close to the bridge, I'd not recorded it before and it didnt sound at all how I wanted it to! Doh!

    I think Steve's point about picking out bits and pieces of your playing and really scrutinising it as if you expect it to be perfect is very true. I do that to my playing whenever I /we record something, I always think I'm not good enough, but I have to tell myself that in the long run if I can get through a set, ENJOY it and not make any groove-destroying, gig-stopping or ear-bending cock ups then I'm happy with the gig.
    When things dont go as planned, I always remind myself that I'm doing it for fun and that if I was perfect, life would be pretty dull!
    For me this is about being happy with my current playing, but still wanting to improve. It's about relaxing and enjoying what I do.

    Also I find that if you go back and listen to a recording again after a few beers it'll sound great ;)

    Ed, just go ahead and make this your signeture ;)

    Steve_man had some great points too:
    Me too. I genuinley like the bass lines and "bits of music" I write. I'm honestly proud of them and to have people enjoy the music I (we, the band etc) create just makes my day... not from a swollen head point of view, but just because when you get that "wow, were really groovin/rockin/swingin" feeling, that real were playing togther interaction that makes it wall worth while, it' the best thing knowing the audience feels it too.
    I love that feeling.
     
  11. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Ahem... err...

    This is EXACTLY what I am going through now. Although I could probably walk a 12 bar blues it would take serious concentration and there would be mistakes!
    Each lesson gives me a mountain more options and just a tiny glimpse of the endless awe inspiring bigger picture.
     
  12. Good Thread, great thread!! Some deep thinking and great advice. Would have been nice to have this discussion with someone (fellow bass players) when I was first starting out. When I was young, I started out thinking the world was the limit. Time and money seemed to be. People who don't play or listen to music or bass lines at your level don't know what is missing or what might be wrong. Playing is individual, just like anything else in the art world. Be happy with where you are today (musically/skills)for tomorrow you'll undoubtedly be somewhere else. Bass is an endless adventure/endeavor that you can't help but love and obsess over while you're trying to reach that elusive maturation as an accomplished bassist. Somewhere along the line, I'll get lazy/tired or crippled and settle for where I'm at. :)
     
  13. steve_man

    steve_man

    May 15, 2002
    _________Playing is individual, just like anything else in the art world.

    I'm not totally sure about that myself. There is a huge part where we need to understand that we shouldn't just feed off of opinion and the cheering of the crowd. But the encouragment helps. Not only that but at my church when I get up and play I enter into something. But it isn't just me up there. There is the rest of the band and the rest of the congregation. How I start is that I don't start playing as soon as I get up to play. But rather I start to play on monday and then through out the week so that when I get up on sunday this is something I'm continuing on with only now it is a corporate creation between me, the band and the congregation.

    There is the time that we need to spend time with ourselves (although that is a bit different to me based on my belief system). And then there is that time where it is still creation only now there are more people feeding that music. And I accomodate to that which affects to my playing style. In other words we are taking that perception that we have played with through out the week and applying it to a corporate situation.

    One last point: If you are playing with a band for several years I cannot say that that experience has not affected my playing style because you are surrounded by the experience of those other musicians.
     
  14. steve_man

    steve_man

    May 15, 2002
    Guys I'd really like to continue this discussion! where can we post this? or should we keep this one going?
     
  15. Steve Lawson

    Steve Lawson Solo Bass Exploration! Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2000
    Birmingham, UK
    Feel free to keep the discussion going in here - I'm going to chip in again as soon as I have time.

    While it's clearly not a free for all forum, we're happy to have threads go on beyond the standard Q & A format,

    cheers

    STeve
    www.steve-lawson.co.uk
     
  16. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    I think this might be vaguely relevant?! - I was reading an article about some bass course somewhere in the latest bassplayer mag this weekend.

    It had a 'ten commandments of the course' or some ting... all of which were very true, (Although I did find them a little pretentious in a kind of nu-buddhist way). Anyway, one of them was:

    "Don't be afraid of being embarrassed in front of others, you are not that important."

    I understand the value of being humble as a musician (even if I dont practice it all of the time), but I genuinely don't understand the point in this statement? The bit I don't get is how is being embarassed a sign of self-importance?

    If I make a mistake in a gig or whatever, I'd be embarassed cause I let the rest of the guys down and it's naff for the audience.

    Another point - relating to the initial topic: In order to really play my best, I have to fully believe in and enjoy what I'm playing - songs, musicians, style, lyrics, the whole lot.
     
  17. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Howard K quoted: "Don't be afraid of being embarrassed in front of others, you are not that important."

    I would guess that it means "Don't be afraid of making mistakes...". I haven't seen the list but you did say it was somewhat pretentious. ;)

    You did say, "If I make a mistake in a gig or whatever, I'd be embarassed cause I let the rest of the guys down and it's naff for the audience". I don't get too bothered by making a few mistakes, although there's a huge difference between hitting a few wrong notes and stuffing up a huge section that I ought to know but neglected to practise.

    In general though, embarrassment might cause me to make a greater number of mistakes (and so I'm glad that I'm not too easily embarrassed) but the odd mistake here and there won't make me embarrassed. Recorded music is a bit different, but in a live setting a few mistakes can be passed by without most people even noticing - hit the next bit right, and most audiences will forget what just went wrong.

    Wulf
     
  18. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    UK
    Yeah, I'm the same.

    I was kind of talking about the situation of making a big mistake. I agree little ones usually go un-noticed and I dont tend to worry about them. I meant, for example, if I were to come in a chunky semi-tone flat or on the wrong beat in real a bass-heavy track :eek:

    I actually find it quite funny when I make mistakes, purely because serious ones dont happen often enough for it to be embarassing and when it does it'll be the odd misplaced note - and even then it's usually not a real nasty one!
    I've never actually made a real serious cock up in a gig yet. I know it'll happen one day!

    It was the bit about 'not being important enough' I just didnt get? It's in this months BP if you have a copy?
     
  19. Ian Hall

    Ian Hall

    May 31, 2002
    Rialto,CA
    Been out of this one for a few posts, but looks like it's still going strong. Some of the points brought up in here are great. I also can always find some little riff or something to wow people, but playing through a whole song is a different story. I've been trying to listen to our songs as a whole, instead of my bassline as a solo(as was mentioned earlier) and have found that it doesn't sound all that bad if I just let myself blend in and keep the beat(like bassplayers are supposed to). When I play shows, I concentrate not on the notes that I'm playing, but the flow of the music. That way, if I goof a note or two here and there, the song doesn't stop. If I get all worried about that one note I messed up, instead of all of the other notes I still must play, I stumble with my bassline and lose the groove. It is also very important for me to really dig what I'm playing. When my band is up on stage, and we're having a really good show, there is this certain vibe we have- we play off of each other, but not really just by ear, it's kind of like ESP or something like that. We feed on each other's energy while playing, and that is the gratification that keeps me carrying my 150lb bass cab to gigs all the time(and visiting the chiropractor, who with luck happens to be my guitarists dad, so it's free:)) At shows is probably the only place I truly enjoy playing, and sometimes at rehearsals, also. That is what I trudge though all of my practicing to achieve. Another thing that is very helpful to me is going to my drummer's house and jamming just with him in between practices- it helps us get the groove tighter. Oops, sorry- I was rambling. I'm still really interested in any more points anyone wants to bring up...
     
  20. wulf

    wulf

    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I guess the BP reference to 'unimportance' means that one or two small mistakes are unlikely to derail the whole song, as long as the rest of the band keep it together.

    I wouldn't worry about it too much though - it sounds too unimportant to waste too much time on :p

    Wulf