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Playing light on stage

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by msaone, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. msaone


    May 13, 2012
    How do you. "Calm down" when you're on stage?

    We play instrumental progressive music and it's no problem at rehearsal, once I get on stage though I get extremely tired after two or three songs.

    Any suggestions on keeping focused on technique while dealing with all the distractions at a show?
  2. Gearhead17

    Gearhead17 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2006
    Roselle, IL
    What kind of distractions are you dealing with at shows? Can you hear yourself at shows?

    I noticed my hands got very tired when I plucked and attacked the strings too hard. I did this because I could not hear myself properly. Mostly an EQ issue and the tone coming off of my bass - too scooped in the midrange. I fixed this by blending the pickups differently off of the bass and adjusting the EQ on the bass heads to roll off more low end instead of boosting it (150hz and lower was rolled off quite a bit).
  3. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Nobody can tell you how to play lighter onstage. You just have to have the discipline to do it, or you won't. One thing that does help sometimes is turning up louder than usual so you don't feel so inclined to beat the crap out of your bass to get sound out of it. However, the downside is that if you end up beating it anyway, then you're not only going to be too tired by the end of three songs, you're going to get "turn down" complaints.
  4. When I started playing out, I had the same problem. I made a large cardboard sign which simply said 'relax' and put it in my bass case, so I saw it as soon as I started setting up. It worked for me.
  5. msaone


    May 13, 2012

    Ya know. Just the normal distractions. Who's out there watching?was that last move cool or do I look like a dork on stage too? Did I just trip on my cord again?

    When. I started it was a volume thing. Now I have a larger amp. Maybe that's where it stems from though.
  6. Moe Monsarrat

    Moe Monsarrat Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2006
    Austin, Tx.
    Endorsing artist:Regenerate Guitar Works Carvin, Micheal Kelly Guitars
    Quell your inner dialogue and live the music. There will always be distractions if you wish to indulge in them.....chicks looking at you, drunks stumbling about, the light man....etc. Listen to the whole band, not just your part. As JimmyM so aptly put it "Nobody can tell you how to play lighter on stage." I can tell you this: if you use a lighter touch your notes will be a lot clearer and sound larger than when you're digging in. Digging in hard may be louder, but it squashes the notes. When you play with a light touch you can make the bass line "dance".
  7. shenanigans


    Sep 9, 2013
    IMO, if you don't look like a dork on stage, you're doing it wrong. People that are going to judge you for looking like a dork are also going to judge you for looking self conscious, being a musician or any other thing they can think of.

    If you act the fool on stage, everyone will love it unless you; suck at playing music, upstage some more vital part of the show, or carry your foolishness down with you off stage. Own it, relax.

    As an example, nothing these guys are doing looks cool, but it works because they are having fun playing their music.

  8. sobie18


    May 5, 2002
    Shaw AFB, SC

    And disregard the neck dive.
  9. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Those distractions are in your head. Focus your nervous energy on your playing. You should feel the same whether you're playing in front of one person, or thousands. It sounds like you're thinking about everything other than playing the bass. Get lost in the bliss of playing and hearing the music you're creating with your band, and the rest doesn't matter.
  10. msaone


    May 13, 2012
    Thanks. It really is a matter of focus.
    More work, more work.
  11. StyleOverShow

    StyleOverShow Still Playing After All These Years Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    May 3, 2008
    Hillsdale, Portland
    I try to listen to the mix. Bass increase or decrease in volume can influence other players. Keep the energy and not the volume, takes practice, and have fun!
  12. BritFunk


    Jan 8, 2009
    My Friend,

    I have been struggling with this of late also.

    I always had the tendency to "beat the bass like it owed me money". Over time (and with the help of a great short-term mentor), I figured out that playing lighter was not only faster and more accurate, but also easier on my bass, my strings, and my hands.

    The short answer - turn UP a bit. I find that I play WAY harder if I'm having trouble hearing myself. Re-position your amp such that you hear it better than anyone else - side of the stage, etc. instead of the back of the stage. When your bass is a bit on the loud side you learn quickly to get a little less physical with the instrument. Add a little bit of compression (if you have it available) to even out your playing.

    I'm sure it's not the only solution and maybe not the best, but it's working well for me so far.

    Good luck!

  13. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    There's a big difference between band rehearsals and full-on gigs with long, intense sets. We just did a gig Friday night where the place was just packed with dancers and the band's energy was really high. We did 2 long sets (like 75 minutes) and at the end of the first set, my right arm and fingers cramped up for a few minutes.

    At the beginning of the second set I turned up and played lighter. Much better!

    I agree with what everyone has said about turning up and playing lighter. I would also add that for me, what has made the difference is more focus during my own practice time on hand strengthening and endurance. I've found this book to be very helpful:


    I do the exercises for 15-20 minutes each time that I practice. Has definitely helped build up my endurance.....

    I play upright bass also and do most of my practice time on it now - always makes the electric bass seem easier to play!
  14. msaone


    May 13, 2012
    Yes, I really believe I picked this habit up playing through too small an amp. I could never hear myself, so to compensate, I too beat the snot out of my bass.
  15. I imagine that's part of it. I know i used to have the same problem and when i started playing shows with the 810 it went away. I do think just feeling comfortable onstage helps a lot also, are you a shy person or have you just recently started playing in front of crowds?