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Strange Mental Problem

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Progfan44, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. I've recently been learning "Sun of Nothing' by Between the Buried and Me (great track by the way), and I seem to have come across a strange problem. Whilst playing, my mind has the tendency to "freeze up" and I briefly forget how to play what comes next in the song. This is very frustrating as I know I know the parts and can play them, but these brief "brain farts" are awful and have slowed my progress a great deal. If anyone who has experienced something similar has some advice on getting through it I would be greatly appreciative!
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    This isn't a problem. All you have to do is;askdha;lkjhdfawenc;faoinha;oishdnac;oirghna;oi
  3. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    Unless you suffer from dementia, this is probably less of a "strange mental problem" and more of you needing to practice transitions. Isolate the parts where you have problems, then back up two to four bars, play through until you're out of the problem area, then go back and do it again 20 times. Do it at a slower tempo, if you need to.
  4. Props on the song choice - just saw BTBAM a couple weeks ago (blew me away so much I didn't even stay to watch Coheed and Cambria).

    Anyways, I had a similar issue as I was working my way through some Protest the Hero tracks ... I could play all of the parts independently, but when I tried putting them all together, my brain would fart out, and I'd miss the first measure after a transition or something. What really helped me, is to learn the song better. Not playing ... but just listen to the track a few times a day, and soon you'll know the track start to finish. You won't even have to think about the song structure while playing - you will know exactly what riff is coming next, and you'll be prepared for it without having to brain-scramble to remember what section is coming up.

    Hope that made sense to you - rock on!!!
  5. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Great advice so far, so here is some more.
    Here are the two most popular ways to learn.

    a/Write out the arrangment and the notes.
    If you can recall it to write it down you have truely learned it, not just associated shapes and positions to points in the song that open up the song as you play it.


    b/Visualise the song being played, if you can see and hear yourself playing it in your head (your minds eye so to speak) you have learned it.
    In many ways recalling the song in this way is as good as any physical practice of it because you associate yourself with playing it, you are in-fact reinforcing what you will play.

    c/The other benefit of both is you do not create anxiety over parts, in other words you practice without any real physical restrictions....you do not make mistakes in our minds eye that makes us dwell on them when playing live.

    d/One of the benefits of practice is also a drawback or practice.
    As well as reinforcing that you can play, it can reinforce that you cannot. So if you play a song and struggle at a certain part, then if you keep making the same mistake when you practice, you are reinforcing in your head you cannot play it, you are practicing making that mistake consistant...not eliminating it.

    e/This is the great thing about visualisation, when you learn to do it, your mind has 'as good as' actually done the task you have visualised.
    To anyone that has had such problems, try putting the bass down, learn the notes by either saying them or writing them down.
    Slow it right down and see the notes you are to play, hear the notes you are to play, see your fingers on the fretboard fingering the notes, name the fingers to use for the notes.
    See youself plucking the strings and, again, see and hear the notes you play.
    See both hands playing is slow motion, this gives your brain a chance to sort out and see what you want to happen and so increase the chances of it actually happening, you believe you can do it rather than you cannot.
    Then slowly bring it up to speed, you will not have time to name notes, (depending on the song complexity of course) but you can stop at any point and name where you are, and the notes around you.

    f/Our brain is a very accommodating organ, it will normally make us do what we think and believe, sometimes tha last thing we think.
    We have all experienced a "i knew that was going to happen" moment, the actual making happen what we were thinking.
    So why did we do it?...well it was more of just a thought, an occurrance or realisation we let enter our thoughts that our brain accomodated and done for us rather than us knowingly doing it.
    If we think we cannot do something or there is a problem then there may or not be one, if we believe there is one then there is.

    g/Making a thought a belief is a long mental process to reinforce, so it can be one to change (if at all), where as thoughts are random ideas and can be changed, so a negative one can just as easy be changed to a positive one.
    Calming the mind is about slowing down or stopping other thoughts coming into focus, and there is a key word..focus.
    we need to see the task not the interference around it, be block out all other distractions and focus on the task to be done.

    So by not practicing the song you have problems with, and just thinking it through you will never make mistakes in it, so you do not reinforce them....you focus on the positive.
    It is the skill of visualisation....seeing yourself doing things in a positive light rather than dwelling on the negative....self delusion.....sort of.... but in a positive way...more of making it a belief that you can, rather than you cannot.;)
  6. Bainbridge


    Oct 28, 2012
    ^ Great reading, as always.
  7. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    I think one of the problems that can come from isolating parts of a song (key word here is "Can") is that transitions can become problematic and the fingerings that you devised for one part won't work in conjunction with the part that comes before or after it.

    It really breaks down to muscle memory and flow. Once you get those 2 things together it's almost like the music is playing you not vice versa. Once you memorize all of the technical parts (fingerings etc.) you figure out how to make them flow into each other. Usually the answer is the simplest approach. You might have learned the parts in such a way that it's more difficult then it needs to be where you're playing the notes on the neck for one section then going to the next section with a ridiculously awkward fingering that would work just as easily be played on different strings in a different position.

    I'll give an example. I'm not tremendously familiar with your example. But I've seen so many players play "So What" by Miles Davis on just the D and G strings with a lot of shifts. I looked at the sheet music to it and figured out that you could play the whole thing across all 4 strings in the 10th position. No shifting, no target practice.

    I think I may have gotten off topic. Just remember what Kai Eckhardt said, "Honor simplicity, respect the flow."

    Rev J
  8. qervo


    May 18, 2011
    Most players learn the parts of the song , for example , the verse , then the chorus, then bridge , and they play one part over and over then move on to the next part. Your brain and muscles memorized the parts but didn't memorize putting them together. Why not practice the transitions between the parts over and over , and once you've seen your hands make these transitions smoothly ,you can practice them in your head allowing you to see it before you play it.
  9. Anonymatt


    Jan 3, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Mental practice is a lot harder than regular practice.

    I mean try to close your eyes and mentally make a pot of coffee. You realize it's a lot like the exercise where you're writing the instructions for making a peanut butter sandwich. Damn there's a lot of steps; as many as you want.

    Practice the song backwards. Either hitting the material you may have given less time to previously or actually play the thing backwards. I think sometimes to remove a mental block to do something, you have to be exposed to something harder to get over it. This is only when cashing in hours of thoughtful practice and you just seem to be goofing up for no reason.

    The nice thing about practicing stuff is the next session is always progressed, no matter how you feel about it or what you're anticipating.
  10. Thanks you guys (as always) for your great responses! I was actually advised by my teacher today to practice visualization, so if so many people are singing it's praises, it's worth looking like an ******* on the bus to get in some good practice!
  11. I agree with that - you should always try and learn a song completely, and try not to isolate it into parts. When you're learning, play it through from start to finish every time, even if you make a complete mess of parts of it, just keep going. When you do get it right, you'll never forget it.

    Good advice on the visualisation thing too. When I'm not actually playing music, I spend a hell of a lot of time thinking about how to play it.
  12. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    I agree with the sentiment Mark, but learning a song straight through is a development of breaking it down...it is the ultimate goal. It is one that happens naturally as we just spend less time on working out parts and just plays songs through with little time needed in working out and breaking down.
    This is a result of development and most players would not even realise they are spending less time working out songs.
    But what is actually happening, and for a player working on their own, can be a mental block they actually practice and make more consistant rather then eliminate?

    Here is an extract from an article i did on the subject to take it a bit further

    As i mentioned we can "groove a fault" to make it feel natural, so the player has real trouble getting past a mistake or line that gives the problems.
    Playing the song/music through, regardless of performance, is ultimately what we do, we cannot go back and try again live on stage.

    The problem with playing it through regardless is the problem of not identifying the problem, no problems with a teacher/tutor because they can see any problem for what it is and decide whether it is worth dwelling on. if a player knows they have made a mistake then all is well, to put them through it again is a different task, the focus is different, so ultimately counter productive.

    And that is the secret to all this, how long to dwell on it and when is something becoming counter productive?

    I deal with it like this.

    Set up in your mind to two forms of playing, practice and rehearsal and stick to the rules you lay down...do not change them to suit...learn to conform to your rules, in other words....disipline.

    The first one is easy that is practice, in practice we can do what we need to do. to learn.
    So slow it down, break it up in to smaller sections, learn out of sequence, use add on such as a metronome, sheet music theory, transcriptions etc.
    Basically check the componants are correct and running smooth.

    Rehearsal, now this is the running through of the piece, start to finish no stopping for what ever, to make all those parts fire in sequence and flow then analyze it after words as one thing (we know all the parts are working and are correct because we dealt with that in practice)
    If you have made a mistake and you know you made a mistake that is fine, everyone makes them, but identifying you have made one is the important part.
    Make a mental note of it and resolve it the next time you practice it or rehearse it..do not rehearse it again till you have had a break..come back to it.
    Practice can be 20 mins. of working it out parts, then rehearse it with a play through at the end.
    Take a break and then repeat it again and repeat the process and work on and around the part that you resolved to fix.
    See rehearsals as a reference to how the whole song sounds, not individual parts that need to be perfect.

    Do not repeat rehearsal, rehearsal is a one off task, it is not to be repeated over and over, that is the task of practice.
    By all means in practice play the song through as many times as you want, but in rehearsal it has to be a different disipline, rehearsal is a change in mind set, it is to play not think.

    The focus in practice and rehearsal need to be different so a player can recall the feeling of rehearsal not practice.

    In practice you can make mistakes, stop and go back, so there is a mental "safety net" so to speak, in rehearsal there is not.
    In rehearsal you are working on not only the extra demand of not making *mistakes, but having to get out of any mistakes you do make and make it look seemless.
    *more on that later in the article

    Now that brings a new mental approach...pressure.

    The pressure of the situation can overwhelm a player, it may be the importance of the gig, the prestige of the venue, the people in the audiance etc, add to that the fact you do not want to play it wrong and pressure is building. if it is not you but another band member that has been struggling then you take on their worries, you start thinging about "what if".
    What if they mess it up and we look bad?.... what if i mess it up and we sound bad?.... will the band forgive me?....am i blowing our chances?...maybe i should give up bass? etc etc.

    Well if you are thinking all these thoughts you are not concentrating on playing, so mistakes will happen, as i said before the brain likes to accommodate what you are thinking.
    But if you have developed the practice and rehearsal senario then you setting into the rehearsal one, you think back and remember the feelings of it being done correct in other words zone it to that feeling, get the mind to playing it as you done in rehearsal...not what you done in practice.
    The feeling of "i have been here and done this before so many times" is the one you want to tap into. Its a feeling of comfort, one of familiarity, one of "been there done that" it is what calms you down.

    I play for lots of touring bands, the one things i advocate in any sets or shows is have the same three songs in and the same three songs out....what happens in the middle happens. The reason for this is that thing of familierity, or being here done it before.
    On the road many things can happen and do happen, from breaking down, missed or delyed flights, gear malfunctions, sound check issues or no time for any sound check, tiredness, illness etc. So many things out with the control of the band, but the one thing they can control, the should control is their stage.
    Those three songs in will settle a band because it is familiar, it is something they have done time and time again, it puts them in the zone to play, a sort of "one your marks, get set, go" mind set.
    They will buy the band time to settle and get a feel for the new enviroment, OK new town, different country, different venue, differnt amps, crew..whatever, but it is the same three songs, the same three songs they have always done to open, so it is very very comfortable and familiar place to be for them.
    The three at the end just confirm the old saying that, "if you finish well that's all that matters", again finishing well is not an issue because it is the same feelings being tapped into as the opening songs.
    Some bands even put marker songs in sets, songs that if they feel they are losing themselves or the audiance there is a song to settle them of get the audiance on side. These markers are just stepping stones to settle a band through out a set, places of calm because they know the song inside out and it it will not present any problems.

    We can harness these ideas by making practice...well just that practice, but make rehearsal the one off playing part.
    Like i said you need disipline to do it and also the understanding that even if you play it wrong you have to find a way out, you have to complete the rehearsal, you have to play the song through to the end, commit to starting and finishing no matter what.
    When you get into it you may even add a routine before you play, something that again, is familiar to you, some thing that calms you down and just lets you play, rather than thinking about playing.
    I will say this, and this is sort of hard to explain because it is a feeling, if i am thinking about playing, what's coming next in a song, thinking about what i am doing, then i will make mistakes, but if i am just playing i will not.

    The feelings in this are hard to explain is because when i am playing i am just relying on what i have rehearsed to come to me and come out in my playing.
    Because i have practiced it and rehearsed it over and over, and i know, and believe deep inside of me, i can play it...i will.

    Why it happens is easier to explain, it is about the brains ability to learn and re-call information (a bit like a compter uses RAM, rather than hard disc space to speed up applications)
    Practice uses the front part of the brain, (the front area has many sides and parts so i will just call it front brain)
    to think about and learn, rehearsal comes from deeper in the brain, (again many areas so i will just refer to it as deep brain) no thinking just doing what it knows it has learned over time to do as in instict, feeling or reaction.

    That's why if you are thinking about playing you are using the front part of the brain, so you will analyse it and find fault with it correct it (or not if that is the case) before storing it in the deeper part of the brain.
    But if you think about something or dwell on it, it nevers becomes internalised and stored in the deep brain till you have believed in and trusted the information, so you are always thinking about it.
    If you ever start to think about something you have internalised it is moved from the deep brain and moved to the front brain so it can be anyalised, re-evaluated, changed and stored again
    This can the feeling of clumsiness a player gets when playing a song they know inside out and it does not feel as smooth or it feels more laboured than it should.
    The will say something along the lines of " you think i was just learning that song, rather than than playing it the way i have always done".

    This is because they were thinking about it and it moved to the frontal lobe, so they were in-fact analysing it and learning it again, they could not access the deep brain to confirm what they know this song, they could not access the information that confirms they know it.
    Maybe they borrowed someone elses bass or rig and thought "that feels different", so they have questioned the situation, when the song is called to be played it is not about "can i play this song" it becomes "can i play this song in this situation" so the song in question is brought to the front brain to practice and see if it can.
    Because they lost trusting their feelings and the learning of what they know, they have questioned the song being played and it has now been moved to the front brain for anylisis, so they play it like they are learning it again.
    In this situation the answer is not to question the situation, but to see it as a challange for what you know, not a time to re-evaluate what you know...just play and trust in yous skills to solve any issues.

    Those are skills you use everyday and do not think about them once, skills you use and do not even realise you use them.

    For example, you open and walk through doors all day without a second thought....until one of them sticks or does not open, then you think about it.
    It may even be a door that is a bit stiff and you need to use a bit of extra effort to open it, but that soon passes as you "learn" to just give that one "a bit more" as you open it and you never think about it again...until it is fixed...and it flys open at you because that bit of extra effort is no longer needed....you start to think about that door again.
    And again you will learn how much force you need to apply to open it and never think on it again...till you have to.
    Over time you learn to deal with it in the sub-concious as a deep brain learned skill.

    Playing is much the same, we learn as we go, but sometimes we do not appreciate how much or what we have learned until we have need to use it. The same thing happens in life everyday things we tend not to notice, we internlise them so we just "do not think", and this is where a teacher or another player comes in to effect, they can make you question what you know, look at it in another way.
    We (as in todays learning and understanding of this subject) think that a learned task as in a deep brain one can be adapted to make other tasks and learning easier.
    We can add to deep brain learning, so it is easier to learn small parts completely then add to it, we can always bring the information from the deep brain forward to re-evaluate, change or adapt it, and then sent it back to be used.

    In many walks of life this is called training, we familiarise ourselves with tasks similer to the ones we may encounter so we can adapt or apply what we have learned.
    In police or soldiers this training is made into a reinfoced reation....because it may save their lives, those around them, or those they serve...sometimes we do not have the luxury of thinking.

    For me practice is about practice, and rehearsal is about eliminating or dealing with mistakes so they do not overly interfere with the performance...not eliminating them completely, but reducing there affects to the point they do not hurt my playing. In this way the task is always about playing my best, not about playing flawlesly...to play flawlessly means i have to realise i have done so and that may lead me to thinking....i may even think " so far i have played flawlessly, this is eas....opps". :)
  13. Yeah, I hear where you're coming from. I suppose everyone is different, and I can only speak from my own experience. When I first learnt music, I wasn't allowed to stop - ever - even if I completely lost it, I had to continue on as best I could. Perhaps that's not the right way, but it's just the way I learned, and I still tend to learn songs the same way. I play them through from start to finish (sometimes slowly), but I never stop.

    Perhaps that's not a good way to practise, and I'm not qualified to argue with a professional music teacher.

    Cheers Fergie,
  14. topo morto

    topo morto

    Mar 22, 2010
    When you say you 'know the parts', how do you know them? As pattens of finger positions, as chord progressions, how?

    I know that when I remember things just as 'I put my fingers here' I can have crises of confidence, ESPECIALLY if it's a song I know well enough to play on autopilot, whereas if I remember the chord progression I can relate what the song sounds like with the chord progression I remember and the finger positions I'm familiar with.
  15. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
    Great question and the answer is everything.
    Everything you have ever learned reinforces and interpretes what you learn, you make connections and reasonings and come to conclusions based on what you know.
    You decide in an instant what the worth of your reasoning is, and is it to be trusted or questioned? The fact is we cannot stop learning, we cannot interact and not learn.....there is no off switch to it.

    Those "parts " you refer to are reinforced by all your learning and understanding, the more you learn and understand the more you have to confirm that it is right.....or wrong.
    All this happens in the blink of an eye, it is reaction, instinct, training, skill, clear thinking, sixth sense, minds eye, inner perception, zoned in, auto pilot, etc call it want you want it, but it is called, Proprioception.

    If you learn the bass what are you aware of about it?

    Innocent enough question, but what do you actually know about it if questioned?
    You have never studied the actual instrument as such, but you know a lot about it...if you can tie the parts together.

    All that info goes with learning and is used to reinforce what you know, like I said you cannot stop learning, your brain and senses are taking in info all the time.

    So fifth fret...I know that the notes on a standard for string bass are A D G C. I also know that each fret is a semitone and each string is tuned to that 5th fret so that interval is a 4th. So above every A on the bass will be a D, and above that will be a G and above that will be a C...also below every C is a G and below every G is a D and below every D is an A, so I can expand that to Below every A there is an E.
    Because I know there is C on the second string and the second string is tuned to A, then above the C there is an F and Above that F a Bb. I also can suppose that from any other A note if I count three frets up I will find another C and everything I have learned still applies....and so on.

    All that info and so much more in to blink of an eye, that is learning the parts....but it is a collective learning and I have had over forty five years of doing it as a deliberate thing, but just as much of its use is experience of doing it....that is doing it wrong as well as right.....I always learn better when I do things wrong.
    Sometimes improvement in our skills comes from just eliminating mistakes, not learning anything new as such, just using what we do have and know better can make a big difference.:)