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Tense under pressure

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Zerozeddy, Jan 12, 2005.

  1. Everyone knows tension is bad for your playing, and that you need to relax your hands and only make the minimum muscular effort when fretting etc etc etc.

    However, whilst I can successfully practise loosely, whenever I play live my muscles immediately tense up and I turn into a fumbling fool and get nasty pains afterwards.

    Erm... what can I do when practice is proper but performance is poor?

    [Note: I'm sure a lot of this is due to practice being solo and not having to compete with the noise of other musicians...]
  2. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    Don't play hard to get heard - turn up the volume on the amp instead or ask everyone else to turn down. That's not to say that there aren't reasons for using a stronger attack from time to time but, with amplified instruments, volume isn't one of them.

    Get that sorted and, if the tension remains, it's much more likely that it's psychological instead (not abnormal, because it affects a lot of people, but something that has to be conquered in the realm of "headspace" rather than just throwing gear or technique at it).

  3. Joe P

    Joe P

    Jul 15, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    This could be the case, and if so... (I never miss an opportunity to preach about this subject...)
    It could be that you're using 'scooped mids', and sound like a bunch of mush-plus-string-noise. MIDS, Man! it's all in the MIDS! Turn off that wretched 'conture' switch, people. See the light!!

    Thank you,

  4. I hate it when getting new gear isn't the answer :(
  5. cowsgomoo

    cowsgomoo gone to Longstanton Spice Museum

    Feb 8, 2003
    this is my biggest performance flaw... not through tension or nerves, but just exhuberance... I want to put everything I can into the performance, and inside, the little guy who pulls the levers inside my head is going "CHAAAAAARGE!!!"... i've bashed my fingers to bits playing, developed huge blisters and ended up with blood on my strings and scratchplate...

    I like the sound of a firmly-plucked P-Bass, but I know that i'm often just playing too damn hard... I still can't find a way of balancing aggressive music and aggressive stage performance (lots of jumping around, pulling ugly faces and headbanging) with a light and sensitive touch...

    my playing doesn't sound bad at all, and you can definitely hear the aggression, but it's such a painful way of working...
  6. Eric Grossman

    Eric Grossman

    Nov 3, 2004
    St. Louis
    Endorsing Artist: Hipshot Products and SIT Strings
    You're probably tense, partly because you aren't breathing steadily when you play. It's incredibly common. One of my former teachers was Ric Fierrabracci. He used to drill this into me when we were together. When you practice, make it a point to spend some time concentrating on deep breathing while you play. Do it while you run scales, or some other familiar thing. Just as in sports, your muscles crave oxygen when they are working. I hope that helps.
  7. bassistloaded


    Jan 12, 2005
    I totally agree with this. Let your equipment work for you. I found if I start to really attack the strings too much, my fingers start to cramp up.

    Play scales VERY slowly for warmup.
  8. Rockgurl


    Dec 17, 2004
    CT, USA
    Play lots of shows so you get real comfortable up there. You're tense because it's showtime and it's a big deal. The more you do the more comfortable you'll feel and the more familiar you'll become with the different EQ you need to use on stage compared to your bedroom.
  9. Have a read of the book "The Inner Game of Music" by Barry Green with Timothy Gallaway
  10. DaemonBass


    Mar 29, 2004
    Sacramento, CA
    That's a good tip! Might help me with my own problem, I hope. I'll try that next practice!
  11. Another thing is to just build confidence. Alot of bass players are introverts when they start playing... I mean, they sit in an environment with whats usually a loud guitarist and a loud drummer when they first start. It's only natural! And so play everytime you get a chance in front of people. That girl you like... serenade her with a song... That great player you have heaps of respect for... play him something you wrote. All of these things will help you build confidence. Also if you're playing originals, or you own versions of songs, follow wooten and "work backwards". Take what you're playing and simplify it where ever you can till it's easy to play with your band members, and you really enjoy how it sounds AND FEELS.
    when your having alot of fun all that mental tention oozes out of you and you'll be rockin' it :smug: