Tense...

Discussion in 'Ask Lynn Seaton' started by Ojinomoto, Dec 15, 2006.


  1. Hello sir. I tense up at bit when I really dig in my playing(hands, fingers and arms), especialy when I slap (the muscles around my shoulder. Its a flexing kind of tense-up.) The thing is, Im not playing anything thats faster/too advance for my skill level. Have you ever heard of this before? And do you have a suggestion to get rid of it?
     
  2. Cool, thanks for nothin!:meh:
     
  3. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Wow... you seem tense.
     
  4. Marc Piane

    Marc Piane

    Jun 14, 2004
    Chicago
    +1. It is the weekend. Give him a chance. I know as a working pro I spend far less time at the computer on the weekend as I am, well, working.

    I'll chime in my thoughts. I have found that general relaxation and breathing is very important to fluid playing. We are biological beings and how our body and mind functions is, in part, about properly oxygenating the blood and blood flow.

    Another important part of that is proper hydration. You'll have a much greater incidence of stiff muscles and increased exercise recovery time (I was a pretty serious cyclist and amateur triathlete for a while) if you are not drinking enough water. You know, lactic acid build up in the muscles and all.

    Lastly, practice in a mirror. See if you have any habits such as tensing shoulders, holding breath, strange posture, etc.

    I'd start with that.
     
  5. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Hello All,
    I reply to messages as quickly as possible. This forum is different from a chat room in that I am not online all the time. If the post contains a question, it gets answered. It looks like the first post from Ojinomoto was posted before I began monitoring this forum in January of 2007. I am sorry that it did not get a reply until now.
    Lynn
     
  6. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Ojinomoto,
    Fingers posted some good advice for you. Breathe deeply. It is interesting how much the added O2 will help. It also can help with performance anxiety. Make sure you are not playing any harder than necessary. For example in the left hand pressing too much does nothing to help the sound. Only press as much as you need to. Let the weight of the arm go through your fingers into the board so you don't have to squeeze so hard. The advice of looking in a mirror is also very good. Try video taping yourself as well on gigs, jam sessions, and in the practice room. The tape will not lie! It will show any bad habits and poor posture. When we dig in and play hard and/or play fast, we actually need to be even more relaxed.
    I hope this helps.
     
  7. mrpc

    mrpc Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    No matter how small or fast, complete each body motor movement before starting the next....this helps note to note articulation immensely, and keeps muscles loose.
     
  8. Tom Mason

    Tom Mason

    Mar 8, 2004
    If you're standing, keep those knees a little soft. Locking up in the legs creates all sorts of referred tension.
     
  9. Andy Allen

    Andy Allen "Working Bassist"

    Aug 31, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hmmm...I only just caught this. Would you mind explaining this a little more? I don't think I fully understand, but I am intrigued.

    Andy
     
  10. flatback

    flatback Supporting Member

    May 6, 2004
    When I first started playing the bass, I came from playing another instrument and so had much more theory then evolved bass chops. As a result I found myself kind of fighting to get out what I was hearing and ended up very tense. I kept hearing good advice just such as Lynn is suggesting but I didn't really implement it. Then I took a workshop with Dave Holland and he had these excercises and practice techniques based off of isolating specific aspects of the physical playing and practicing them slowly and correctly (with a relaxed but exact technique) creating a muscle memory. For ex. he has a whole bunch of studies based on the Zimmerman ( I think) book for string crossing using a 5th in the left hand. He suggested it allows you to concentrate on specific aspects of your technique (like relaxation or shifting or touch etc) and build them with your full concentration. He was really advocating this idea of separating the different technical and musical concepts you want to work on and giving them concentrated attention. It really helped me with the specific problem of how to relax, which ended up being a retraining process that has led to some wonderful breakthroughs for me.
    But you may need to, at some point "buy in to" some method or another of really looking closely at what you are doing and retraining your muscles (including your head muscle)
    Like gymnastics or a lot of other beautiful physical activities, bass playing requires both stregnth and suppleness.
     
  11. I have had similar problems. Being tense and holding your breath really works against you. I have recently started practicing yoga (bikram yoga specifically) and it is has helped me become more aware of those muscles at the same teaching me how to concentrate and breathe. On top of that it is putting me in better shape than I have been in a while.

    My 1.5 cents....
     
  12. Flatboack said: "He suggested it allows you to concentrate on specific aspects of your technique (like relaxation or shifting or touch etc) and build them with your full concentration."

    EXACTLY RIGHT. You must isolate discrete aspects of technique and concentrate only on one thing at a time. Rabbath talks about this in his video.

    I had hack violin teachers for years who did not teach this practice method of isolating techinique. Then the Music God deigned to bring me a great teacher. Jerri had been a student of Ivan Galamian himself! Jerri told me to put away all the music books, stop playing etudes, and to do simple, easy, repetitive exercises. These exercises seemed totally unrelated to music: "relax your wrist -- let it hang from your elbow". "think of your shoulder as moving in a circle as you up bow and then down bow". "Play finger patterns like 1-2-3-4, then 1-3-2-4, etc." (All this was on the violin). After a few months of this stuff, my playing significantly improved. So much easier and my tone was vastly improved.

    A few months ago I decided at long last to play bass (YIP YIP HOORAY!!). I promptly rememebered Jerri's advise ala' Galamian. I started slowly with basic elements of technique. Only do one simple little thing at a time to the exclusion of all else. Go snail-slow at first and get the feel of it and do it perfectly. Watch yourself doing 'it' (whatever 'it' is at the moment -- for instance the shape of the left hand and the contact point of your fingers on the a particular pitch). The Zimmerman book "Contemporary Bowing Technique for Bass" is totally this method relating to bowing patterns. I cannot recommend this procedure any more highly that Ivan Galamian and Francois Rabbath.

    This method works faster than any other to achieve a technically proficient playing style. Without good technique, you can only hope and pray to ever sound good.

    Roonz
     
  13. Lynn Seaton

    Lynn Seaton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2006
    Denton, TX
    Thank you everyone for some wonderful thoughts and advice in this thread. This shows the great potential a forum like this has to share advice and knowledge.
     
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