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The Power of The Mind

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by Matthew_84, Jun 1, 2016.

  1. I had an interesting experience today and thought I'd share it with others.

    For the last few days, I have been learning a new song, but there was a bridge section that was giving me some trouble. I decided to turn on the metronome and work on that section exclusively.

    After I was able to play the section flawlessly on the metronome, I decided to play along to the whole song. However, as I approached the bridge section I started fearing its difficulty and once I got there, I couldn't play it cleanly to save my life. I tried it a second time and it was even worse.

    I thought of a quote I had read in The Inner Game of Music, which went something along the lines of, "Something is either easy or it is impossible." The theory behind this is that if you truly believe that playing a certain piece of music is easy, then you'll likely sail right through it. However, if you view it as hard or difficult, you will create some doubt that you will not perform it well, and you'll be thinking more about failing than succeeding.

    I took a few breaths and remembered how easily I played the part against the metronome. I built back up my confidence and tried it again. As the bridge section came up I told myself, "This is easy. I got this". The part came and went and I played it flawlessly. I then played the song a few more times just to make sure it stuck, and had no issues.

    It's funny what a little confidence will do.
    quickfix, JCooper, 3rdWatch and 5 others like this.
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    That, or you had just practiced it enough times to nail it. ;)
    MYLOWFREQ and Matthew_84 like this.
  3. Well yes, I'm not saying I could suddenly decide that YYZ is easy and blaze through it without ever trying to play it before.

    The point really was that when I thought it was hard and I was worried about nailing it, I couldn't play it well. When I remembered that I could play it well and purposely ignored any doubt of that, I succeeded.

    In between the failed and successful attempts, I didn't practice the line any more. I simply changed the thoughts inside my mind.
    MYLOWFREQ likes this.
  4. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Sorry, I just had to be "that guy." I was just messing around. It really is amazing what a positive mental attitude can accomplish, and you've provided a good example of that.
    MYLOWFREQ and Matthew_84 like this.
  5. fendermademygibson


    Jan 28, 2015
    My example has nothing to do with music but is about the power of the mind.

    Years ago I was taking an Algebra class and there was a section called rationalizing radicals that I just wasn't getting. In class I was fine, I understood the concept and could work through it. When I was away from the classroom, forget it.

    Our final was coming up and the professor told us there would be one of these problems on the test. Great. I make sure I have all the other material down and commit to learning this one concept. I got better but still far from confident and pretty much resigned to the idea that I was going to get that question wrong.

    I go to bed the night before the final and I have a dream about the concept I've been struggling with. No, this was not like some glorious fantastic voyage to some other plain of existence that made things crystal clear. It was just me working on one of these problems and for whatever reason something clicked and it made sense.

    I woke remembering the dream but was struggling to remember what it was that I had "learned" in the dream.

    Time to make the doughnuts. I sit down to take the test and am working my way through and there it is, my nemesis, the irrational radical. I literally closed my eyes, took a deep breath and looked back at the problem. Again, I did not transport to some magic land of understanding math. I was just calm, focused, confident, able to work through it and successfully solve the problem.

    I'm not saying it was all because of some dream and I know we were not given the most extreme example of this concept to solve. I do believe though that the dream helped me to understand that particular concept. Plus, I did study my ass off for that final and sometimes stepping away from the situation for a moment helps the mind to work its magic.

    It's not like my success or failure of this class was hinging on this one problem. It was more of a personal thing.

    Please don't ask me to try and solve one of these equations.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  6. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    Yes the mind can be a powerful thing.

    I never had that happened to me with music. If I can't nailed it, I practice out of time until I can play the right note in the right order and then only the rythm out loud with a metronome, then plucking with my silent bass and then mix it all together, I may have to practice it a few times a tad slower with everything.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  7. I had that fear on keyboard quite awhile back. There were songs I wouldn't go near because I thought they were too complicated.

    Then I thought "What's the worst thing that can happen?...I'll either be right where I am now...or better".

    Once I got into them they weren't half as hard as I thought they'd be.

    Still get a little "red light fever" when I'm recording though.......but I'm a compulsive perfectionist.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  8. Yeah, it's funny how sometimes we struggle and struggle to understand some concept and as we put this pressure on ourselves to figure it out, it just gets worse and worse...

    Take a break, clear your mind, be calm and confident and that's most likely when the lightbulb moment happens, IMO.
    I tend to psych myself out, so it happens quite a lot with music to me, but mostly as I'm playing the song, not so mug when practicing against the 'nome. It's good to practice it first to know it can be done, and then be confident and calm as you play the song.
    LOL. I'm a compulsive perfectionist as well, which likely makes this a lot worse, and why this knowledge is so key to people like me.
    Clef_de_fa likes this.
  9. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    My experience has usually been the old axiom:

    "Repetition is the Mother of Retention"

    I literally wore out vinyl LP's and record player needles as a teen picking apart songs.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  10. Yes, I agree with this.

    To be clear, practicing the part until you can play and memorize it is crucial.

    This thread is about psyching yourself out and allowing your insecurities from preventing you from playing a piece of music you already know how to play.

    It's really more about the performance than the rehearsal, but if you don't know how to play the part to begin with, then that's what you need to focus on.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Thinking for me can be the enemy. I'm certain I've proved that here more than once :).

    I can't tell you how many times, right before a gig I'd ask myself-- do I remember that? Then panic... then it's all over.

    I quit doing that a long time ago.

    A trick for me, if it's a high stakes show where anxiety may creep in, is to make sure I can play through all the songs in my head, without a bass in hand. If I know I know every note to a song sans bass, I know I'm good and I won't even consider questioning my memory. I can then play on complete automatic pilot. That allows me to nothing other than listen, feel, play, connect, and kick butt :).
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  12. Rev J

    Rev J

    Jun 14, 2012
    Berkeley, Ca.
    "Do yourself a favor Meat! Don't think," Crash Davis.

    Rev J
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  13. AndreasR


    Oct 23, 2012
    Playing the song in your head is also a way of practicing by the way. I forgot the specific details but in a study they had people learn a new instrument with one group having a lot of practice time, and another group having a lot less practice, but having to visualize playing the instrument in a structured form. The latter group progressed just as fast as the former.

    The mind is indeed a powerful tool.
    Joe Nerve and Matthew_84 like this.
  14. Seriously? That's interesting.

    Do you by chance have a link to the study?
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
  15. AndreasR


    Oct 23, 2012
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  16. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Too much beer last night and not enough coffee yet this morning. I will read this again later and try to get my mind around it.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
    Interesting read, it would work well for figuring out rhythms and organizing stuff you already know the notes to, as @Joe Nerve mentioned.

    I have heard of people using this to learn new material, and that seems impossible to me, but my inner ear isn't developed enough to accurately reproduce the pitch of any note I fret in my imagination.
  17. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    I used to study double bass with Bert Turetzky. He told me a story of how he took on a new student and when he met her they shook hands. She had an odd reaction and he asked her about it. She said "it's true, you have small hands". Bert's reply was "you don't play the bass with your hands"
    I always thought that was an interesting and insightful statement.
    When I began working on thumb position technique I was learning a piece that required a big jump on the G-string, from below the octave to above the C. I was having trouble with the jump. Bert said "just hear the note in your head and your hand will go the right place on the finger board". It's true, that's how its done. You play music in your head, and your hands deliver the performance.
    Jeff Bonny and Matthew_84 like this.
  18. Yeah, it's almost all brain stuff. And the way to make almost anything easy is to slow it down. When learning complex lines I do it slowly; like really sloooow. That's how you get precision and clarity into it, and all the things you don't want like fret noise, clikcs and clacks; is magnified when playing slow but also easier to deal with and get rid of; "I must mute here, lift off finger there etc.", and then after learning the thing slow, and being able to play the line slow with precision and clarity; then playing it fast is just speeding it up, and it will still have the precision, clarity and a good flow, because your brain has the blueprint stored for how it has to be done already. So if learning a line at half the speed; is hard; try 1/4. There's so many "I can't do this"- barriers that can be removed by consciously practicing slowly; I can't recommend it enough! :)
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2016
    Matthew_84 and Rev J like this.
  19. Flatwoundround


    May 18, 2014
    On Jaco's instructional DVD he said he rarely practices with the bass but rather uses visualization. I am going to start doing this and in particular visualize my body being very relaxed while I play and having a better feel and more natural and at ease. I will also visualize women trying to seduce me because I am such an awesome bass player and how much they love those low frequency vibrations.

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