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Thread: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    I have been playing mandolin for about 30 years, guitar for 20 before that. I am still an intermediate player, but a solid one. I have played in bands and church ensembles most of that half century. I am now 67, so that may be part of the problem, although I don't have any symptoms of cognitive issues or a family history of that. I have a good ear, I learn tunes quickly and I know my scales.

    So I recently joined a mid-1800's period band and it is a hoot. I know mandolin may not be period-correct, but we overlook that. We do Stephen Foster tunes, really "old" old-time fiddle tunes, spirituals and and stuff like that.

    So here is my issue: I will learn a tune, get it up to speed and work out any issues with fingering and right hand direction, as I should. I have no problems with the tempos. But when I get in a group practice or performance situation, so a little pressure, all of a sudden, I will just occasionally hit wrong notes. I know the right notes and I don't feel pressed speed-wise. It is just wrong notes will pop out of nowhere for no apparent reason. They are always in the scale, but still wrong notes. A lot of times, they tend to be in the same wrong notes at the same spots in a tune.

    I know the standard answer: practice. I got that. But sometimes that only reinforces the problem. So, do you have any tips for working this out and "bulletproofing" my performances?

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    ...So, do you have any tips for working this out and "bulletproofing" my performances?
    Yes. Learn how to ignore your mistakes and get back on. Chances are it bothers you more than it bothers the audience.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Yup, performed to perfection in the kitchen with an audience of pots and pans, get in front of an audience of people and suddenly - how the heck did that go ?
    Confidence is essential, also being able to recover from "errors" helps. That means "knowing the tune" ( if you can't make the chord, make a double stop, or a root note and so on) , it also means being able to hang back without too much "interruption" and catching the rhythm when it comes around again.
    My problem is either over or under thinking it, finding that right mind set is not always obvious. Breathing is important and is worth the time to take for some coaching on that from anyone who is more practiced at it. I agree with Mike Edgerton, "it probably bothers you more than the audience".
    "Mean Old Timer, He's got grey hair, Mean Old Timer he just don't care
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Supposedly Steve Kaufmann at one time had a sign in his teaching studio saying "I know you play it right at home" or some words to that effect.

    As for myself I have considered asking a priest to do an exorcism on my instruments because I think it has to be demons causing the problem. That may be why they put rattlesnake rattles in fiddles also.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by CarlM View Post
    ...That may be why they put rattlesnake rattles in fiddles also.
    I have one in my mandolin. It hasn't helped me.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    It happens to me more often when I'm tired, after a hard day's work. My playing is most reliable in the morning - unfortunately, sessions or gigs are hardly ever scheduled at that time of day. So getting enough sleep is a step in the right direction.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    John, completely normal, especially when adding pressure. Can play it perfect, sounds great, turn on the recorder, or get on stage........feel like a blathering idiot. Just relax. It happens to everyone.

    I used to play a lot of sports, even as an adult, in different leagues (some through work), etc. Someone would flub a play or an inning and we'd watch the whole game go down the tubes, and sometimes giving up a whopping lead. While it is psychological, it's temporary. You just need to keep going. The best musicians I know are those that can get over that little speed bump and keep moving.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    I've experienced the "pressure effect" a few times over the years. I thought I was over that, until I picked up a new instrument (Irish flute) a few years ago and was back to square one on the technical learning curve. So I'm still playing better when practicing flute at home, than I am when I switch from mandolin to flute at a session.

    In my experience, there is no cure for this other than more time in the pressure cooker. The more gigs you play, the more band practices you can arrange, the better it gets. You reach a point where you've done it so many times that it's no big deal, and you can focus on being part of the overall band sound.

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    The better a player I become the larger my mistakes sound to me. I still have to try , yes try, not to obsess mid song or tune over these blips. I even occasionally repeat one to see if anyone but a band member notices. Mostly I work at remembering that I am playing ……. If I wasn't having fun I would be doing something else. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    ... completely normal, especially when adding pressure. ...feel like a blathering idiot. ... It happens to everyone.
    Do realize the added pressure of playing a different type of music, with players of probably differing background and/or expectations. It might not seem intimidating at first, but can be.

    After decades of rock & casual folk, I joined a mandolin orchestra 5 years ago. Unfamiliar repertoire and "classically-trained" folks that, from my viewpoint, -gulp- actually knew what they were doing! And follow a conductor? Then they asked me to be the #2 guitar player rather than the #17 mandolin player. THEN the other guitar had to withdraw for several months. Yes, some sleepless nights just before that first major concert as the ONLY guitar...

    You eventually realize that most mistakes are heard only by the person who made them.
    - Ed

    "Then one day we weren't as young as before
    Our mistakes weren't quite so easy to undo
    But by all those roads, my friend, we've travelled down
    I'm a better man for just the kowin' of you."
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  13. #11

    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    We all drop the odd clanger from time to time. Just bear in mind that to you, it stands out a mile, as the note you got Horrendously wrong. To the people listening, it’s just a single note (That lasted a millisecond) in a whole string of other notes that were played perfectly. Most people won’t notice, and some who do might think it was intentional.

    All part of the journey - and you can bet that some of the other players are going through exactly the same thing on their instruments.

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    Registered User GeoMandoAlex's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    I have heard professional players get stage fright. I heard a story regarding Jerry Garcia, Grateful Dead guitarist, who would get stage fright bad still in the early 1990s after playing on stage for 30 years. It happens to the best of them.

    Keep playing and enjoying the music you are making. It sounds like your mistakes are at least still within the same key so you have that going for you. Keep practicing , but most of all keep enjoying playing.
    I can only play half as much as I want, because I only play half as much as I would like.

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    I kind of experience the same thing sometimes, for me its red haired boy...it was the first tune I learned 5 years ago, I play it often, I like it, and just about everytime I play it in a jam I hit a G# instead of a G...I generally just laugh it off and its sounds very gypsy like so we just move on but its funny how it happens...like I know its coming and I cant stop it.

    I chalk it up to the fact that I’m new to all this - 5 years in now - but I just dont know these tunes. I learn them and practice them but I think its just not ingrained in me had I grown up listening or learned them early on so I make little slip ups...I dont sweat it and ive gotten better at sliding into the right note faster.
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    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by catmandu2 View Post
    Happens to the best of 'em - laugh it off..
    https://youtu.be/erbFXptMpD4
    Very fine example of a clunker! I wish the late great painting instructor Bob Ross was a mandolin player/teacher. We could all just have happy mistakes!

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    Registered User Reid Morsi's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Remember too, nobody's perfect... Case and point

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsSPiotYUc4

    Look for it at about 52ish seconds. So he is human after all!
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Do what the jazz guys do: when you hit the wrong note then go back and do it again. Everyone will applaud your innovative improvising.
    Jim

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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    When I first started playing music, my guitar playing buddy (far more accomplished musician than I will ever be) told me:
    “Tim, keep playing, you can’t go back for the missed (or incorrect) note, few will notice unless you make something out of it.”
    I hear him say that every time I blow something. It just happens, it happens to the big guys too, they just keep flying. Don’t worry about and do better next time.
    And like Jim says, if you can remember the missed (incorrect) note, get the jazz clap!
    I can’t ever remember how I screw something up so I just make different mistakes, nobody catches on.
    Timothy F. Lewis
    "If brains was lard, that boy couldn't grease a very big skillet" J.D. Clampett

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    Registered User John Flynn's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Do what the jazz guys do: when you hit the wrong note then go back and do it again. Everyone will applaud your innovative improvising.
    That's great! I am reminded of the Spinal Tap discussion on jazz:
    • “Music like jazz is music based on fear.” (of making mistakes)
    • “Jazz is mistakes. You are playing a song, but you’re playing it wrong. Then everyone says “’Oh great! Art form!”’
    • “We’ve taken the other tack, which is ‘Let’s play in the key, let’s play the notes associated with that key.’”
    • “We improvise, but we do it intentionally. Jazz is an accident waiting to happen.”

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    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by Reid Morsi View Post
    Remember too, nobody's perfect... Case and point

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UsSPiotYUc4

    Look for it at about 52ish seconds. So he is human after all!
    I guess Gil and Dave won’t be collecting royalties on that one!

    All in jest, I love you all.

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    If you want to make your performance "bullet proof", check out https://bulletproofmusician.com/

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    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    What has helped me is to play/practice in different rooms of the house, in different parts of the room, facing different things in rooms, playing outside, playing with lights on/off, playing for others in their homes, etc. I think constantly changing where I play, the time I play, the order of the songs I play, the number of times I play through a song, anything I can change, really, helps me deal with changes that I can’t control such as venue locations, lighting, ambient noise, nervousness, etc.

    Also, I once read in a sports psychology book that the subconscious part of the brain doesn’t compute the word “no.” If you tell yourself, “don’t hit the ball in the water,” your subconscious brain translates that into “hit the ball in the water.” So if you’re playing the mandolin and you tell yourself, “don’t screw this up by hitting a G#,” your subconscious hears the command, “hit a G#.”

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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Been there, done that. My only solution is practice, practice, practice. Even then I occasionally have the problem. Oh well, I guess I'm old.

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    Distressed Model John Ritchhart's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Does this guy charge money for his material?


    If you want to make your performance "bullet proof", check out https://bulletproofmusician.com/
    We few, we happy few.

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Brain Flatulence" when playing

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flynn View Post
    But when I get in a group practice or performance situation, so a little pressure, all of a sudden, I will just occasionally hit wrong notes. ... So, do you have any tips for working this out and "bulletproofing" my performances?
    I find that any kind of performing scenario decreases my abilities about 12 clicks. Meaning I have to go into the situation with 112 clicks, in order to sound as good as I know I can be. More practice is not the whole answer. More gigging in front of live audiences is. You have to practice and get experience being in that high "stand and deliver" anxiety.

    What I might suggest is to simulate that performance anxiety in your practice, by recording yourself and playing it back. I don't know why but that mic in my face and knowing I will hear every gaff I make, really cranks up the tension, just like a live performance would. It really works - to the extent that I often times find myself working harder before I set up the mic, trying to avoid sucking when the mic comes out. In reality, I know that the anxiety of recording myself is real enough because i do all kinds of things to avoid it, postpone it, and procrastinate getting out the mic.
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