How To Fix A Bad Gig

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It’s just not grooving. Nobody is dancing or even tapping their feet. There is no vibe onstage. Nobody is smiling. Everyone thinks the drummer must be responsible. We tighten up and try to make it groove instead of letting it groove. We play louder in an effort to “lay it down.” Paranoia, insecurity, or the blame game take over our inner monologue and making music becomes hard work — the last thing we want.

Here are a few little tricks I have learned to turn your mood around and hopefully rejuvenate the positivity, fun, and groove on stage.

1. Focus on one aspect of your playing.

I learned this trick from playing tennis. A coach told me to try to focus on the threads of the tennis ball when my groundstrokes were inconsistent and I was just beating myself up with every mistake I made. Focusing on a small thing like the threads of the ball would distract my self-criticism and inevitably result in me hitting more consistently and steadily. Pay close attention to those last few words. They are words we use a lot in drumming as well. When it’s not grooving at the gig, I will focus in on, say, just my right hand. I ask myself “Am I getting the tone I want from the ride cymbal?” I’m immediately put into a healthier state of mind and music starts to take shape.

2. Having trouble locking with a bass player?

Focus on his or her right hand and imitate it with yours. Every bass player’s hand technique is different. Some articulate with the tips of their fingers, some pluck further down near their second knuckle, some use a pick, etc. Each technique has a preparatory stroke prior to each pluck. This dictates how they are feeling the time. Again, this will heighten your awareness, blunt the negativity, and get you back into a supportive, creative mindset. You will notice the groove, and your mood, improve almost instantly.

3. Listen to every instrument and be able to sing back every note they are playing.

Are you aware of what everyone in the band is playing? Can you sing the root of the chord that the piano player is playing in his left hand? Can you sing the lyrics? Can you sing the bass line? You will feel a deeper level of involvement and respect in the group if you make sure you are aware of every member’s thread in the weave.

4. Mix yourself.

Be aware of each limb’s volume level and strive for an even balance of sound. Also take special note of your volume within the band. Make sure you are always first and foremost providing a great foundation for the band to build on. If you are playing too loud, the other bandmembers’ ears are cringing and trying to recover with every hit and it can be the reason it seems as though nobody is listening to each other.