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TimR

Imposter Sydrome

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Been in the news a bit this week following Michelle Obama’s speech. 

How many of you guys have been in this situation?

I did a dep gig on Saturday night. Was sent the set list, had a brief look through it, met the guitarist and ran through a few numbers. Didn’t seem anything too complex. 

Turned up to the gig unloaded and set up and then realised I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Not practiced any of the tunes at home, didn’t know the structure to half the tunes, no ideas of intros or endings. I was screwed. 

Anyway, felt my way through the gig by using my eyes and ears and smiling a lot. 

The band thought I was great, the audience thought we were great. We got paid and the band leader was asked for cards. 

I suppose really that’s what musicians do when they play properly and all this endless rehearsals and preparation with semi-pro bands is mainly just to stoke the singer/guitarists ego. 

Quite honestly I’d prefer to dep all gigs. Keeps it fresh and reminds me of what a real musician is. 

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I think that we make it hard for ourselves - we study great bass players on TV, YouTube, Spotify etc, we chat with other great bass players on this here site, and so as a result we can have a tendency to take a harsh view of our own abilities, because we set ourselves such difficult standards to meet up to.

But then once you're up on stage, you have to remember that you're probably the best bass player in the room, and you're doing things that, to the majority of the crowd, is like witchcraft.

I don't think that we should get too complacent though. I like being well prepared, I like knowing that I've done the best that I can do. But I also agree that some of my most memorable gigs were the ones where things went wrong, but the band held it together by sheer musical intuition.

S.P.

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I play drums in a heavy band. A friend of ours is an awesome drummer, really world class, and he wanted to come and play 2nd guitar in our heavy band. We had him in for a jam last week and I felt like a total impostor sat behind the kit while he was in the room. I made loads of mistakes I wouldn't normally make

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I started in live music by playing at one of the better jams in West London (the Drayton Arms, Ealing, formerly the King's Head, Acton jam). 

Quite literally everybody in the room was a better musician than me, and the great majority (including the guitarists) were better bass players than me.

So? You have to start somewhere. If I could get in a time machine and go back those years - taking my bass with me, natch - there would still be plenty of better musicians there.

There will always be better musicians than yourself somewhere, if you look hard enough. So stop looking and enjoy what you do. :)

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As to the OP, well done mate. I've winged a few in my time, but it sounds like you played a blinder. 

Instead of worrying that you're an imposter, surely this just proves that you're really rather good at what you do?

 

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The best bit of advice I was given when I started was that as long as you start together, stop together and smile together, no one notices the bit in the middle. I thought they were joking but it’s surprisingl true. There have been a couple of car crash moments when we have murdered a song but never has anyone commented on it. Quite the opposite on one occasion where we did a short set and for some reason just weren’t on it (borrowed kit,  no set up time didn’t help) but we had people raving about us, in a good way, on Facebook.

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Yup. I learned early on that most of the audience, any audience, are actually listening to the song in their head, not what the actual band is playing.

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43 minutes ago, T-Bay said:

The best bit of advice I was given when I started was that as long as you start together, stop together and smile together, no one notices the bit in the middle. I thought they were joking but it’s surprisingl true. There have been a couple of car crash moments when we have murdered a song but never has anyone commented on it.

 

One gig in an old band I misread the set list,  the onstage sound was shocking and there were no monitors. They started one song, I kicked off with next one. It was only when they launched into the chorus, and I was a few bars away from the chorus for the song I was playing, did I realise. After we'd played a punter walked up to congratulate me on a great set, singling out the f'ed song as being particularly good. I explained what happened, he laughed and said it was still awesome. He wasn't being sarcastic either... He may have been deaf though.

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54 minutes ago, Happy Jack said:

As to the OP, well done mate. I've winged a few in my time, but it sounds like you played a blinder. 

Instead of worrying that you're an imposter, surely this just proves that you're really rather good at what you do?

 

I think that’s the point. It’s a syndrome. 

People at the top of their game forget all those hours of work that have got them where they are and are suddenly left with that feeling of “How the hell did I end up here? Someone is bound to find me out.” With no reason whatsoever to feel like that.

Although I suspect no singer ever felt like that. :D 

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Yes I have and it’s horrible. 

I used to dep on bass for my far more experienced and professionally in-the-loop friend on pit work and stuff for years. I always knew that I only got the call from the MD because he wasn’t available, and that made me feel second best. I really felt the disappointment from the other cliquey musicians when I walked in. It was real pressure trying to perform. It all stopped abruptly one day when I was mistakenly CC’d in an email exchange between said friend and an MD looking for a bass player. My friend mentioned to this MD in the email that another MD has said he wasn’t all that impressed with me last time. This was in reference to a show I was asked to play at very, very short notice. Short notice enough that I didn’t get to see the score for a show I had never seen or heard until 30 mins before curtain up on opening night! My friend, bless him, tried to cover as best he could (it wasn’t his fault, he was just the messenger, we are still friends), but the damage was done and I told him not to put me forward for any more shows. 

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I do a lot of deps, mainly for function and wedding bands, and what I've came to realise is that the general public really dont care what the bassist does most of the time.  

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10 minutes ago, Elfrasho said:

I do a lot of deps, mainly for function and wedding bands, and what I've came to realise is that the general public really dont care what the bassist does most of the time.  

Absolutely agree. Other cliquey musicians on the other hand....felt I was getting sneered at because I wasn’t the usual player. Uncomfortable. 

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@ianrendall that’s a bit of a downer. You probably don’t want to work with musicians like that. If the band don’t smile when you walk in the room that’s not a good start. For a start you’re covering their derrières.

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7 hours ago, TimR said:

Been in the news a bit this week following Michelle Obama’s speech. 

How many of you guys have been in this situation?

I did a dep gig on Saturday night. Was sent the set list, had a brief look through it, met the guitarist and ran through a few numbers. Didn’t seem anything too complex. 

Turned up to the gig unloaded and set up and then realised I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Not practiced any of the tunes at home, didn’t know the structure to half the tunes, no ideas of intros or endings. I was screwed. 

Anyway, felt my way through the gig by using my eyes and ears and smiling a lot. 

The band thought I was great, the audience thought we were great. We got paid and the band leader was asked for cards. 

I suppose really that’s what musicians do when they play properly and all this endless rehearsals and preparation with semi-pro bands is mainly just to stoke the singer/guitarists ego. 

Quite honestly I’d prefer to dep all gigs. Keeps it fresh and reminds me of what a real musician is. 

I would definitely have shown them what a real imposter sounded like :)  I find it more successful if I just stay in and entertain the dog with random noodling over the adverts.

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This reminds me of a time we hosted an open mic, get up with the band (or not), night. It was always pretty busy. Two guitarists decided they wanted bass only accompaniment to their original numbers. I just watched their chords like a hawk and tried to make some deep noises that fitted with the music. It was absolute winging it. To be complimented afterwards was a bonus. That's probably the most seat of your pants situation I've ever been in, and a "did I really do that?" moment 

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I've only ever depped a few times and only for people I know. Last time was a young girl who occasionally songs with my band gave me about 48hrs notice that her bassist couldn't do a festival gig. She got her band moved to be on just before mine so I'd be there and sent me the set list of covers... i got introduced as a last minute cover and got through the first few songs including an improv section I wasn't prior warned about and all  went well. Then Seven Nation Army was up next. I just stood there. Singer says "it's you". I had ear plugs in. "It's you. Now, it's you" I'm just standing there. "It's you" "what?" "Play the riff" "what riff?" This went on for ages until she basically spoke like to an elderly relative who thinks he's escaping from the nursing home "seven nation army. It starts with the bass riff. You need to start playing it"

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2 hours ago, Norris said:

... I just watched their chords like a hawk...

 

Exactly this. Although there was the occasion with a different band when the guitarists capo'd - I was totally screwed. My brain don't think that fast :(

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48 minutes ago, Teebs said:

Exactly this. Although there was the occasion with a different band when the guitarists capo'd - I was totally screwed. My brain don't think that fast :(

S'easy..! You capo, too..! :lol:

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I have never depped.  I usually like  to be surrounded by familiarity - know the set inside out, know exactly what everyone else in the band is going to do next.  I hate winging it, going to a jam night is my worst nightmare. 

Got an email last Saturday from a drummer I last played with 7 years ago (but we got on very well) - their bassist is going into hospital Friday (so today) and the gig is Saturday (tomorrow).  Can I help?  Rock and pop covers, she said.  I thought I was bound to know most of the stuff so agreed to do it, albeit slightly apprehensive.  Got the set list later Saturday and I have only played 5 of the songs historically, one of which I was glad to see the back of.  Half the set I have never heard before :) Oh dear.  I've put my life on hold this week!  To make matters worse my little mp3 player packed up just after I loaded all the new songs into it!  

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Yes. I have the syndrome. Officially. Something about being a perfectionist and when I know, I put a comma in the wrong spot, I keep having this expectation of being found out.  😉

The following however is not the syndrome:
Depping as a pianist for jazz bands, often with minutes or a few hours of notice, just because they were desperate enough and because I was available and had the gear, I always was the worst guy on stage. This after I'd agreed with them that a sax player or similar would have to play instead of the expected piano solo.
Of course they always forgot, and when it was time for the piano solo, they all gave me the look, and I gave them the look whilst playing just the chords.

Worked a treat: sometimes, someone would remember and get some solo notes in before the eight bars were finished! 😁

Edited by BassTractor
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4 hours ago, BassTractor said:

... when it was time for the piano solo, they all gave me the look, and I gave them the look whilst playing just the chords...

Quite right too, and probably very restful for the audience. Piling on layer after layer of virtuoso solos can be very wearing on the ear, so that would be a welcome respite. T'wouldn't work for some numbers, though, where one is supposed to be 'trading eights' for four minutes..! :lol:
My 'drum solos' are equally sparse, applying the principle that 'less is more'. B|

Edited by Dad3353
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