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Overcoming psychological block


lozkerr
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Friends, Romans, Basschatters, lend me your ears.

 

Actually, don't. The fist I'm making of the octave jumps in the second bar of the verse in this song is painful and it's really getting to me that I keep cocking it up.

 

This is Blondie's Atomic - a fabulous song that ticks all the right boxes - it's loud, powerful, completely in-your-face and suits our female singer down to the ground. I've just about nailed every part of it, including a slightly simplified bass solo. Still have to work out the comms between me and the drummer so that we come back together properly if I go off-piste. But that's a bunfight for another day.

 

Thing is, after practising it constantly for several months I'm 100% certain that this is a psychological block - I've buggered it up so often that I subconsciously expect to do it again. And inevitably I do, after playing it OK several times. It's incredibly frustrating - I can pick up my bass from doing something else and play it faultlessly. I can play along with the recording just fine until I start overthinking it and screw it up. We tried it at rehearsal last week after putting it aside for a few months and the recording is toe-curlingly bad; the only good bit is that I'm landing on the top E on time so it's not throwing everyone else.

 

I've tried different fingerings, and they don't seem to help. My weapon of choice is a five-string, so I start the bar on fret 7 of the B string. All good in the hood until I mess it up. Same thing happens if I start on fret 2 of the E string.

 

So - does any kind soul out there have any suggestions for dealing with this psychological block? ('Play something else' isn't an option 😊) I'm sure I can't be the only person who's encountered something like this.

Many thanks.

 

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Maybe try playing another way with your right hand? I used to play this in my old band and loved it. Sometimes, I’d play it normal fingerstyle, sometimes with a pick and other times with my thumb and index finger. I found it a very different feel with all 3 approaches. I know what you mean about over thinking the part though, if I thought about it too much I’d confuse this section with the next, somewhat easier, octave section (not good). Other than the r/h different approach, just lots of repetition is the only advice I can offer; sorry.

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For a start I think the score is actually wrong - the F# at the start of verse bar 2 (number 10 on score) is an octave higher at least to my ears on the recording. The pattern is, unsurprisingly, much less awkward when you start it with 9th fret A string / 11th G. 

 

Edited by bassman7755
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Playing an instrument requires muscle memory. If you've learnt it 'wrong', it takes time and effort to straighten it out. I'm speaking as a cellist here as I'm more proficient on that than bass... but you need to slow it down to a point where you can repeatedly play it correctly. You then up the tempo by 5 bpm and repeat... and keep doing that until you reach performance speed. You need to retrain your muscle memory.

 

If there's a particular group of bars that's a challenge, start playing the last one of the group, get it right, then add in the bar before. Get that right and add in the bar before that... That way you are playing into something ou know you can get right.

 

Hope it works out for you. 

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I found, having to learn much more complicated material than I’m used to for my current band, that both playing much softer than I usually do, and the age old “repeat the difficult passage on its own many times” really helped.

Specifically re octaves, I use index finger for the low, little finger for the high, means much less movement over the neck.

Edited by Lozz196
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11 hours ago, bassman7755 said:

For a start I think the score is actually wrong - the F# at the start of verse bar 2 (number 10 on score) is an octave higher at least to my ears on the recording. The pattern is, unsurprisingly, much less awkward when you start it with 9th fret A string / 11th G. 

 

It's not completely wrong. The first time through at least, it's a low F#. It does play it an octave higher on the repeats though.  Where it is wrong, is it's written in double time.

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2 hours ago, Doddy said:

It's not completely wrong. The first time through at least, it's a low F#. It does play it an octave higher on the repeats though.  Where it is wrong, is it's written in double time.

 

Thats not what I'm hearing, also if you watch the bass player in the video @33 seconds in ...

 

... looks to me like hes playing the high F# then moving down for the next note. Good spot on the timing though - it would be seriously challenging to play the octaves as 16th notes at that tempo.

Edited by bassman7755
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It might be interesting to read "The Inner Game of Music" by Barry Green which is aimed at getting over the sort of psychological blocks that get in the way of performance. 

 

I've only read the first few chapters so far but there are definite references to the sort of issues you mention above, including the ability to play a part flawlessly when not concentrating on it.

 

I have to say though that the book is quite irritating in places - I've owned it for about three years and can only bear to read a few pages at a time...

 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/848522.The_Inner_Game_of_Music

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Hi everyone,

 

Many thanks for all your suggestions. I decided to bunk off work early today and spend some time working through them all and I think I've worked out where it's going wrong - I'm playing the A octave jump too high up (B10 and A12 frets) and my fingers are getting tangled when going across the fretboard. That's happened so often that I seem to be subconsciously expecting it now.

 

I tried the suggestions of thumb and index fingers and  index and little fingers and it felt a bit odd - I'll explore it more, though.  Index and middle fingers seem to work well for me most of the time.

 

I take the point about double time, but the tempo on the chart, which I transcribed from Songsterr, is 69 rather than 138.  It has helped me to remind myself that sixteenth notes don't automatically have to be played fast and that notation has let me keep everything to two pages with room for the lyrics too - not that they're particularly complex 🙂

 

After trying different fingerings, I think the root cause was my automatically thinking that ascending patterns = going up the fretboard. Which isn't always the best way to approach it. What seems to be working best is this:

 

F# - B7 and A9 frets

A  -  E5 and D7 frets (up one, back two)

C# - A4 and G6 frets (up one, back one)

E  - A7 and G9 frets (up two)

F# - A9 and G11 frets (up two)

A  -  A0 and A12 frets

C# - E9 and D11 frets

followed by the top E on the G9 fret.

 

So I think the plan will have to be - put the chart away so I'm not trying to follow it closely - I don't think that was helping - and replace the muscle memory for that bar with the amended fingering with some intensive practice.

 

Thanks again, everyone. With a bit of luck I should be able to crack it now.

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