So I will say that quarantine has forced me to do things I typically wouldn't, including making and uploading a video of myself playing a memorized solo. But I love Norman so much and really appreciate the fact that Chris gives such wonderful feedback. I played these first two solos a million times after I watched the lessons and finally pulled out the phone for a go. I don't like the task of recording and then playing - I find it impossible not to think about. Mostly I was trying to keep everything loose (no tension). Not my best go, but not horrible. Thanks for watching!
Wooo! Great job Christopher! I was feeling the spirit for sure! The main thing that I'm seeing is that you are flipping your pick direction occasionally and when that happens the musical flow gets disrupted. It happens at around 0:20 and again at around 0:23. I think if you can straighten that out it will help you stay strong and in the flow. It appears to get flipped again around 0:43 but the music still sounds just as strong through that part. It's sounding great though, keep it going!
Correcting my natural pick direction tendencies is tough, but worth it. For some reason I like to end a lot of phrases on an upstroke. I pick out the licks by ear and then need to unlearn them when I correct pick direction. But it's worth it when you speed things up. Thank you for unlocking Norman!
Great! Yeah, some of these physical habits get established, calcify a bit and can take a bit of time to unlearn, but the payoff is that things that were previously really hard often become almost effortless. Of course, you have to put in the effort to learn any new material, but it's great to have a physical mechanism that is reliable and just "works!"
I'd passed over this lesson initially and I just came back to it and I'm glad I did. More and more I've been trying to be mindful of tension during live performance and all of the ideas in this lesson are just more tools in the toolbox, so to speak. Thanks for it. Chris, I wonder if you can share a bit about how to deal with the natural things that create physical tension during live performance. For example, when I'm playing in a large string band and I'm about to take a break, I tend to get caught in the "I need to be louder" frame of mind and soon my right hand will be stiff with tension. Or just knowing that the audiences' musical attention is now focused on me sometimes creates higher levels of anxiety and therefore more tension (and less-great playing). Basically I'm asking if you have any tricks to getting the ideas in this lesson out of the practice room and onto the stage.
Those are great questions that I am curious about too!
Hey Christopher, great questions indeed! The natural fight or flight stress response can sometimes kick in and make you feel like no matter how mindful you are trying to be you're gonna wind up tense. I have a few concentration techniques that I tend to use. The first one is making sure that I'm remembering to breathe. There's nothing more foundational than that and yet we sometimes hold our breath and it causes tension. So I have gotten in the habit of taking a calm breath and closing my eyes - even for just a brief moment - before I have to play a solo or a difficult technical passage. I might also check in with my feet's connection to the earth (the connection is always solid) and register if my pelvis feels balanced and neutral (it always does). Basically, I focus by checking in with my body to make sure that all of these foundational elements are ok. Unless something is really wrong, they're always going to be ok. This serves to ground me and bring me to the present.
If you tend to get stage fright you might also rehearse the on-stage scenario in your mind. Picture yourself onstage and imagine everything going exactly as you would want it to go, including staying relaxed and in a focused flow-state. Or, when you’re imagining how it could go you might ask yourself what the worst thing that could happen would be if you didn’t play well. If you follow that train of logic you’ll find that the worst case scenario really isn’t a big deal. You’ll still be your same self, your friends and family will still love you just as much and the sky won’t fall down. Ultimately, you’ll realize that playing well or not well in that moment doesn’t actually define who you are. So you might as well relax and enjoy yourself and the experience of being around your friends/bandmates/audience/whoever.
There is a GREAT book called The Inner Game of Tennis. I HIGHLY recommend that you read it. It is excellent and it deals in depth with exactly the issues that you are asking about.
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