Have you ever had a dream where you’re in a moment of great pressure, and you freeze up? You blow that one big moment when you needed to rise to the occasion and kill it. While I am not going to opine on what these dreams mean to your psyche or mental health, I will however talk about the mental aspect of playing that really affects players more then you think.
I have not been immune to the occasional psych-out, and one song that has always been a culprit for me is called ‘Detonation’. The verse has a tail end that outlines some dissonant chords with a 16th note triplet feel, sliding back and forth from the last note of one chord into the next of the next all in one bar. It happens so fast live that a bum note might not even be heard with all the sonic chaos that a live metal band brings. The problem I was having was being able to tell if I was sliding into the right chords. During practice and at home you can second-guess yourself, slow parts down, consult with a band mate about a part, or even check your tabs online (hey, sometimes you forget parts after a few years). In a live setting you can’t redo it, or I should say it’s not very professional to stop a song if a mistake happens, the show must go on as they say. So add together a fairly difficult part that I was once able to play with ease, throw in the pressure of playing it live night after night, and then you start to see and hear a problem brewing. Once you’ve missed a part a few times you start to dread that part of the set, and once you’re thinking about a part that far in advance, you’re bound to miss it.
The first thing you have to do is not stress about the part or the fact that you are human and bound to make mistakes. This won’t fix the problem per se, but there is no need to be as critical on yourself when a mistake happens. Music is fun, don’t stress about it. Practice and patience is where the real solution to the problem is at. I have found that nine times out of 10 when things are getting sloppy, it’s usually a tempo issue. The last thing I can suggest is not change up many variables in your playing style and instrument settings. I feel confident knowing that what I have set up rig-wise is going to be the same every night and it helps my playing immensely. I can tell if something is out of whack without even plugging it in and that is how you need to be with your instrument. Be one with the bass.