And not how it sounds. Although I would absolutely love to be able to say that the mistakes in my performance last night were because I was trying to make them. The song is in Gb, we break for the bridge, and then I come back in F. If only I could have had my tremolo pedal on during that; then I could say I was just doing my Henry Kaiser diminished 7th scale stutter effect. That would have been a great way to have explained away the extreme suckiness of last night. Ever have those sets where you just have to look at yourself and say, ‘Seriously.’ And then you just laugh. That was last night. Worst ever. Unfortunately, the mistakes were all my own…and I was not trying to make them.
The problem was that I was trying not to make them. I know that’s subtle, but it’s a psychological shift. You can’t avoid mistakes by trying not to make them. I don’t know why. People smarter than I am (why is it so hard to type that?) say that the phenomenon is caused because as you try not to make mistakes, all you are thinking about is the mistake. Hence, your brain just goes there, and you make them. But that just sounds stupid to me. So I choose not to believe it. (Just like Beyonce Knowles sounds stupid to me…so I choose to believe she doesn’t exist.) But the result is still the same: you can’t play flawlessly by trying not to make a mistake. You have to focus on playing the right stuff, not on not playing the wrong stuff.
(This is when I lost any respect I may have had for Beyonce. Which is zero. Well, this isn’t the actual picture, but it’s the exact same look Robert De Niro had on his face when, at his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award dinner, in the middle of tones of respected actors introducing the best acting clips of his career, out of nowhere Beyonce comes up and sings him a choreographed version of The Star Spangled Banner. It was awkward. And he had this look on his face…like, bored, but trying to be polite…but yet a little bit confused, too.)
Now that’s like, Musician 101 stuff right there. I would very much like to think that I have long ago surpassed Musician 101 stuff. But when you can’t find E, when even if you were to just hit a random string you’ve got like a 33% chance of finding it, obviously not. And this is much more honest than I was intending to be here. So let’s just keep on that path of honesty. I was nervous last night. I’d like to think that I am beyond nervousness. But when you have to chromatically slide to find Ab…you’re nervous. And I was nervous because the night was for a conference, and it was being recorded. I usually don’t get nervous during recordings; but this night was with some new people whom I’d never recorded with before, and I suppose I was nervous because I really, really wanted them to listen back to the recording and marvel at my ‘wondrous purity of tone that is possibly only surpassed by the musical genius by which the tone was played.’ Alright, now we’re getting really honest.
So what happens when you’re nervous? You stop playing intentionally. Meaning, you stop just going for it, and hitting each note with authority and purpose. And you start playing tentatively, in hopes of not making a mistake. And then what ends up happening, is you make just as many if not more mistakes as you would have if you were playing normally; but you also make all the right notes sound weak and gutless also. So then, rather than having one or two, or maybe even zero, noticeable errors, you get like, 74 errors, plus making every right note and passage sound terrible as well. Which is what I mean by making mistakes intentionally. The mistakes are going to happen no matter what. So you may as well just play intentionally and with purpose, and let those mistakes sound out with authority. When playing with confidence, not only do you make all the correct notes, sounds, and passages sound as they should, but you also take the stress off of your mind and hands, and allow yourself greater possibility of not hitting wrong notes.
I wish I had read this post before I hit my D note last night so softly that it almost ended up being a harmonic. The emphasis being on ‘almost.’ And of course, an ‘almost harmonic’ is a ‘thunk.’ Which is bad. Unless you’re Henry Kaiser. hehe No! I’m not making fun of a successful guitarist to try to make myself feel better about my ‘less than stellar musical…uh…endeavors’…meaning thunks. It’s just that he plays a lot of thunks, and some people really seem to enjoy them. I’m just simply validating those people. I’m the good guy here. Unless you were there last night. I was definitely not the good guy. More like, the antagonist of all things diatonic.
hehe Henry Kaiser.
P.S. The last few keys of the ambient pads will be finished soon…hopefully tomorrow. I was going to finish them today, but I super-glued my finger fixing a Christmas lawn decoration, and now the super glue makes weird sounds on the fretboard. Yep. I am awesome. You’d think I’d be better with my hands.