Ask Damian Erskine: Confidence
Q: I’m a newbie and a beginner bassist from Bangladesh. I’m playing (or you can say I’m practicing) with a progressive/metal core rock band. I’m happy with the band, as they are all my friends. But the band leader says I’m not ready to perform on a gig, and that I’m the weakest one, although my bandmates disagree. I’m pretty confident that I can rock the stage, even with my little knowledge. What can I do in this situation?
A: Putting yourself out there (especially as a bandleader) on the stage and exposing yourself to critique is one of the scariest steps one can take in the beginning of their development/career. It is also one of the most important, so it’s good that he really wants to get it right.
My advice to you would simply be to prove him wrong by virtue of your own development. Spend as much time as possible shedding not just the material but also really working on your bass playing/sense of time/facility/tone in order to really start wowing him during rehearsals. If you can prove that you’ve really been working and are developing at a steady pace, this should alleviate his anxiety about your ability to really ‘bring it’, when the time comes.
I’ve also always believed that development increases exponentially once one begins to play on a stage. It’s a very different experience than the practice room. The sound is different, the energy is different but your own perceptions are also a little different. When you practice, a mistake can be shrugged off. When you’re on stage, it becomes amplified in your own mind and can really distract you or play with your confidence if you’re not careful. I’ve seen a lot of guys (primarily when they first start gigging) make a small mistake but then get distracted by it and continue to think about it, which leads to more mistakes… snow-balling into a poor performance.
All you can do is do the best you can do! Make sure that you are practicing the material until you know it so well that you couldn’t mess it up if you tried. In addition, make sure that you continue to grow in every way possible. Study, transcribe, explore the bass and you’re playing will reflect that. Eventually, no one will worry about you!