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!

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. Rob Doane

    Right on! The stage is a whole different world and I’ve experienced the snowball effect from a little mistake that would have been easily shrugged off during rehearsal. It makes you want to crawl in a hole and puke. I’ve also grown leaps and bounds by getting out there in front of people. The only way to learn how to play on a stage is to play on a stage but DO NOT go there unprepared!

  2. Ask Damian Erskine: Confidence: Q: I’m a newbie and a beginner bassist from Bangladesh. I’m playing (or you can sa…
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  3. Good word of advance. Thank you for this bit of information because it is right were i am regarding my development with the praise band i am trying to join.

    My story is a slight difference but the same which is, “How do you handle trying to be part of an ensemble where the lead musician, the piano player, cannot assist in musical direction and development even when you are developing as a bassist? However, i see that answer is give.

    Have a blessed day.

  4. richard

    performing live for an audience is the absolute best. My only additional advice, which Damian hints at, is the fact that if you flub here or there, most in the audience will not even realize it. Forget your mistakes and just keep playing. After the gig you can always debrief with the band and discuss what went wrong and what went right.

    • Thanks a lot….:) I’m trying to bang my head while practicing……and jump and play style…:P but its only hampering my playing….:) thats why…I’m just old fashioned…..but trying to create something new….;)

  5. a bass by any other name

    There’s a step between the practice hall and the gig: dress rehearsals in front of a small audience. IOW: the band should have friends show up for practice. This sounds somewhat stupid, but it’s like training wheels: a good friend won’t purposely hurt your feelings; a great friend will tell you that you’re screwing up without hurting your feelings. Both situations are better than bombing in front of a large group of people.
    BTW: you will make mistakes. a amateur is thrown by tem, a pro goes on like it never happened – a jazz bassist repeats it and turns it into their solo…