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Live Performance Archives

Jam Session Etiquette
Ask Damian Erskine

Jam Session Etiquette

Q: I have never been to a random, strangers-in-the-night jazz jam as a bass player and a lot of jams tend to have their set bass player (ahem – often the organizer of said jam – ahem). What’s the etiquette if you just want to walk a few tunes with everybody? A: First of all, I love your, “random, strangers-in-the-night”...

Accompanying “Smaller” Instruments on Bass
Ask Damian Erskine

Accompanying “Smaller” Instruments on Bass

Q: I have a question in regards to the best way to accompany “light sounding” instruments such as a ukulele, mandolin, banjo, or even just auxiliary percussion. I find that whenever I’m playing with these types of instruments I have to limit my style to playing more open, simple lines so as to not drown out the other instrument. The...

The Lightbulb Moment: Never Have I Ever…
The Lightbulb Moment

The Lightbulb Moment: Never Have I Ever…

Ah, there’s nothing like a 4:30 load in for a 7pm show. At a local club. With backline. That means that you arrive at the gig, hope that all of the other band members show up, watch the soundman set up the stage, and do a quick check before the doors open. In other words, hurry up and wait. This...

Challenges to Good Intonation in a Live Situation
The Lowdown with Dr. D

Challenges to Good Intonation in a Live Situation

Good intonation is a lifelong concern for every double bassist. We train our ears, we work constantly to match pitch, and we devote large sections of our individual practice sessions to improving it. Among other things, the sheer size of the instrument demands our constant attention to pitch. Sometimes though, even players who normally have impeccable intonation can have issues...

Playing Under Pressure and Facing Your Fears
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing Under Pressure and Facing Your Fears

Q: I’ve been playing electric bass for about five years, and I’m currently attending the third year in a Music Conservatory. When I play music while other musicians observe me (not the members of the band), I become quite uncomfortable. I feel judged, and my heart starts pounding, especially if it’s someone I respect like a teacher or a skilled...

Overcoming Stage Fright
I Wish I Knew That

Overcoming Stage Fright

Do you ever get nervous about performances? I certainly do. I’ll spend hours and hours learning material, charting it out, listening to it in the car, and getting everything in order for the gig, and even after all of that, I’ll still be nervous! For some reason, I think that everyone else will be cool as a cucumber, right? Wrong....

Performing Live: Memorization vs. Reading vs. Improvisation
Ask Damian Erskine

Performing Live: Memorization vs. Reading vs. Improvisation

Q: I’m not a professional musician, but lately I’ve been performing a lot more often. I play both upright bass and bass guitar, and I like to play just about any style of music: pop, funk, folk, jazz. These two things have made me somewhat “in demand” in part-timers’ circles and has led me to get involved in two or...

Stage Volume: Turn Up and Play Light (and Other Considerations)
Ask Damian Erskine

Stage Volume: Turn Up and Play Light (and Other Considerations)

Q: In hard rock and metal music, many players – including me – resort to playing with a heavy right hand to cut through the mix of distortion. As time goes by my right wrist starts to experience some pain and I’m thinking I should be playing lighter. Jeff Berlin and Gary Willis have been advocating “turn up and play...

DI, Mic or Both? Perspectives from Bassists and Engineers
Ask Damian Erskine

DI, Mic or Both? Perspectives from Bassists and Engineers

Q: Could you do an article or a poll about whether to mic your bass amp during live gigs or to use a direct line into the mixer? I’ve heard opinions on both sides. A: I definitely have my own thoughts and opinions based on my experiences, and I’ve also asked some engineers this question at various gigs lately to...

Playing a Gig with No Prep Time: A Guide for Bass Players
Ask Damian Erskine

Playing a Gig with No Prep Time: A Guide for Bass Players

Q: I will soon be filling in on a gig with no rehearsals or charts. I’m a little freaked out. They said we’d get a few minutes during sound check to run through a tune or two, but how can I expect to play well when I can’t really prepare? A: I feel your pain, friend! In the scenario you...