This is a post from double bassist from Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music student Nicholas Hart. Nick will be contributing weekly posts to the bass blog about life as a music student in one of the nation’s most exclusive programs. I think readers will find this different perspective on the double bass world and the music world in general to be quite interesting, and I am looking forward to reading these posts. You will be able to read all of Nick’s contributions under the articles link in the menubar or in the sidebar under contributors. Enjoy!
For me, the most difficult part of playing the bass has always been the mental part of it. Studying to be a musician is working on achieving perfection. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely to play perfectly, and if we do it is very unlikely to replicate it. So when I’m playing I always beat myself up about mistakes and this leads to more and more mistakes. The key to playing the best we can play, is taking a deep breath, going into our own world, and saying to ourselves, I am going to play the best that I can play. That is a much more obtainable goal.
As a person, in every day life, we portray our thoughts in our facial and body expressions. This also means that as bass players, we need to be actors and do one of two things, hide our inner thoughts while performing and just playing the instrument, or convince ourselves entirely that what we are playing is perfect.
When I play, I try my hardest to get into a place that is similar to a runner’s high. If I know my music well enough, and put my time in, then when I perform I am in this environment and musical high where the only thing that is happening is making music. I am experiencing the music so deeply that nothing else around me is even noticeable. Obviously this doesn’t always happen. Many times when I perform I am not completely comfortable with the piece or am playing in studio class or for fellow bass students and the piece is not up to performance level, which makes it impossible for me to mentally enter that performance high.
These mental aspects of playing have helped my playing tenfold since I have arrived at school. To tell yourself that this is me, and the way I play is an expression of myself, and that who I am playing for is going to have to take it or leave it, is the key to playing well. Of course once again, this is much easier said than done. But our instruments are just tools – tools that we use to express our emotions, our love for the music, and the time and effort we have put into making music our way of life. If we are stressed out, upset or depressed, that will come through in our playing, and by get into a consistent mental state and using our experiences we can greatly improve our playing.
Basically, when playing, we need to stay as positive as we possibly can. Say to yourself that I am going to play my best and whatever the result is will be just fine. If we can break down that barrier and just play the bass, we will be the best players we can be and as successful as we possibly can.
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