It’s Saturday night and you’re just about to go on stage to play a high energy gig. The drummer counts you in and as the fanfare begins you are beginning to feel a bit tense. The band is kicking it old school and as you get closer and closer to your 16 bar bass guitar feature you’ve noticed a slight decrease in stamina followed by tightness in your shoulders , while your fingers feel like they are starting to cramp up. When the big moment happens the tension consumes you and your performance is uninspiring as a result. What happened? Why does this always happen in your big bass moment? If you are lucky, a forward thinking teacher might point out to you that you are periodically holding your breath when you play!
Breathing is the key to playing bass guitar in a relaxed manner, as well as developing the power of focus (being in the moment) that enhances the experience of both practice and performance. Why is breathing so important? Without breath, you have no life! Breathing is tantamount to an electric appliance receiving power from the wall socket. Imagine what would happen if your amp was unplugged in the middle of a gig? No power- no sound! When we start to get nervous and tense, the first thing that is affected is our breathing. It starts to get shorter and shorter, followed by intermittent periods of holding your breath.
To instantaneously focus and be in the present moment, make yourself aware of your breath and begin to elongate it. When you inhale your stomach should expand. Upon exhaling, your stomach should contract. To make sure you are breathing from your stomach – not your chest – place both hands on your stomach as you breathe. As you exhale make sure to sound out an audible noise; focusing on this sound vibration will ground you and put you in the present moment. Do this exercise everyday for five minutes without your bass. Either sit or stand, focus on a spot on the wall and breathe in and out, only concentrating on your breath for the entire duration. You will notice an increased awareness of focused concentration (associated while practicing and disassociated while performing) within 3-weeks of practicing this drill.
Learning how to breathe properly is the key to practicing and performing. This concept aligns your energy levels with the body, mind and spirit. Think about it- when you focus on breathing you are right in the present moment. Concentration, relaxation and awareness help to deal with those unwanted nerves and will help to put you back on track enabling you to create some memorable musical performances!
All the Bass!