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Topic: Why is my brain doing this to me?

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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Apr 2004
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    Why is my brain doing this to me?

    I have been playing keys in bands for 16 years now. When Van Halen released "Right Now", it was about all I could do at my skill level at the time to learn it. However, I did learn it and it became 2nd nature after a while. I played it in a band for a few years and I can only remember one night, when I really flubbed it and once I had flubbed it once, I was always afraid of it happening again. It's been many years since I played it in a band and I recently started playing it again, at home, just as a review piece sort of.

    It took a few seconds and there it was, back again. I was just cruising through those 16th notes nice and steady. And then, I started to think, as I was playing; What am I playing? I never really looked at the right hand once I got the muscle memory down years ago. I always looked towards my left to make the octaved jumps from D to Bb. As soon as I looked at my right hand, to sort of visualize the pattern I was playing, I screwed up. So then I decide to sit there and one by one, pick out the notes, play it in 1/4 tempo or something like that. I couldnt do it. I could for the first twelve notes but then I'd get screwed up right at the end. I had NO conscience idea of what I had been playing for all these years. Everytime I played it, it was all muscle memory. Total auto-pilot. I finally actually had to open Cubase and record it at regular speed on auto pilot and then look back at the midi editor to figure the last 4 notes of the 16 note pattern. What the heck is all that about? Now that I know what it is, I almost want to be able to build it back up at slow speed to where I understand it as well as being able to play it. Does this make sense? Does anyone have any suggestions, as a player, how to deal with this or is this just referred to as old age? Lol.

  2. #2

    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    I'm not sure it's even old age - I think it probably happens to everyone. For the last year of my degree I learned Stravinsky's Three Movements from Petrouchka. I practised about 8 hours a day for 6 months, always with the music in front of me. What I didn't notice was that I hadn't actually looked at the music in five months - it was just there for comfort. When it came to the performance I was determined that I needed the music, because I'd never tried playing without it. About 2 minutes in I suddenly got a bit panicked due to the nerves of the situation, so I looked up at the music, which was being turned for me...and from there it all went wrong. I didn't recognise a note, having not looked at it in months; in fact I didn't even know where I was on the page. But my autopilot had just switched off, because my brain assumed I was going to override it, so my hands simply stopped playing.
    David

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    Thanks Pingu, Although I feel a bit out-ranked now that you are talking about playing Stravinsky. Lol. I would panic at the mere thought of that. But I really appreciate your story as it certainly relates to what I'm talking about. It seems like I've introduced my brain to the ability to 2nd guess my sctions and now I cant seem to turn it off again. It's like one of those pictures that can be seen two different ways but not both at the same time. I cant sem to play it and comprehend what's going on all at one time.

  4. #4

    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    I often forget how to play my own songs...
    Things I don't play regularly (I don't perform) slip away so easily.
    Often it is also the muscle-memory that I need to re-establish to get it right again.

  5. #5

    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    As I player I am plagued by thinking. Thinking has nothing to do with playing, as my piano teacher used to enjoy screaming at me. (But in a charming, supportive way.) When I had thought too much about something (meaning- I screwed up everything about apiece, even though I knew it), she would make me play the piece a note at a time and say the alphabet backward- one letter to each movement in my fingers. TRY thinking through that! Anyway, I would do it for a week at most, and then I could play it like a dream.

    Best,

    Mark

  6. #6

    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    Quote Originally Posted by aeronaut View Post
    I often forget how to play my own songs...
    Funny, I also tend to forget the very songs I have written, although, I seem to never forget some of the first songs from other artists that I learned some 25 or 30 years ago.

    About the muscle memory- I too have learned that when performing, and on "autopilot", it is better to not actually look or think about what I am doing, or I get thrown off myself.
    _______________________________________
    "I would rather compose than decompose."


    Sean C. Dockery
    www.SeanDockery.com




    Cubase 5, Komplete 6, Alchemy, PLAY, Vienna Instruments, Spectrasonics, and much more

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  7. #7
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    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    Playing Bach's Italian Concerto in about 10 days time and haven't learnt the second movement yet. Hahahahha hahaaaaa...

    Also playing some other Bach pieces too and don't even remember what one of them is at this juncture.

  8. #8

    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    All totally normal. I played synth in a live band for many years and always knew to avoid concentrating on what I was playing or I'd make a mistake. I had to leave my hands to do their thing and think about something else - the mix, the crowd, my pitiful "keyboard dancing" ...

  9. #9

    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    Eric, sounds like the left-side of your brain kicked in and started asking too many questions while the right-side was having a good ol' time...

    I wouldn't be surprised if that has something to do with it... I know that when I'm really immersed in playing -- or sometimes even just practicing scales/patterns/riffs on the guitar, for example -- I really get "zoned out". It's like a total right-brain focus... My friends in college used to call me "spaceman", because whenever I happened to be jamming along on my keyboard and they'd come in to ask if I wanted to go get dinner or whatever I'd just give them this really blank stare... like I recognized that they were there, and I could hear them talking, but my brain wasn't processing what they were saying, and certainly wasn't going to allow me to respond. I'd have to basically stop playing to "snap out of it". I also find it very difficult to speak to someone while playing the drums... part of it is the rhythmic aspect, but it's also being zoned out, so the two combined is a double whammy.

    So... while you use the term "muscle memory", I think muscle memory is part of any instrument playing, but I also think your brain is fully aware of what your hands are doing (well, it has to be, right?!)... so it's not like your fingers are just twitching along in some non-cognitive manner. I think the right-side of you brain is in total control, but perhaps the left side kicks in and starts asking a bunch of dumb questions...

  10. #10
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    Decatur Illinois
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    Re: Why is my brain doing this to me?

    Thanks for all the responses. I'm atleast feeling more normal about it.

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