Disoriented while playing?

DrumPhil

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It certainly can happen during a jam, especially when some of the players are not familiar with each other or not listening hard enough, that too many players can go "out" at the same moment - and the sense of time really falls apart. If that happens, you, the uncomfortable drummer, really have three main options.

1. keep playing the time where you think it was, and see if the others come back to you
2. drop down to just quarter notes on the ride until the chaos subsides and someone indicates where the One is again
3. drop out entirely and let the freedom (AKA chaos) happen without you

Any of those options can work, or can lead to a train wreck. Much depends on whether anyone else in the band is listening. If you have some inexperienced players trying to prove themselves, they might be causing the music more harm than good. Sometimes the best move is to step back and let them declare what they have going on. If it is so good it's beyond your ability, then it's better that you don't get in the way. If it's so bad that they are making a fool of themselves, then there's no reason for you to go with them when they fall on their face.

When chaos is looming, I usually revert to just quarter notes and keep my ears open. Typically it doesn't take long before something falls back into place and the groove can be reestablished. That's the adventure of a live jam!
 

Nechama

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HOWEVER: When those factors are removed I’ve noticed it happening when I am so deep in the pocket I am covered in sonic lint. It means something good is happening, that the music is so solid I’m in a hypnotic state, particularly if I’m locked with the bassist.

In reality, I think I’m struggling with giving into what can only be defined as a musical trance.
Unfortunately, I think I’m about 10,000 practice hours away from having this problem.
 

Matched Gripper

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I’ve had an unpleasant experience twice while playing at a jam session, hoping someone can tell me what’s going on and what I can do about it.

Both times I became disoriented as to time. Rationally I knew that I was keeping time (because I was locked in with the bass player, for example), but I couldn’t feel it or hear how my time was in sync with the music. I’ve heard that pilots can become disoriented so that they can’t tell up from down - this felt like that.

This has never happened to me in other settings. I’m a beginner and quite nervous about playing in public, so maybe it’s just stage fright. But if anyone’s had this experience and overcome it, would love to hear how.
Lack of familiarity with the situation - not recognizing what’s going on around you - can cause disorientation. You did the right thing to focus the bass player which gave you a reference to lock in with. With a little more experience, you’ll be fine. In fact, this experience may be all the experience you need.
 

Sinclair

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I’m a beginner and quite nervous about playing in public,
This is the reason. Nerves can do amazing things, including sharpen your awareness if you can control them.
Put yourself in the same position more often and my bet is your symptoms will diminish each time.
 

gwert

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This may sound crazy but make sure you are breathing. With the nerves and the concentration on playing with a band, your breathing could become irregular and the tension and lack of oxygen could lead to some disorientation.
 

RIDDIM

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Hopefully it's not physiological.

If it isn't, then remember to sing the form in your head all the time. It's not enough just to know the groove; we have to know what everyone else is doing and why. Short term, get in the habit of burning the melody into your brain ASAP. Longer-term, that means knowing everyone else's parts and paying attention to how they complement the melody and what everyone else does. There should be solid musical reasons for what we all do.

You're not the first person to have form issues and you won't be the last. Just recognize and deal with it and these sorts of things will be less frequent.

Good luck.
 

Nechama

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Thanks for the words of wisdom, all. Likeliest scenario seems to be that a combination of nerves and trying to concentrate on lots of things at once is overloading my brain. Appreciate the tips on keeping track of form - I’m working on that.
 

hardbat

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There are two different things mentioned in this thread. One is getting lost in the beat, which can be a magical, exhilarating event that in my experience only happens rarely. The other is getting lost in the form which should be avoided at all costs. It is difficult to make good musical contributions if you don't know where in the music you are. The good news is that with modest practice you can greatly improve in this area... the suggestion to sing the melody to yourself while the other players are soloing is the best suggestion. Another is to practice this by yourself, possibly mapping out the structure of the tune on paper so that you can "visualize" it in addition to hearing it, and thus being increasingly prepared when you play in the group. Working to maintain a relaxed focus while playing is also something to strive for.
 

Nechama

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When I’m lost in the form, I can still hear the rhythm of the tune and the shape of phrases, and I can tell whether my time is in sync with the music. I lost all of that. It was like I was listening to a free-association stream of notes, and for all my ears were telling me, I could have totally turned the beat around. Except my brain had good reason to think I hadn’t.

Sorry, I know this isn’t very clear, but that’s the best I can describe it.
Reposting what I shared earlier. This was a different problem from “lost in the form.”
 

Nechama

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? The paragraph started with the words "when I'm lost in the form..."
I was trying to explain that when I’m lost in the form I have a different experience from what I’m describing here. I know what that feels like, and this is something else.
 

hefty

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This is the reason. Nerves can do amazing things, including sharpen your awareness if you can control them.
Put yourself in the same position more often and my bet is your symptoms will diminish each time.
Agreed. As an aside, and maybe getting off topic a bit, it's been shown that you can improve your performance (in whatever) just by telling yourself you're excited whenever you're nervous. I think saying it out loud even is important. I've been doing it for a while and it's not earth-shattering but I find it does help. Check it:

 

Nechama

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Agreed. As an aside, and maybe getting off topic a bit, it's been shown that you can improve your performance (in whatever) just by telling yourself you're excited whenever you're nervous.
So you’re saying that my habit of telling myself that I’m terrified may not be the best. Duly noted. :)
 

Mack2

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I’ve had an unpleasant experience twice while playing at a jam session, hoping someone can tell me what’s going on and what I can do about it.

Both times I became disoriented as to time. Rationally I knew that I was keeping time (because I was locked in with the bass player, for example), but I couldn’t feel it or hear how my time was in sync with the music. I’ve heard that pilots can become disoriented so that they can’t tell up from down - this felt like that.

Editing to clarify: This wasn’t a problem of being lost in the form. When that’s the case I can still hear the rhythm of the tune and the shape of the phrases, and I can tell if my time is in sync with the music. I lost all of that. My brain knew that I was playing hi-hats on 2 and 4 but my ears couldn’t hear it.

This has never happened to me in other settings. I’m a beginner and quite nervous about playing in public, so maybe it’s just stage fright. But if anyone’s had this experience and overcome it, would love to hear how.
I have had disorientation happen due to kit being setup on a non-level surface. We had a gig downtown, closed street setting. Streets are canted to facilitate rain runoff and drainage.
 


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