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improvisation and performance

I'm a bit of a lurker but the posts on improvisation got me thinking and I 
hope some of you find 
these thoughts of interest.

The importance of being a good performer when playing in front of an 
audience is often forgotten in 
more experimental music. While I don't think there is much to be learned 
by the song and dance 
routine of pop lip syncers - I do think that being aware of one's role as 
a performer is very 

Its important to share your excitement about creating music with your 
audience. Equipment 
malfunctions, computer crashes, weird sound glitches - all these things 
that do unfortunately 
happen in a live setting can be part of making good music. You just have 
to have the right mindset 
as an improvisor and performer to make them work. When you are in your 
studio - you can just stop 
and restart, taking 30 minutes or more to solve the bug. When performing 
you have to find a way to 
make these things part of the performance if at all possible.

There's the old jazz axiom - play a wrong note - well then play it wrong 
another 3 times to make it 
seem like you did it on purpose and make it the right note. I use this all 
the time. 

A bass player friend of mine told me about something Charlie Haden told 
him. Feeling bad and just 
can't play in tune on a particular day? Just use it. Play fully out of 
tune and make that what you are 
exploring. The same could be about gear malfunctions. Gear making bizarre 
sounds - go with it - 
make your improv about exploring what the heck is coming out of your gear.

Another big thing is not to tell people that these are mistakes. If you do 
then you think of them as 
mistakes and consider it a bad performance. You just need to think of them 
as challenges adding to 
the excitement of live improv and part of the process. Often the weird 
mishaps are the most exciting 
interesting part of an improv. For me I always love the challenge of man - 
how am I gonna get out of 
this and make it musical.

For instance I was struck by some bizarre momentary impulse while 
performing at BEMF with Rick 
Walker to use a Bob Marley loop. (My sister's husband is a huge fan and 
was at the show.) It 
completely stuck out and sounded just awkward and weird to me. In the past 
I would have just 
yanked it out and hoped that people forgot about it. Now instead I kept it 
there and did everything I 
could to make it work. Rick started singing along and it was a great 
surreal moment. If it had been in 
a studio I would have just yanked it out and edited out this "mistake" 

I also think that no matter how you feel after a show it important to 
leave self reflection and criticism 
till after the show and you have hopefully had a chance to listen to your 
performance again later. So 
often I listen after a show that I think just was awful and quite like it 
given a weeks space. I think it is 
healthy as a musician to always be striving to something better and being 
dissatisfied is not a bad 
thing. You can always learn from listening to past performances. 

The issue arises when at a show you let the audience know you are not 
happy with a set. Instead of 
sharing the wonders of making music it becomes about your ego and you take 
away from listeners 
ability to enjoy your music. Self reflection later as to how the next 
performance can be better is great 
- but make sure you realize you are performing for an audience and as such 
be gracious to them for 
having taken the time to listen to your music. 

These are all performance issues and can change bad improv into good 
improv. Also I highly 
recommend reading the book Effortless Mastery - 

While I don't agree with all the book says it makes some great points 
about how to practice being in 
the zone for performing.