Comeback low confidence

Discussion in 'The Rehearsal Room' started by GER, Oct 27, 2017.

  1. GER

    GER Member

    Hi, I am about 9 months into comeback after 15 year break, and am finding confidence to be an issue. I was always a confident player before, but now find I lack confidence, especially in things like section rehearsals, and shy away from taking solo parts, even if they are well within my capabilities. Just wondered if anyone else has gone through this and how did you deal with it?
  2. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    It's difficult because we're all different and in many cases we find different ways to draw strength from situations - or don't, as seems the case for many who are happy wallowing in it.... If you're looking for solutions, there's probably enough positivity for you to find solutions, so you're on a good path.

    I can't speak for such a long break, but when I came back to playing again (almost 4 years ago now, having not played for 4-5 years before that) it was a combination of accepting where my playing was (and that it wouldn't be anywhere near perfect) and telling myself (not entirely truthfully) that my past self wouldn't have made them... which motivated me to keep practicing - the promise of playing better in future (if I'd done it before, I could do it again) made me more relaxed about any flaws in the present.
    But then I'm a naturally competitive person and it was a way of firing myself up to practice and improve more (if I'm honest, I was probably significantly better than my previous best before I stopped telling myself that!) whilst taking a little pressure off myself by seeing any mistakes as a temporary state and therefore unimportant - and then having practiced and improved, everything got easier anyway.

    I think this is one of those situations where your perspective is everything - it's easy to remember mistakes in a situation where you feel more pressure (whether it's public performance or just playing solo passages in a sectional) and get a complex over it...
    Being aware that you're giving yourself over a hard time over something that isn't that unusual (making little mistakes) because of the context can help - turning it on it's head can be helpful for some people (for example, go in not caring about mistakes and just play confidently - chances are, less mistakes will happen... and then you can tell yourself that you actually play better under such conditions - which reinforces a more positive attitude).

    Maybe consider putting yourself into some slightly more uncomfortable situations - give yourself a little push beyond in order to make the more common situations feel like less of a deal... accept a standup solo, go for a blow with a stronger band (or dep with), maybe look at a local solo contest or something like that.

    Ultimately, reading this back, it pretty much comes down to manipulating yourself in order to try and create an illusion of comfort that can then in turn create actual comfort... easier said than done, I suppose...
    Hsop likes this.
  3. Hsop

    Hsop Member


    As you mention you feel that you were a confident player before. Personally I believe that if we had a skill or ability previously then we can get it back. You mention that the music is within your capabilities so you have faith in your ability which is a great place for your mind to be. Other players want you to do well and will hopefully be supportive of your playing and give you positive feedback. We are part of the same team and want success for each other. One thing that helped me recently was when I had a few lessons with an excellent cornet player and teacher. I had never had one to one lessons before and this was just a chance for me to get some feedback and a chance to improve in a few areas (even though I'm 39 now!). The encouragement and help he gave me certainly improved my confidence and I feel better placed to play solo parts and exposed music without so much nerves now. Ultimately everybody makes mistakes, even the best players and bands so I try not to let a few slips now and again distract from the good parts.

    All the best :)
  4. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    From my perspective nine months into a comeback really isn’t very long at all, I respectfully suggest that you take a much longer term view that celebrates the progress you have made whilst taking a pragmatic look at how you might progress even further forwards.

    Getting access to a teacher who is both able and right for you too isn’t easy for many of us. I have been fortunate in getting the occasional lesson from such a person and their influence has really helped me on, so if you can find someone similar then I believe that you will have a similarly positive result - but be very aware that you have to choose carefully. It is, in my experience, possible to make significant progress without a teacher, but expect progress to be somewhat slower. There is a lot of material available to help you learn in isolation from others, well that’s my experience, so don’t be overly concerned if you have to ‘teach yourself’.

    Attitude and preparation are, in my experience, fundamental to having a good rehearsal. I take the view that whilst not everything that comes out of my Bell is perfection I am doing and will do my best for the Band and Conductor; no one can ask for more than that and if they do or (non constructively) criticise then the response from me will not necessarily be gentlemanly - in short a ‘get lost’ attitude towards critics. However I balance such an attitude by both working jolly hard between rehearsals and then during them too; again, who could reasonably ask for more? Should I play something incorrectly I make a note (record) of it, as something to work on at home, and quickly move on to concentrate on what’s coming next. You might find that my model works for you too.

    Both being in the Band that is right for you and visiting other bands/depping are important. Over time we change as we play and hence can need to move, and we also relate to some groups and conductors better than others; well that’s what I’ve found to be the case and working with it has been very helpful to me. The current band that I’m in might not have been right for me earlier but ‘now’ I have made strides forward in my playing with them. Visiting other bands/depping is important (Edit. was “Depping is important”) because it exposes you to other conductors, music and players, and because it might introduce you to a group who you would be better suited to at some period in time. To my mind there is a lot right and little wrong with occasionally questioning how well your current band serves you, and then what the alternatives might or might not be.

    I hope that those ‘three’ areas mentioned above are a help, sorry if you know some or all of it already. Of the three I would suggest that attitude and preparation are the most important. Be bold, be brave and most of all be well prepared.

    Good luck and all the best, 2T.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2017
    Repman likes this.
  5. Repman

    Repman New Member

    Hi Ger

    As you know we're very much in the same boat, although I'm not having the same issues as you where I'm happy that I'm within my capabilities.

    Where I struggle is where I think I should be more competent by now. Just over 12 months back and I feel like my top notes A-C should be coming easier. Also find myself struggling with valve speed on runs with tricky key sigs.

    I don't mind so much struggling with double & triple tonguing as I never learned that first time around and self teaching from youtube is never going to be ideal. I expect that to be a long road.

    Playing in an unregistered band is useful as there is less pressure.

    I just wonder if we just need a bit more patience. it is difficult to approach more experienced players and say "how am I doing". Personally I wouldn't mind a warts and all appraisal, but not everyone will give you that, I suppose.

    2T makes in interesting point about depping, but I'm not sure whether I should offer to dep for any higher than 4th section bands and I suspect my lack of experience may be a handicap.
  6. Tom-King

    Tom-King Well-Known Member

    Ok so warts and all... It sounds like you're being too hard on yourself.

    Lots of players never find their high A to C register particularly easy - sure, make a note of it as something to work on, but don't feel too disheartened about it being hard work in the now.
    Likewise for finger speed on runs in nasty keys - most of us never find them easy, it often takes practice to get those runs under the fingers properly (even in champ section, most of us have to take those parts home and put the hours in on them).

    The self-critical outlook is useful when it comes to finding things to practice, but it's easy to take it so far that you don't see the good.

    As far as depping with other bands... There isn't necessarily a limit to what section bands you can play with, they're not going to ask for references - it can't hurt to ask about going along for a blow with a few bands in 4th and then maybe 3rd if you feel up to it or whatever... It could be great experience :)

    All the best
    Jack E and Repman like this.
  7. 2nd tenor

    2nd tenor Well-Known Member

    I have edited my post above to repeat the earlier phrase “visiting other bands/depping” - I had inadvertently shortened it. If and when you visit your host its players and MD will get a feel for who you are and what you can do. If after attending their rehearsals they then request that you dep for them then they accept you for the skills that you can offer and the person that you are. I find it best to regard it as their choice, their evaluation and not a matter for me to be too concerned about (other than doing my best to justify any confidence that they might place in me).

    With regard to notes above the stave and difficult key signatures you are not alone in struggling. I think that you expect too much of yourself and that in time and with focussed practice your current difficulties will slowly diminish. I have used Complete Method by Wright and Round, it has exercises in various keys. It has helped me with speed, range and fingering (I play valves as well as slides) and I anticipate it will help you too. Scales can help range extension as can playing tunes up some notes or even an octave (select something low and simple). I’ve found the earlier/easier books in the Winners series (Bb Trombone books in bass clef) to be excellent for range extension; the tunes use the higher part of and initial spaces above the bass Clef stave so play the tunes as if they were written in treble clef and add two/three sharps (experiment, drop flats) to the key signature - works for me but YMMV. Of course being able to get the high notes will be important at some point but if your parts don’t call for them yet, or infrequently so, I wouldn’t worry too much. Play to the best of your ability, prepare for rehearsals, work at keeping the MD happy and all will likely be well.

    I hope the above is a help, it’s just my own experience and yours might be different.

    All the best, 2T.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2017
  8. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    YES, absolutely!! And when you find out how develop it, Repman, please let me know, 'cos I haven't found anywhere round here that does a crash course . . . ;)

    But, seriously, what I find puts it in perspective is to listen to beginners trying to get a note at all - and remembering how it was for me (on baritone) trying to play C Major, from bottom C up to the dizzy heights of open G on the second line . . . :eek: :confused: o_O :oops:

    When you're looking at the peak of Mount Everest, and it's still 12,000 feet above you, it's worth glancing down to remind yourself that you have already climbed 16,000 feet.

    HTH, and best regards,

    2nd tenor, Tom-King and Repman like this.
  9. GER

    GER Member

    Many thanks to everyone for your replies, and your support. I think Toms headline comment and Jack's comment re Mount Everest sums it all up. 2T, I completely agree regarding whether the band is the right one for you, I was with another band when I first started, and soon realised the set up there was not the right one for me. In respect of 'depping' I have done a little, but am apprehensive about just walking into a band room, although this is just something I need to get over, I have not met anything but friendly faces when I have.
    Once again many thanks for your help, I think this a page I can revisit when my confidence flags, you have helped me put things into perspective, It's easy to remember your past acheivements, and to forget your past mistakes, and easier still to remember your present mistakes, and compare yourself to your past acheivements. Going forward my mindset will be to forget the past (when playing) what you can do today is what matters.
    Repman, 2nd tenor and Jack E like this.
  10. cosmic

    cosmic New Member

    I'm in exactly the same boat. The night before the first rehearsal I woke up worried about making a fool of myself. Muscle memory is a clever thing though eh? I just keep pushing through the nerves and practicing hard and it's getting better and better. For me it came down to whether I want to play and whether I enjoy it. You don't HAVE to play anymore, it's absolutely up to you. I'm sure you're great though!
  11. AMbrass1

    AMbrass1 New Member

    Fake it til you make it worked for me. One hopes that the conductor understands and ensures there is an environment for developing players. Alas as we all know that is not the case in some places ego's can be abound as we all know.
  12. GER

    GER Member

    You're absolutely right, we all don't have to, we do it because we want to, and thats why it's great to have forums like this, where you can draw on other peoples experiences/advice to help us on our journey.
    Best of luck, keep pushing the barriers, and many thanks for your comments, they are much appreciated.
  13. GER

    GER Member

    That makes me smile, I'd love to know if anybody could put their hand on their heart and say they had never done that:):). In respect of playing in bands full of big ego's been there, done that, didn't like it, won't do it again.
  14. Emb_Enh

    Emb_Enh Member

    I thought this might be helpful for some....

    The Relationship between The Brain and Self-Confidence
    Our subconscious minds absorb messages and conclusions at a very young age. The subconscious mind is not set up to rationalize what it records. It simply takes in the information gathered from our five senses and records it like a tape player.
    The Relationship between The Brain and Self-Confidence

    Rgds Rod
    GER and Jack E like this.
  15. Lucinda Lewis

    Lucinda Lewis New Member

    When a player doesn't have a regular performing schedule and is, therefore, not exposed to the daily mental and physical stresses of a full-time performer, it can be quite unsettling and a shock to the system to go from a controlled practice-room environment into a structured situation like a rehearsal, where you have to play in real-world dynamics and in ensemble with other musicians. Obviously, an avid, non-professional player can't bring a rehearsal/performance environment into his practice room; however, he can improve his performance confidence by the way he physically and mentally approaches his preparation.

    When you are preparing for a performance, your daily practice sessions gradually have to be structured to match the physical demands and dynamic range of the music you will be performing and be equal to the anticipated duration of the performance. Many players use their daily practice sessions to work on difficult technical passages. If you have a regular performing schedule, that kind of target preparation works. If you don't have regular concert opportunities, then consider practicing along with a recording of the music you will be performing, or play through each work in full performance attitude and dynamics. It can be especially helpful to practice with a recording. Doing so allows a player to hear the music/harmony/intonation/tempo in real time and trains him to play with a performance mentality. The caveat here is that if a player isn't used to playing for long durations or in performance dynamics, then he needs to build up his endurance to do that. At least two weeks before an upcoming performance, a player should begin expanding both his capacity to play the concert repertoire for longer stretches of time and in full concert dynamics.

    Ultimately, performing is stressful; however, the more a player tries to replicate the physical demands of performing in his practice room, the more his mind is focused and prepared to weather it in front of an audience.
    Lucinda Lewis
  16. blakeyboy

    blakeyboy Member

    Hi Ger,

    I’m 7 months back into only having a year off, for lots of reasons but mainly I have ear issues, and I also went back from playing horn to playing my native cornet.

    Now, whereas I think I’m probably more gung-ho about it than I can read from your comments, I still feel the same concerns that ‘I’m not going to be the player I was’, ‘will my upper register ever come back’, ‘I cannot control my tuning like I could’, etc. Each rehearsal is different for me, but I’ve settled on a mouthpiece that works for me now and I’m having more strong rehearsals with band than weak ones, I’ve even played solos and principal during this time.

    I’ve had such a great deal of support and encouragement from my fellow players and it really doesn’t hurt to express that you’re feeling a little exposed in certain areas but also let them reassure you that you will be fine and are totally capable. As other members have said before, musical memory is an astounding thing and it will kick in. Mines a little like an old car in the winter at the moment, starts the first time most days but others it takes a bit of work to get going.

    I definitely think a lot of what has hindered me over that time is mental, some tuning/intonation, but mainly me being my own worst enemy, so just keep plugging away, tell yourself you will/can do it, also home practice will help you rid a lot of your fears on that stand not in the band room.

    It’s a slog and takes each player a differing timescale to be comfortable again so just keep at it, be confident where you feel it and in the other places just do your best as that is all you can do. Your best will be better as time passes mate.

    Good luck with it
    GER and Jack E like this.
  17. Mesmerist

    Mesmerist Well-Known Member

    I'm a year and a half into playing after a 5 year break. Due to poorly bandsmen (we've been unlucky!) I got moved onto tenor horn 3 weeks ago. Did Rochdale Contest last Sunday and although my right leg wobbled all the way through I actually enjoyed the experience for the first time EVER and even thought at one point "ooh I love this bit, have a listen to us horns now Mr Adjudicator!" Can only put it down to moving off cornet and finding the horn so much easier (probably only temporary while I adjust). Worth a try on a bigger instrument maybe? Cornet is a technical beast and unforgiving.
    Jack E likes this.
  18. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    I can well believe you noticed the difference, Mesmerist. Last spring, due to serious breathing problems, I found I couldn't provide enough air to get a decent sound out of my baritone without being totally exhausted after 10 minutes - so I went the other way, up to tenor horn. Although it seemed to need a great deal more pressure, it took a lot less volume of air, and (oddly enough) I found I could manage (and it meant that my sight reading didn't go out the window, and I didn't end up climbing the walls with frustration at not being able to play at all!).

    By last month, the docs had finally got my lung problems under control, and I was able to switch back to baritone - and now that I'm able to provide a decent volume of air, I was astonished at how much easier it was to play than the tenor. So if anyone ever asks me to switch to a cornet, they will get an uncompromising answer! :D

    But, seriously, if the problem is one of lacking confidence, then a change of instrument may not make a scrap of difference. If, though, the problem is achieving the required combination of embouchure strength and air pressure and volume to reach the high notes, and if you aren't seeing even slow improvement over a period of months, then Mesmerist's suggestion might be worth considering. I've never even tried to play a cornet, but I can't help but notice the way our sop cornet and one of the 1st cornets go almost purple in the face when they're going for high notes at forte, to see how physically demanding those instruments are.

    Re. slow improvement; bear in mind that we may not be the best of judges when it comes to noticing if we are improving or not, especially when the change is a slow one, so may I suggest that you discuss it with your MD, or section leader? You may find that they have seen an improvement which you hadn't, simply because the change from one day to the next is so slight. One of my tutors pointed that out to me, saying how well my sight reading had come on, because instead of taking 15 - 20 minutes to get a grip of a new piece, I was getting it pretty much right after two or three run-throughs. To him, it was very obvious; I still thought my sight-reading was rubbish!

    It's a bit like seeing the children of people you only see a couple of times a year. Because their parents see them every day, they often don't notice how they are growing, and growing up - but if you see them after a gap of a few months, they look as though they've sprouted six inches, and aged by a couple of years!

    HTH, and best regards,

    Repman likes this.
  19. David Evans

    David Evans Active Member

    As an interesting aside, when the cornets change colour there’s some really impressive physiology happening. High brass and oboes generate the highest intrathoracic pressure and this is more than enough to empty the heart of blood and prevent any further blood from coming back into the chest so the heart becomes essentially empty. The brain and skull are a closed box with a finite volume and this increased intrathoracic pressure also prevents the blood draining from the head back to the chest so the brain blood flow is essentially static. The brain uses prodigious amounts of oxygen every second which is carried by Haemoglobin in the red blood cells and in the absence of blood flow the brain cells work overtime to extract every last bit of oxygen they can, there is barely 10 seconds worth of consciousness left in the brain at this point. (initially seen in guillotined victims’ heads)

    Fortunately Haemoglobin has evolved so that in conditions such as this with increasing amounts of waste products also not being removed it can deliver huge amounts of oxygen for a few seconds, as it loses oxygen it changes from red to blue which is why you see the colour change so dramatically. Local waste product accumulation will further dilate the blood vessels intensifying the effect.

    So next time you are sitting on the dark side watching the cornets change colour think to yourself that there is someone whose heart is almost empty and their brain blood flow is almost zero yet there are amazing mechanisms going on that will prevent lasting damage and rescue the situation and allow the continuation of normal brain function immediately despite this insult.

    Thought this might cheer you up :)
    David Broad, 2nd tenor and Jack E like this.
  20. Jack E

    Jack E Well-Known Member

    Well, I'm greatly relieved to know that they aren't going to snuff it, David - I'd miss them both!

    But you have explained why the sop cornet once blacked out at the end of a very high solo - and he actually saw it coming, like WWII fighter pilots pulling a very tight turn in a dog-fight, who saw their field of vision shrink down to a small spot before it went completely.

    And I'm also very relieved that I opted to play baritone, and not cornet, too . . . ;) . . . the dark side has its compensations, as Darth Vader told his little lad :cool:

    With best regards,

    Tom-King likes this.

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