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What To Do When You Make A Mistake Playing Bass On Stage

You’re on stage and you're rocking out. The crowd is so into your band and they are dancing and bobbing their heads to your bass groove. You are in the moment and you are truly enjoying it! What follows is horror: the chorus of the song starts and you suddenly have no idea how the bass line goes. You simply forgot it like you never played it before. You have no idea how this could happen but it did. So what do you do?

 

Many bassists that have the experience of playing live have faced this situation and not everyone survived. Kidding aside, this can get really bad, embarrassing and even show stopping in extreme cases. When you start making mistakes, you can easily confuse your band mates, so that they start making more mistakes or playing a wrong section of the song and then the consequences can be disastrous.

Here are some tips on what you can do in these situations:

Stop playing when you make a mistake on bass

This is my number one tip. When you notice that you have no idea where you are in the song and which bass line you should be playing - just stop playing altogether. This is the power of the bass. Drummers can’t do this, guitarists can’t and singers certainly can't. When you stop playing bass the band will loose the bottom end, but not everyone will notice it, especially the audience. Make pause for a bar or two until you focus and figure out how to get back into the song. If your band mates ask you what happened, just tell them that you were having problems with the cables, just blame the gear!

Do not show in any way that you messed up

When you mess up, DO NOT make a face where you are showing how disgusted you are on what you just did. Do not make any moves showing that you messed up. Instead, just keep rocking and no one will notice! There is really no need to make the oh-oh face when you mess up as the audience won’t know what you did in 99% of the cases. Only fellow musicians might notice.

Groove is your friend when you make a mistake

A truly magical thing with bass is that you can groove your way out of mistakes. It is more important that you are playing in correct rhythm and that you are grooving, than which notes you are playing. As long as you are laying down a groove, you can play the wrong notes all together and not many people will notice. So, when you make a mistake and lose your place in a song - keep the rhythm going, maybe switch to playing some ghost notes and groove your way out until you figure out the correct bass line that you should be playing.

The worst mistakes bass player can make on stage

Usually, the worst mistakes a bass player can make on stage are not related to which notes you play, rather the timing. If you start playing out of time and out of sync with the drummer - everyone will start noticing that something is very wrong. So, try to avoid these kind of mistakes by concentrating on the rhythm part when you forget the notes.

Finally, I'd like to +1 what Mr. Victor Wooten once said: "You are never more than a half step away from the right note.".

I hope that these tips have been helpful to you, please share yours below in the comments and enjoy playing bass on stage.

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0 #2 Bass Rebel 2016-04-11 19:38
Quoting Robert L.:
I play bass in a Tom Petty tribute, and usually there's two reasons I make mistakes - one, I lose my focus, and that's related to two, I get tired. When I make a mistake it's usually hitting the wrong note, and I do make a face when I make one, but hey, I'm only human!


Hey Robert, thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think that it is perfectly normal to make a face or shake our head when we make a mistake. We can view it as a sort of natural reaction, but one we should try to get away from as it's unnecessary since no one will actually notice if we just smile and forget about it.
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0 #1 Robert L. 2016-04-11 14:58
I play bass in a Tom Petty tribute, and usually there's two reasons I make mistakes - one, I lose my focus, and that's related to two, I get tired. When I make a mistake it's usually hitting the wrong note, and I do make a face when I make one, but hey, I'm only human!
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