Some days things just don’t work. No matter how hard you try, nor how many times you approach the issue, it’s just a doomed scenario from the start. We all experience those days where there’s a disconnect, whether it’s mental, emotional, physical, or even some combination of all of the above. It happens during performances, rehearsals, and practice sessions; nothing is sacred when it comes to the disconnected moment. I even had a moment once, where I was about to start playing a gig and I had forgotten how to play. For a brief moment it was like someone had pushed the reset button on my brain and all knowledge about the instrument had been wiped clean. It was quite brief; then I felt an almost physical snap inside my brain and it was back almost like a fuse had been reset. Not fun, but it worked out. Thankfully that was a matter of seconds, but the point is sometimes for whatever reason beyond our understanding, things don’t just work. So what do we do as musicians to deal with this?
One way we work through this issue is simply going through the motions. If we’re on a gig, we play the notes, work through the night and are thankful when our instruments go back into the gigbags and cases, chalking the night up as water under the bridge that we’d rather forget about. When it’s a rehearsal, it usually results in apologies to bandmates for underperforming, but can also lead to an evening or afternoon of uneasy conflict because several folks are having the same issue and frustration levels start to rise and spill outward. But we keep plugging away and chasing a brief moment of focus so we can salvage something from the rehearsal. The same goes for our individual practice sessions. We simply keep slogging forward, figuring that if we go through the motions we’ll at least reap the benefits of putting in the time.
Another way we deal with it, when we have the luxury, is to simply pack it in for the day, figuring that since it appears that it’s not in the cards for today we might as well refocus our energies elsewhere where we might feel like we’re making some progress. This can be advantageous in some situations such as a practice session where you’re making mistakes repeatedly in passages that are normally not an issue. Stopping prevents remapping these passages into future problems through a steady stream of negative reinforcement, essentially learning the mistakes and memorizing them to be drawn upon at a later date to our increased frustration. Sometimes we accept the pattern for the day, and instead of packing it in immediately, we run through things just to keep the fingers moving, at least. This is often the case with the rehearsal situation as well with the end result being a shorter rehearsal than scheduled but everyone just sighing and figuring the next rehearsal will be more productive.
The worst thing we do in these situations is start to rail at ourselves because for one thing it simply makes the situation worse. Getting angry compounds the inner resistance to the flow of musicality and assists in throwing up walls preventing progress. It also has the tendency to carry the issue further along the time line, effectively lengthening how much time is devoted to the affliction. Anger also has the tendency to spread the negative vibe to your bandmates who have all experienced the same thing, shifting their empathy to resentment of you’re being an ass on top of being disconnected. This is particularly a nasty way to deal with it when on a gig because the disconnect is now being broadcast to everyone in a massive flow of negative hostile energy. What went from a quiet personal issue is now everyone else’s and nobody wants that.
Whatever way we choose to deal with our bouts of disconnectedness, we need to ensure that we accept them for what they are, temporary setbacks that everyone experiences. Usually they are short experiences that disappear the next day. Sometimes they last for longer periods and can be linked to other issues we’re experiencing that are messing with our subconscious trains of thought, upsetting our inner balance and causing us to be preoccupied with other things than the immediate moment. No matter what it is that is fueling the experience, empathy helps. Don’t be afraid to extend that empathy to yourself. Allow yourself the understanding you would extend to others, and remember, tomorrow is definitely another day.