I’ve heard from a lot of my friends and other colleagues that, while on stage, they often let their playing wander due to the fact that they’re playing the same songs night after night, gig after gig. Their solos become just a bunch of licks and runs that they do from night to night. Do you experience this? It’s actually pretty common and will probably happen to you at least once in your professional career. This is not something that you want to get too lazy about, because it can keep you from feeling enough satisfaction in your performance from night to night.
Over time I’ve discovered one trick that brings me back into really focusing on what I’m playing when I start to drone a little bit. As a solo approaches I’ll start to imagine that I’m recording this solo, and I’ll think to myself “What would I want to hear when I’m listening back to the tape?” This has a way of making me really focus on every aspect of my playing. I’ll work on the intro of the solo, then focus on the building of it, the dynamics, everything. It can actually make the gig more fun for me, and when I’ve shared this little technique with other players they’ve told me it works for them too.
There are a lot of little tricks like this out there to keep you from getting into a rut. Try this on your next gig or rehearsal and see what you think. Keep in mind this is just something to use when you’re working on your playing. Ultimately, during performance a general rule is “The less thinking, the better.” However the more you practice good habits like the one mentioned here, the more it just naturally becomes part of the way you play.