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Practice: Technique or theory

Discussion in 'Ask Anthony Wellington' started by David A. Davis, Sep 7, 2012.


  1. David A. Davis

    David A. Davis

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2008
    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    Hey Ant,
    Lately I've been concentrating alot on reading and theory. All though I don't know every technique out there, I feel like my reading ability and knowledge of theory are holding me back more than my technical ability. My question for you, how do you divide your practice up. Does it vary, or do you devote a certian amount of attention to each area every day.

    Thanks,
    Dave
     
  2. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Hey Dave,

    There are 5 things that I work on every day. Even if it's only for a short period of time.

    1) Dexterity

    2) Note Recognition

    3) Theory

    4) Ear Training

    5) Reading

    My practice and maintenance routine consist of this things. I read a page of music every day. Just 1 page is enough to get better and maintain what you have. But most people practice reading wrong(IMHO).

    -anthony
     
  3. Stevewd

    Stevewd

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Location:
    60 mi north of Dallas, Texas
    I see you're a fan of cliffhangers! What's the right way?
     
  4. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Most people don't practice for the 'cold' read. They actually spend more time memorizing. And because of that a cold read is always hard.

    I am a big fan of cliffhangers. But when my replies are short it usually means that I'm very busy and/or there is too much to type with 1 finger on an iPhone.

    -aw
     
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  6. Anonymatt

    Anonymatt

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2009
    Location:
    Brooklyn, NY
    Anthony,
    When you say "dexterity", are you talking about the permutations of fingerings in a position?

    I work a lot on technique and sound, but I feel that my ear abilities and general musical skill has a lot of catching up to do versus my hands. Like, if I can sing something and really understand the notes, then there's just no doubt that I can play it.

    Is this a place that you feel intermediate students often stay at for a while? Am I overlooking the benefit of exercises that are purely for enhancing dexterity?

    Just curious.

    Also, Anthony, about your iphone typing, I know that if you took it slow and kept at it, you could be typing with two fingers in no time, haha.

    Matt
     
  7. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Hey Matt

    First and foremost, we have to physical 'interface' with the instrument to 'be' a bass player. You can know and understand music without ever touching and instrument. But to be a bass player requires that you interface with the instrument. same is true for all instruments, even the voice. 'studied' singers practice moving internal and external body parts.

    Dexterity for me encompasses ALL of those physical interactions that allow me to play the bass. So I need to address the dexterity of the left hand and it's fingers and the right hand it's fingers.

    By the way, you'd be surprised by how many bass players don't work on shifting properly. And because of that most bass players don't shift efficiently. For me that falls under dexterity. Switching strings falls under dexterity. Muting falls under dexterity. The act if thumping falls under dexterity. Plucking does too. The act of tapping is dexterity.

    When you play ANYTHING you are physically interfacing with the instrument. You either do that efficiently, or you don't.

    peace,
    anthony
     
  8. Yonahw

    Yonahw

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2011
    Hi Anthony,

    If you don't mind elaborating a bit more I have two questions about what you said.

    1) How do you differentiate between note recognition and ear training? When you say note recognition do you mean on the fretboard?

    2) How do you practice for the cold read vs memorizing? Do you just make sure to always play a new piece of music every time?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions here I find some of these threads to be very enlightening.

    Yonah
     
  9. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Hey Yonah,

    I do mean 'understanding the fretboard' when I say note recognition. Most bass payer think they know the notes on the bass but most don't. For me, I study the notes on the bass without a bass being present. Most bassist are figuring the notes out, some faster than others. But that's not the same as knowing them. If you were on the plane with me(I'm flying home from Nashville as I type), and you said a note I could tell you how many of those notes I had on my bass and I also could you where they are. Not by the 'crutch' octave shapes but from thinnest string to thickest string and the highest version on each string first.

    For example, if you said 'G',...

    I would say,...

    On my G string it's the 24th fret, 12th fret and open string. On my D string it's the 17th fret and 5th fret. On the A string it's the 22nd and 10th fret. On the E string it's the 15th and 3rd fret. And on the B string it's the 20th and 8th fret. If I know the notes with about being around it'll be easier with a bass in my hand.

    That's how I practice the notes everyday when I'm driving to Bassology. My commute is an hour in each direction so I know the notes pretty good. But it also frees me up to work on the things that require me to physically interface with the instrument when I have a bass in my hands and not have to worry about he notes on the fretboard.

    I practice reading with books other than electric bass books. They tend to be the worst reading books out there. And electric bass parts, generally, are easy to read. I use cello, upright, trombone and drum books to practice reading. I have a couple of 'encyclopedia of rhythm' books too.

    I'll start reading a page and read until I make a mistake. At that point I'll turn the page. I didn't make a mistake because I don't know how to read. I made a mistake because every now and then that's just gonna' happen. Even the best free throw shooter misses every now and then. And he doesn't miss because he can't shoot. He misses for other reasons.

    By the way, this isn't the method for learning how to read. In that case you want to work out the mistake so you can understand it.

    This method is for people who already know how to read!

    But anyways,...

    After the 'mess up' I turn the page and start reading fresh new material. Working on the mistake only serves to help you memorize the piece of music. And that's usually not my intent when I'm practicing reading.

    Evert time I mess up I start on a new page(or section). Then after a certain point(usually 10 pages for me), I start from the 'beginning' again. And this time I 'hope' I make it through the mistake. And if I do it's not because I memorized the passage.

    Hope that makes sense. I hate typing for a long time with 1 finger on my iPhone or iPad.

    And now I'm even too lazy to proof read all that I just wrote.

    peace,
    anthony
     
  10. Yonahw

    Yonahw

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2011
    Hey Anthony,
    Thank you for the detailed response it is much appreciated. I've actually been thinking about my lack of fretboard knowledge a lot lately. I remember once watching you do an exercise where you would time yourself to locate all the notes on the board in a similar fashion to how you described and being very impressed. I really like to hear about how you do this exercise while commuting as I have limited time in front of the bass but an hour commute each day just begging for such an exercise.
    I find your method with sight reading practice to be interesting. I'm currently still learning to read so it sounds a bit advanced for where I'm currently at but definitely something to think about in the future.
    Thanks for all the great advice you shell out here,
    Yonah
     
  11. David A. Davis

    David A. Davis

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2008
    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    This is a good tool. http://www.musicopedia.com/training/notation.php
    Helps with reading and note recognition if you don't have your instrument with you. I've also loaded some free apps on my phone that are helpful. I've been taking some advanced math classes lately and I've written formulas on a post-it note and stuck it on my steering wheel and glance at it when I come to a stop light. I'm thinking of doing the same thing with different things I'm trying to memorize now.
     
  12. mjl422

    mjl422

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2002
    I don't remember where I got this method from but, I use index cards. Write the note name on one side and the note positions on the other. Shuffle the deck (so that the notes will be in random order) and pick a card. Look at the note name, call out all the positions on the neck and check for accuracy.
     
  13. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    I don't know who you are but you must be a Bassology student or at least in the lineage.

    -anthony
     
  14. Yonahw

    Yonahw

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2011
    Hey mjl422,

    Thanks for that tip, that sounds like a wonderful idea, gonna get me some index cards.
     
  15. David A. Davis

    David A. Davis

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2008
    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
  16. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Hey dDaddy,

    I really appreciate you being helpful but actually, my preference is that 'my' students make their own cards. My preference is also that thru make their own 'book' through taking notes also.

    I think of this as a discipline. Because that's what I usually see missing from musicians. There's a discipline that comes along with making your own cards. It's very a Buddhist approach.

    I don't want you(or me) to deny him the 'discipline' that he would get from 'doing work'.

    Traditional martial artist(monks) didn't earn(or buy) black belts or belts of any other color. They were only allowed to wash the Gi so that could be clean. The belts turned grey, red, yellow and other colors from the dirt and grime and blood from putting in work. At some point after years of study the belt would turn black. You don't buy a black belt,...you earn it.

    You become great from the discipline it takes to do menial tasks.

    I'm tryna' earn my black belt. I think he is too.

    -anthony
     
  17. David A. Davis

    David A. Davis

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2008
    Location:
    Christiansburg, VA
    You are right. I hadn't thought of it that way. It's so easy to get caught up in the easy and quick way, which seems to be a hindrance to gaining thorough understanding of any subject. I concede to maha-thera (you), for I am only a navaka:D;)
     
  18. sayman

    sayman

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2009
    Not to undercut a good analogy, but just FYI - the "belt-washing" story is considered a myth. Belt-color ranking apparently appeared in around the early 1900's in Japanese Judo.

    Don't shoot the messenger, just passing it along...
     
  19. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2004
    Location:
    los angeles, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs, Jule Amps
    In my previous life I was a chemistry professor. Well, ok, maybe it was 17 years ago rather than previous life, but I digress. When organic chem students came to my office hours to ask for help with problem sets I would always ask to see what they'd done. Often they had a blank piece of paper. Or in other instances I'd write out a problem on a piece of paper, give it to them, and ask them to solve it. More often than not they sit there, look at the paper and think. I would immediately tell them one of my "core truths" about chemistry:

    you solve problems with your pencil, not your mind

    This extends to other disciplines. The reply would sometimes be, "but I don't know what to do." And my replay was always the same:

    rewrite the problem

    The act of drawing structures will often spark connections in your brain. There is something somewhat magical about the act of putting pencil to paper when it comes to your brain and problem solving. I think this is why Ant's suggestion to write out your own cards/notes in important. It is taking a concept, which is like a vapor, and moving it into the "real" realm through manipulating the writing instrument. fwiw I do *not* think that typing or using a chemical drawing program has the same effect, at least not to the same degree.

    I could launch into my metaphysical treatise on the analog/digital conundrum but that's for another day :D
     
  20. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2004
    Location:
    los angeles, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs, Jule Amps
    koans and parables aren't necessarily supposed to be taken literally. They are pointing towards the truth, rather than being the end destination.

    And to extend the parable as I've heard it, the white belt signifies the purity of a "beginner mind". The cup is empty, ready to be filled by the sifu and self-discipline. As the work is done the belt gets dirty, going from white to brown to black. Eventually the belt becomes tattered and worn, turning back into white, thus signifying that the true masters move beyond "expert" and back to the "beginner mind".
     
  21. Ant Wellington

    Ant Wellington

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2011
    Location:
    Maryland
    Yo Sayman,

    I hope you didn't miss the point and the spirit of what I was saying. Especially just to 'maybe' be right about 'something'.

    I don't think you did.

    But maybe you did.

    But I'd prefer to trust the 'master' that I talked to when it comes to the belt thing. Not someone who replied on a bass guitar website.

    -aw
     

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