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Best uses of practice time?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Professor J, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. I read through the entire “Ask the Berklee Bass Department” thread and was inspired to develop a more disciplined practice schedule, but I’m not sure it’s working out for me.

    My typical practice routine has been to do some left hand / right hand technical exercises, practice a couple of two octave scales, and then run through a few tunes in my repertoire. But I really want to become a more well-rounded musician because I completely adore everything about this instrument, but I feel like my practicing is stagnating. I really admire the deep knowledge of those Berklee guys.

    I was intrigued by the emphasis they place on ear training, reading, and transcription, so I thought I’d try to add that to my practice time, but I find I just don’t have the time to do everything justice. I wish I could practice 8 hours a day, but 30-60 minutes is more my reality.

    I’m just wondering how folks who have limited practice time manage to organize their practicing in a way that enables them to keep up with so many aspects of their musicianship?
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
    comatosedragon likes this.
  2. Being a programmer, I wrote a small Python program which provides me random exercises; such as:
    • Arpeggios in random keys / scales starting from random positions
    • Shifting intervals in random keys / note orders
    • Hunting random notes on the fretboard
    • Random scales in random keys
    • Finding / playing scales over random chords of random keys
    • Improvisation with random focus (Coltrane patterns, target note, strong beat/note, etc)
    • Random left/right hand exercises (string crossing, gallop, etc)
    • etc...
    I don't practice everything at once either. Out of ~20 categories, the program picks ~5 random categories for that particular day. If I have more time, I restart for another ~5 random categories.

    That small program really helped me improve. Whenever I find a new good exercise, I add it to the program and it becomes part of my routine.

    I imagine that a similar thing can be done by a non-programmer in Excel (with formulas) as well.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    People here will offer great advice, but this is no substitute for having someone actually sit down with you and work things through.

    Take a few lessons with a good bass teacher. Have him/her assess you, offer advice, and point out your weaknesses. It is always more beneficial to have an "independent" person point out what otherwise you might not see or be aware of yourself.
    Professor J and ProfFrink like this.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Ignore the skills you are good at and practice the skills you are most bad at.

    Like for me, scales are a total waste of practice time, because I already have them completely memorized. But I have a terrible ear! So I spend most of my practice time learning songs by ear from recordings.

    A good teacher can be very helpful giving an assessment of your skill set and helping you identify which areas most need improvement.
  5. BassAndReeds


    Oct 7, 2016
    1. I would start by listening A LOT LOT to whatever style you’re trying to emulate or get better at.

    2. Then I’d take one of those recordings and transcribe what you like. (Since you’re pressed for time, I’d only transcribe select measures that have interesting lines)

    3.Then I’d try to understand the theory behind why those lines sound good.

    4.Then I’d force myself to Overly play the lines in my own music, to the point where it’s almost annoying.

    5. Then I’d try to expand on the line or phrase by changing it slightly or using it in different places. Explore the possibilities.

    At this point you probably have just internalized a new musical skill. (Note the word “internalized”. Much different from “learning”)

    You could skip step 2 and purchase a transcription or get one from the internet, but transcribing is usually more effective at internalizing material. Trust the process, there’s no shortcuts in music.

    The above is the way jazzers do it. And All the above hinges on if you understand theory. if not, I’m not sure how effective transcribing would be. I don’t know how anyone would learn theory without a private tutor.

    Qualifying my advice, I have a jazz degree, and I’m relatively successful as a musician (100+ paid gigs a year, but I play musicals, so that number is somewhat inflated), and I do have a day job in IT. (I don’t want to teach. Not my thing)

    Good luck.
    ScottB., 12BitSlab and Professor J like this.
  6. Scottgun


    Jan 24, 2004
    South Carolina
    Not necessarily in a practice session, but keep up listening to music. Not in the background, but actually listening. Make an effort to listen to music outside of your usual wheelhouse. Old stuff on your preferred genre you may have missed, new stuff as well. Also listen to genres you don't typically listen to and try to discover the appeal.
    Professor J likes this.
  7. If time is short..... I like what Mushroo said; "Ignore the skills you are good at and practice the skills you are most bad at."
    • Sounds like you have the scales and arpeggios down, use them for warm ups.
    • Practicing and learning are two different skill sets IMO.
    • If you want to know how to do something new first learn it, then practice it, so it belongs to you.
    • Practice the songs you will be using this week.
    I think you could fit this into your schedule. Yes, I did not get specific. I have no idea what you should be practicing, but, I bet you do.

    Happy trails.
    Rilence, Professor J and Mushroo like this.
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    I would also recommend enforced vocabulary expansion.
    Try to lean a new riff / phrase / part each day.
    Professor J and Lee Moses like this.
  9. Exactly the approach I’m looking for. Thank you!
    BassAndReeds likes this.
  10. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    These days, most of my "practicing" is trying to look like an entertainer while also hitting every note. If someone were to secretly film me, I would likely be committed.
    Rilence likes this.
  11. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Start with a daily goal, what am I going to do today? What was a problem the last time you played? Did someone mention something about music that you didn't know, or couldn't do?
    Have a problem to solve, have a goal.
    Rilence likes this.
  12. JoratioMumbles


    Dec 27, 2015
    I would echo the sentiment that you should ignore the stuff you're good at. For me that's scales and theory. You should focus on the things you're not so good at. for me that's ear training. I am a jazz guy, so i've been transcribing basslines by Ron Carter, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, etc. I'm not good enough yet to tackle Scott LaFaro, but it's a goal. That brings up a final point. Having little and big goals is important. Happy bassing!
  13. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    Just be sure don't mistake partial knowledge for being for "good at" something.

    For example: The major scale 4 fret "box pattern" is one of the first things beginners master.
    Then they assume they need to seek other scales to improve.

    There's more to the mastering the major scale than executing simple that box!
    There's literally infinite ways to go about practicing those 7 out of 12 notes.

    For reference this is what "knowing" the major scale really looks like:

    Last edited: May 23, 2019
    Sav'nBass and Rilence like this.

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