Exercise books... How do you use them?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Mike_1978, Jan 3, 2016.

  1. Mike_1978


    May 14, 2015
    Boston area
    I got a couple of bass exercise books for Christmas ("Bass Fitness" by Josquin Des Pres and "Daily Warm Up Exercises for Bass Guitar" by Steven Mooney). I'm not new to the instrument but my approach to formal practice has been... inconsistent at best. Trying to get more disciplined in the new year.

    The books have some interesting exercises but I'm kind of at a loss on how to use them in a practice routine. What's your approach... do you start at the beginning of the book and learn the first one until you know it in all keys, then move on to the second? Or do you flip through the book and pick one at random? How many days/weeks/months do you spend on each exercise? What percentage of your practice time do you spend on exercises?

    Also, if you know any other killer exercise books I should add to my collection, let me know!
  2. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    I am not familiar with the books you mention. However, "fitness" and "warm up exercise" books seem to be just that..i.e. exercises. These can be very beneficial, but do not spend all your practice time on them. Warm up exercises are generally only done for five to ten minutes in order to get the hands and fingers ready for the "work" ahead. It is about playing music, so try to make sure that your practice session involves mainly this. For example, try to develop your ear by playing along.. without tabs.. to songs you like. Make sure your timing and groove are up to par.

    As far as using the books is concerned, I would start at the beginning as the exercises tend to start easy and gradually get harder. Stick with the exercise until you can play it comfortably. Then work on doing so in all keys. Having said that, I would not spend the whole practice time on this. Move on to other aspects of playing the bass.

    IMO a teacher would be your best bet. He/she can assess your playing, see what stage you are at, then advise/teach from there. In the absence of a teacher, and for a more disciplined practice session I would go to a site like "Studybass" (the lesson guide is linked below). Here the lessons build on what went before, so start at the beginning, or where you think is appropriate and work your way slowly through the lessons.

    In a nutshell, what I am trying to say is...no doubt those books are very good in their own way...BUT...only as part of an over all and varied practice routine. As I said earlier..it's not about playing "killer exercises" but about playing music.

    Best of luck with it. :)

    StudyBass Fundamentals One | StudyBass
    Mike_1978 likes this.
  3. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    I use exercise books like a stairmaster, step up, step down, repeat. Good exercise
    Nev375 likes this.
  4. bherman

    bherman Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2009
    Grand Junction, CO
    I use both of the books that you mention and find them to be very helpful. I use the "Fitness" book for about 10-15 minutes each time I practice (about an hour a day total). I started at the very beginning, doing 1-2 pages per day, same pages for a week; start slow (like 70-80 bpm with a metronome) and gradually increase speed as I get more comfortable with that set of exercises. It's been very helpful in building up strength and dexterity. It's taken me almost 2 yrs but now I am close to the end of the book. Occasionally I'll bounce back to one of the earlier pages for a review/change of pace.

    I use the warmup book in a similar way. It has scale and chord-tone exercises for each key, starting in C and going up a 1/2 step at a time, in two octaves. I stick with one key until I am really comfortable with it before moving to the next (takes me about 2 wks of daily practice). I find that it takes me about 10-15 minutes to get through all of the exercises for one key. I'm only into it for about a month so far, but find it a great way to learn all of the chord degrees in each scale, and doing them every day really burns them into my brain and fingers. Great way to really learn the fingerboard. Not easy at first but keep at it and you'll be amazed how much progress you can make.

    Using both of these has really helped me bring some discipline to my practice time. I try and spend about an hour a day, but if less, I do these two things first. As others have said it's important to include more musical stuff in your practice time but fundamentals are important. They give you the tools and strength to play better music.

    Hope that helps.
    Mike_1978 likes this.
  5. macteacher

    macteacher Supporting Member

    I've used "Bass Fitness" extensively over the years. bherman started like I did, with metronome settings slowly and working through the book.

    I've continued to use the book over the years in a similar manner with a 6 string as well.

    They're like Hanon exercises to me, (if you play piano), great for warm up and stretching out.

    Once I got through them. I moved on to writing variations of my own and working them with string skipping and up and down the neck.

    Try to make them musical and not mechanical with crescendos and decrescendos and different rhythms.

    That will always make them interesting, at least it did for me!
    Mike_1978 and BassChuck like this.
  6. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I have a system of scale, arpeggios etc that I use to warm up. Frankly I don't see playing EB as anything close to an athletic event and really 'warming up and stretching' have not ever been an issue for me. I've played bass professionally for 40 year and in the meantime got a music degree on trumpet and masters work on french horn performance. Now on brass instruments, warm up IS necessary and I mention this only to show I do know the difference.

    I would say that a 'warm up' or pre-practice routine is necessary, but to review the neck, hand positions and to just get the mind working. In the end, concentration may be more important than muscle strength or flexibility. When I was a trumpet player I spent some time talking with Mike Vax, at the time he was playing lead trumpet with Stan Kenton band. He said that any worthwhile warm up included playing all the notes that the instrument was capable of playing, to remind yourself what it sounded like and felt like to play those notes. Granted, doing that on trumpet is possibly a more tactile experience that EB, but it is an idea well taken from a mental POV.

    At any rate, its worth saying to the younger players that there is no 'silver bullet' of warm ups. Nothing that will fix or create anything within you to make you a better musician. Better to spend time knowing the neck, theory, reading, or good music that it is to get 'the spider' up to 220bpm.
    Mike_1978 likes this.
  7. Exercise books - I'm a sucker for instruction books, usually skim through them and pick out something that I might use. If I find one new thing I consider the $20 I spent, money well spent. But most of my actually practice time is not spent with those books. A lot of it is arm chair reading. I've always work best if I understand how and why things are done. If I do find something new I'll go try it out on the songs I'll be using.

    I now days do very little of the basic scale, arpeggio, chord tone exercises. I call up Internet videos of the songs I'll be playing this week and play along with the video. I play from fake chord so I'm composing my own bass lines. If there is something in the song that I need to brush up on I'll spend the time working on that. But, my practice is usually on how to play the songs I'll be playing this week. For example:
    • Tuesdays the Country band I'm with will be playing at one of four nursing home in the area. We've been playing the same 50 songs for over 16 years. Not a lot of practice here, its show up and play. It's an hour gig four Tuesday a month.
    • Wednesday night is practice night at church. Six songs each week. Couple of hours usually gets it.
    • Saturday morning I go over Sunday's songs. Probably an hour. Most of them are not new, we've played them before. Coming off Christmas and those did take some extra time as it's been a year since we played them.
    • Sunday I play those songs at two churches.

    So I spend my time working on the songs I'll be playing. The rest of my time is spent being a husband, father and grandfather. Since you asked; not saying that is THE correct way, its just what I do.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
    Mike_1978 likes this.
  8. enricogaletta


    May 21, 2011
    I don't know this particular books but usually "fitness" book to developing your technique should be done step by step to reach all the book goals.
    Anyway just keep in mind that after you improved your technique level you will reach a certain points where the best thing to do is move to other matters and than apply your technique to it.
    Studying exercises purely technical, and I mean each one regardless of subject, have little musicality, diminish the enthusiasm, of course, you have to go through, but not more than necessary.
    For example, who began studying finger-style must develop well the crossing of the right hand and the agility of the left, well there are ten, fifteen exercises as maximum, to reach the goal, after that just choose the most challenging for yourself and use it as daily warm up, than you will keep improving all your techniques, with the study of harmony, of groove and improvisation if properly treated.
    Spin Doctor likes this.
  9. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    I'd have to see the lessons described but usually I take it one thing at a time.
    Practice one thing untill you have got it mentally down, then turn the page.
    Just be honest with yourself if you have it down before continuing. When in doubt, stay.

    Then keep doing those old exercises daily unless they are eclipsed and obsoleted by a new one.
  10. I guess everyone learns differently, but what works better for me is, depending on the material, I go through the whole book somewhat quickly, just to get the jist of it. Then I start the whole book over again from the beginning. So now it take less than half the time as before, and I understand it better. If it's an important skill and I think it's worth really knowing, I'll do it again...

    In general I tend to like concept books, which tend to be short (less than 70 or so pages). They address one topic and then it's done. Some people feel cheated if they don't get 500 pages in an instruction book, which 90% of the time simply turns into random weight on a shelf...

    Also, I've found that books are way more helpful if you have lessons first so that you can apply the things you've already learned to the topics being explained... Otherwise, books can be mysterious and sort of cryptic at certain levels.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2016
    MalcolmAmos and enricogaletta like this.
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