"Key of the Week" practice routine

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by Aaron Saunders, Aug 30, 2005.

  1. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    While at a workshop this weekend with Campbell Ryga (sax) and Jim Lewis (trumpet/flugelhorn,) there was a lengthy discussion on practice methods and whatnot. Jim talked about how he has this thing called Key of the Week, where he'll pick one key and work on it all week. I also recalled recently reading an interview with Ron Carter saying that he will spend a while in one key, playing the major scale for an hour a day to get it *perfectly* in tune, and at the time of the interview, was spending a lot of time in Db.

    I've come up with something that I'd like to start next week, and would appreciate any insight or tweaks y'all might have.

    So, the Key of the Week:
    Spend the first week in A. Second in Bb, etc.
    Pick 5 tunes. Learn them in the Key of the Week.
    Practice each mode for each day of the week. For instance, ionian on Sunday, dorian Monday, etc., as well as the melodic minor and harmonic minor modes as well. So on Wednesday, you'd practice lydian, lydian dominant, and the 4th mode of the harmonic minor scale.

    I want to do this because I find myself getting key-dependent, which ended up causing problems when I had to sight-transpose down a minor third during a performance on Sunday and I realized how foolish I had gotten in becoming so key dependent. In the end I mussed up a tune we had been doing very well in practice, of course I felt even more guilty because the singer was the only one of 3 (!) in our combo that I actually liked.

    I think this'll be a very difficult practice method to keep up due to a job and school, but I think (hope?) the rewards after I finish three months of this will be rather significant...and what's the point of playing if you're not challenging yourself?
  2. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    I practice this way also. I will spend at least a week on a key (sometimes more if I didn't get a lot of practice time in). I will do the scales and modes. All arpeggios (in all inversions). Create walking lines for common progressions (e.g., I vi ii V; iii VI ii V; ii V I). I will also just noodle around a solo using only the notes from that key (and approach notes).

    The following week key will be the next in the cycle (that way I'm only adding one accidental).
  3. bass_means_LOW


    Apr 12, 2004
    Las Vegas
    Sounds like a great plan guys, but Thursdays just seem to be an Eb day.
  4. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Jim Lewis got his Masters down here in Louisville a couple years ago. He was a joy to have around - great player, great guy...and having him in my graduate jazz theory class felt like trying to teach basketball to Michael Jordan. Tell him hi for me if you should happen to run into him again. :)

    Regarding the key of the week, whatever stretches your current level is good. When I learn a tune these days, I try to learn it by ear, and to conceive of several ways of fingering it so that it can fall into whatever key gets called in the moment. I'd say go for it.
  5. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Actually, I've found this practice routine to be too much time for my schedule nowadays -- school 8-2:30 M-F, Monday lessons, Wednesday extra curricular, and work almost every other day of the week (7+ hour shifts usually.)

    When I DO get time to practice -- which isn't much, depressingly, as I only had 4 hours of "free" time M-F last week and that got taken up by homework for my two senior english classes -- I've just been learning bits of new tunes, playing them in a bunch of random keys (in addition to the regulars) and throwing some weird scales in weird keys. For instance, today I learned the head to St. Thomas in C, practiced melodic minor in C# and Ab, and some random major scales in a bunch of keys.

    Chris -- it'll be a while, good sir...at least until next summer :(. Nice guy and great player indeed.

    Bonus to working so much? I'll finally have my upright completely paid for with my next paycheck :).