1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Maintenance practice when life is crazy

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Nov 10, 2016.

  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    In the middle of a heavy teaching load at the U with lots of classes and a healthy studio that includes some really fine young players. Added to that is chauffeur duty for my 14 year old son as the only driver in the family, plus spending some time with wife and son at home. In the midst of all of this, "progressive practice" is basically impossible at the moment, but I'm working on trying to find ways to grab small chunks of time with bass in hand throughout the day just to keep calluses and chops from going away.

    My main go to is scale/arpeggio stuff and slow work on Bach Suite movements, plus working on material for the next upcoming concert or event. I'm finally reaching the stage where I've always hoped to get to in which I can work on music away from the bass by reading, singing, listening, and internally imagining most mid-level and below music and execute it on the bass when I get there, so I can learn new tunes away from the bass and then manage to not mangle them too badly the first time on the instrument.

    Before the recent clinic/performance tour to Colombia I worked up enough electric chops to survive 10 days of jazz playing on a fretless electric by practicing in the back of a CRV parked outside of my son's martial arts academy and theater where he studies after school, which was great.... that offered me 10 hours a week of built-in practice, but somehow I don't think that's a viable option with a DB.

    Just curious how some of the rest of you manage maintenance practice during the busy times, and if you have any suggestions I might not have thought of.
    Rudreax and Lee Moses like this.
  2. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    I feel ya! Heck of a course load this semester, too! Vommit excercises, scales/arps, and two measures at a time for me. I can get my warm ups done with my students, and I admit to having the more advanced ones working on rep that I want to play, so I have to practice it, too! It's actually kind of nice to go through the learning process with them.
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Agree - it has given me a new perspective on the student experience. Up until this semester I usually played piano during their lessons, but I find myself playing with them more on bass this year. It started for more selfish reasons, but they actually seem to like it, so....
  4. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Same. I think they enjoy the benefit of seeing the learning pricess from the perspective of a seasoned player. I've noticed it helps them out on the other 167 hours a week they are not in my studio.
    Rudreax and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  5. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    My personal life has put me in a similar situation recently. I keep my niece twice a week now because she is involved in a before school jazz band program. I handle all of her, and her sisters music education needs so to speak. So she stays with us the nights before jazz band practice, and either my wife or myself drives her to school the following morning. My Mondays and Wednesdays have turned into what I imagine you parents deal with every day. Pick her up, get her homework started, cook dinner, ......etc. Plus she's been my little shadow since she was born, so more often than not she wants to play a game with me, or movie, or something else. Tough for me to say no!

    By the time all of that gets done, I'm lucky if I can practice at all. I get up at 5am everyday for work, and I don't like to practice too late. If I don't have a time buffer between playing and going to bed, I never sleep. My brain is just too fired up after practice or gigs to sleep unless I have time to decompress. So if it's already passed a certain hour in the evening, I forgo practicing so I can sleep (gigs are much worse - I don't sleep at all after gigs).

    The rut I'm in is practicing for an hour here or there, and currently only running material down for my upcoming shows. I feel like I haven't done much skill building in months.

    What I have been doing during this stretch is hitting it as hard as I can when I get a two or three hour window to myself. As lame as it sounds, if I'm not playing on a Friday night - I'll often lock myself in the practice room and just do skills and drills for a couple of hours. I feel like it kind of sets me back on course, or at least maintains what I already have.
    Rudreax, Garagiste and Jason Hollar like this.
  6. Remyd


    Apr 2, 2014
    St. Louis, MO
    There is a bass in my living room.
    She stares at me every day.
    "Pluck me! Pluck me!" she cries
    She knows that the uke has $11 strings
    "Don't even pick it up!" she says
    For even 20 minutes a day, she is free
    Then I go to work
    And there is no low end
    And the bass weeps
    Or maybe the finish is falling off.
    The end.
    Rudreax likes this.
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Sorry for the intrusion into your DB conversation.

    45 years old, full-time job, two side businesses, two young children (4 and 7) and all the "activities" that go along with it, and a wife who is a business owner and all the "activities" that go along with that.

    It's a struggle. I have found that I have to budget my time like nobody's business. I live by the principles of a guy named Bryan Tracey. Much like Dave Ramsey says you have to give every dollar a name and a job, the same goes for minutes in my life.

    (My version involves to-do lists and calendars synced with my email and my wife's email. Any time something gets added to my list or calendar, my wife sees it and vice versa. This has greatly reduced the need for "family meetings" and phone calls.)

    What that has allowed me to do is account for variables and put the things I want to do for me at the beginning or end of the day. Even with all of the beautiful "variables" that go along with family life, I can usually stick to the schedule within a half hour or so. Everyone else who lives in my house is a female. So planning for every contingency is a mathematical impossibility. :cool:

    Combining that with having a dedicated area set up and ready to go gets it done. I can literally walk up to my "bass space" and have a bass and amp (with headphone jack), an Arban's Trombone book (for reading practice), and a computer for looking up "stuff" I want to pursue ready to go. Within 30 seconds of sitting down I can be tuned up and playing.

    As an aside, the other thing that would make short practice sessions more effective would be to have concrete goals with deadlines. Simply walking up to your bass thinking "I'm gonna work on my string-to-string transitions today." is too vague. Have a concrete, measurable goal in mind, and give yourself a deadline to get there. Whether it is speed, intonation, coordination.....whatever..... find a measurable goal and set a date. "By December 8th I will be able to play Flight of the Bumblebee using only the G string and plucking only with my ring finger and pinky." (If you pull that off, please make a YouTube video.) That will give a subconscious "sense of urgency" to your practice and keep you focused as a side effect.

    There are some logistics for DB that don't apply as much to electric that I can't speak to. If you have an electric upright that can help with not bothering the other inhabitants of the domicile who think their TVs and homework should not be interrupted by bass.....silly though they are.

    Short version.....
    1) PLAN for the time.
    2) Have a dedicated spot already set up so that setup and tear down time don't eat away practice time. (Firm goals will subconsciously "force" you to make it happen.)
    3) Find a way to practice quietly enough that you can do it during family prime-time while they are occupied with other stuff.

    Practicing electric in the car while waiting for the kid to be done kicking others in the head is brilliant.

    I am always up for efficiency tips from intelligent people. So, subbed.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    My day gig and home responsibilities have curtailed my practice time greatly these days. I've gravitated very much to simply working on hand-ear coordination exercises when at the bass. I took a piano lesson from a friend recently and he prescribed the following:

    Simple Scalar work:
    1) Play the root
    2) Sing the 2nd
    3) Play the second (adjust intonation as needed)
    4) Play the root
    5) Sing the third
    6) Play the third
    Rinse, repeat, up then down until comfortable - meaning it doesn't take any effort

    7) Move hand to some note on the scale you're working on
    8) Sing it
    9) play it. correct as needed
    Rinse repeat.

    This has done wonders not only for intonation but when I go away from the instrument, I can just focus on working on practice while away from the instrument (auralization/visualization), and I can come back to instrument and i find I've actually made some amount of progress. Learning new stuff becomes faster too.

    Lots of mileage for me, for where I am now. No idea why but the results are positive. When I'm away from the instrument, I can pick out phrases from records and dissect it by ear.

    I work on my time feel doing rhythm execises in my head with headphones on using a metronome app on the morning train commute too.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
    Rudreax, Jeshua, Garagiste and 3 others like this.
  9. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    It's been a constant problem for me. The only thing that has ever worked is to practice first thing in the morning...out of the shower, into the shed. That means I need the practice area ready to go at all times...bass out of the bag, music on the stand, iPod or laptop plugged in.

    The hard part is sticking to it! I can't practice if others are still sleeping, sometimes I have to put in extra time at work so I leave home early, blah, blah

    Good luck Chris!
  10. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    When I'm driving around or stuck in traffic, I turn to visualization/audiation to go over improv ideas. (Think of a tune, hear a line over the changes, identify each note, "see" it on the fingerboard and "see" a good fingering for it, then "feel" what that feels like playing it)

    It's not the same as having the bass in your hands, but I think it's better than spending that time vegging out on sportstalk radio.
  11. I've found time goes slower when my mind is calm & relaxed. To remain time efficient, I need to stop completely several times throughout the day. Clarity & direction immediately follow.

    The Paradox of No Goals....
    100 Days with No Goals | The Minimalists
  12. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    Thanks for sharing your experiences- and Chris, thanks for putting the question out there.
    I have recently reached a turning point, a "second wind" for my advancement.

    This past summer, I created a bass-man cave/ practice space in my basement. All of my basses are quickly within reach, the amp is set up and I keep a JBL flip3 nearby for amplifying drone tones and metronome clicks. The practice space simply didn't exist before and it was a PITA to juggle practice times with everyone else in the house (all five of us are instrumentalists) My day gig is teaching middle school orchestra + lessons and I have used bass to play along and demonstrate, and that has helped to keep me in shape.

    For maintenance practice, I set a drone on a tuner app to the tonic note of a given key and S L O W L Y play a scale, covering the full range of my instrument. I do every reasonable fingering variation I can; if there is time, I will do a few of the exercises out of the Rollez scale book. If there is more time, Bach! and then on to upcoming gig rep.
  13. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Okay, here's mine, for what it's worth. A few scales, pizz, both familiar and less so, F and then Db and Ab Minor, from one end of the fingerboard to the other. Then, the same thing arco. Then, the most difficult, nuanced piece I can play; typically a ballad. Whatever time is leftover is new material, reading, transcribing, basslines, or soloing, or all of the above.
    Garagiste likes this.
  14. baileyboy


    Aug 12, 2010
    Read up on Teddy Roosevelt, he was a master at using every bit of spare time to its fullest potential. Because of this, he was able to accomplish an astonishing amount in a typical day. True to his model, I am able to at least grab 15 minutes daily of practice time (unless I'm just not home), which significantly improves muscle memory.
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2016
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  15. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Pittsburgh area
    A lot of us are in the same boat! I've been getting up & ready earlier, seeing the kids off to school, then trying to grab 30-45 min before I leave for my office & appointments for the day. If I have a weekend or evening off, I'll use that time as well.

    For upcoming gigs, I always try to get with the BL and get a general or specific set list to work through.

    When I don't have a gig on the books that week, I'm almost always working on a "new" old standard via my record collection, real books, and checking out other renditions on YouTube.

    If I get any more time to really shed these days I'll attempt to read through some of the cello suites and learn bop heads, but for me the priority is trying to internalize the standards repertoire chord changes.

    I know a coupla hundred tunes. Only a couple thousand more to go!!!
  16. navijaz

    navijaz Guest

    Sep 20, 2016
  17. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Oh I should add that since about February I've added a 5 minute daily meditation practice to my regimen. A quick sit you can do anywhere, with the focus purely about checking in with the body. When I go to play on the instrument (or do just about anything really), this sense of bodily inquiry really makes things go quicker. I don't fight myself so much when I'm trying to get something accomplished or get overwhelming with too full a plate.
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I have been thinking about mornings, but it is the time when I exercise and "let the wolf out" before going to work and having to deal with other people. I think that after having built this good habit over the last 10 years, it might me destructive to change it! Agree about the evenings off, but they are few and far between.
    Adam Booker and Groove Doctor like this.
  19. Jason Hollar

    Jason Hollar Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2005
    Pittsburgh area
    I read a book recently called "Spark" which extolls the virtue of a vigorous daily AM workout. Not sure that's a good fit for my constitution - lol -

    I've been thinking about buying a beater electric bass and trying it while on my treadmill for a true "walking bass" experience. What's the worst that could happen? Probably a broken neck. Yeah right. Me or or the bass - or both !?!
    Al Garcia and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  20. Hmm, my two €0.02:

    The big thing is to not worry, and to never stop for good. And using your head.

    What do I mean?

    Not worrying? The instrument is your head. The bass is not the real instrument. If you have technical proficiency, it may be that your muscles are degrading slightly over a period of not being able to practice. But this is not going to hinder you severely, unless you let it, meaning unless you focus too much on maybe a few bpm of lost dexterity (which you WILL get back eventually), or the usual "Ooh, my arm muscles really are more sore now than they are supposed to be." The music is in your head, and if it's loud enough up there, your body will make it come out of the instrument. one of my teachers, NHØP, said to me, on the subject of vacation, something in the realm of "Well, you're losing the callouses. But you'll get them back. It takes maybe 3 days to max a week to get over a period of 3 weeks vacation. What's a week? Take it easy."

    Never stop for good: A given. Get back in gear as soon as it's possible, and you'll be fine. It only stops once you stop.

    Using your head: Take 15 minute intervals and really imagine you playing something, practice away from the bass. Imagine all the details, the greasy smell of your 5 year old Dominant strings, the way these little things in the wood feel if you have a bass with a beech wood neck, the way it feels pressing the string down, the string rolling off under your finger, the sound of the note you're playing, and the most gorgeous sound you'll ever play. As good if not better than the real thing, at least for me. But really exhausting and I can honestly only do this for 20 minutes and then I have to take a break. But it works great for me. And listen to the music you like to play, to keep in touch with the music. A lot. As much as possible. Fill your head with music.

    And if I absolutely HAVE to do something with the 15-20 minutes I have in REALLY busy times, I play loooooong soft notes with a bow. Chromatically up on every string. Or maybe pizzicato major scales two octaves up and down, metronome at about 60bpm, clicking on the 4th 16th of every beat. Quarter notes, 1/8th notes, 1/16th notes.


Share This Page