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noodling vs practicing..

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by glocke1, Nov 1, 2013.

  1. glocke1


    Apr 30, 2002
    Just curious how much time people here spend noodling vs practicing…

    At one time, I was very studious when it came to picking up my bass at home…Id spend 20 minutes just doing warmups (finger patterns, scales/chords, etc), another 20 minutes or so working on reading, than another 20 minutes on ear training….(those times are just guesses, usually it was longer).

    These days, 90% of the time when I pick up a bass most of what I do is noodle…I'll only sit down and get serious about stuff like learning tunes if I have a gig coming up.
  2. When I was playing guitar, I spent too much time noodling and consequently developed comfort zones that I didn't want to play out of.

    So when I later picked up bass, I made a conscious effort to constantly work on stuff that 's not comfortable for me. And I'm much more disciplined about using metronomes and proper technique and such. Basically I learned from the mistakes of my lazy guitar pratices.
  3. fearceol


    Nov 14, 2006
    It all depends on what you want out of your playing. Idly noodling over stuff you already know will bring zero progress. This is OK if you are a bedroom player with no ambitions, but if you seriously want to progress you need to put in some focused practice. I have seen it said that.."practice does not make perfect...focused practice does".

    Having said the above, all work and no play (excuse the pun) is not a good thing either. A healthy balance is the key IMO.
  4. l play 6 string rhythm guitar and bass. On the rhythm guitar its all auto pilot now days, we've been playing the same ole 50 songs for over 10 years so there is no need to practice them. If I pick up the 6 string it's for noodling.

    I play Praise music with my bass so its six new songs each Sunday. Most of what I do on bass is practice, no noodling beyond a quick warm up.
  5. bass geetarist

    bass geetarist

    Jul 29, 2013
    I'm like the OP in that most of my "practice" time is spent "noodling". I've been playing for about 20 years though, and in the past I had focused really hard on learning how to navigate different scales and chord progressions and different techniques and reading and such, and I wouldn't be the bass player that I am today without all of that under my belt.

    At this point in my life, I'm just writing my own songs, so I have no need to read music (but certainly would need to brush up on this skill if I'm to use it again), and scales are pretty hard wired into my brain (at least the ones I commonly use). So really, other than playing through my own songs and a couple warm up excercises, most of my practice time is spent noodling around and seeing what I can come up with. I actually do find this quite beneficial for several reasons;

    - it keeps my hands in good shape for serious playing

    - the threat of boredom challenges me to noodle more creatively

    - if I stumble across a phrase that I find difficult, I'll play it over and over until it's not difficult.

    I certainly wouldn't recommend this approach to new players, but I think noodling has been an integral part in developing my own sound when it comes to playing bass.

    This is just my two cents to add to the convo, not meant as a recommendation or advice to anyone... IME, YMMV...
  6. FunkHead

    FunkHead Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2007
    To me practicing bass is about 50% noodling. First I learn the song. Then I practice it note for note. Then I start inserting subtle, tasteful fills. I have so much fun jamming to stuff I've known for 35 years. 1/2 of my woodshedding time is spent between practicing the weekends gig note for note. The other 1/2 is working on my improv skills. One cool thing to do is to play all walking bass lines to bands like ZZ Top. I force myself to Make Walking work with the song. Yes it's noodling but it's also expanding my abilities.
  7. LordDog


    Jun 25, 2013
    Norwich UK
    As a guitar player I was a serial noodler, but since I took up bass, I've tried really hard not to do it until I have learned the basic stuff that I feel I need to know.

    With the guitar, it really did hamper me, as I never really progressed much, even after years and years. I didn't learn anything new as I though it "difficult", and reasoned (wrongly) that I didn't need to learn this or that technique or skill, as I just sat around at home noodling or playing along to chord box books.

    I intend to learn as much about notation, theory and technique on bass as I can, before I get back into the noodling habit; and even then I will have strict limits on time spent doing it. :meh:
  8. mambo4


    Jun 9, 2006
    just add a simple constraint to the noodling and you'll be pratcicing

    noodling + something on the radio
    noodling + only one key
    noodling + only arpeggios
    noodling + only 2 chords
    noodling + only one octave


    bonus points for constraining yourself to something unfarmiliar
  9. I've been doing little more than noodling for the past 2 years or so and I've actually seen noticeable improvement. That said, it has come very slowly. If I actually practiced formally I would likely progress more quickly, I just think formal practice gets old really fast.
  10. I used to be in the habit of recording every practice, noodle, and wanking I did on my bass. And, talk about benefits!! You wouldn't BELIEVE the riffs/songs that came from those recordings. Hell, some of 'em were as short as 15 seconds!

  11. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    I only noodle when I am warming up for a show, and that's only for a minute. I definitely properly practice a lot more.
  12. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I've seen a concept coming up on the covers of parenting magazines lately called "free play". And I think this concept is healthy for musicians as well. But just like with children, it can't ALL be about free play.

    When I pick up my bass, I usually have a specific goal in mind. But I do make sure to, occasionally, allow myself some of that "free play". Just allowing yourself some unstructured time to get to know your instrument in whatever way you choose is healthy, I believe.
  13. villhelmromero


    Oct 12, 2013
    I use almost all of my play time writing material then practicing what I made up. and the rest is trying to figure out how to play the intricate parts of Circumstances by Rush haha!
  14. radioface


    May 2, 2013
    Every time I play my bass, it's practice. Try not noodling/practicing and see what happens. Playing anything, anytime, helps. Playing nothing at all, hurts.
  15. DrayMiles


    Feb 24, 2007
    East Coast
    In my case, I did my first paying gig in 1978, I've done some West End musicals, and I was in a house band in Spain for 3 years. I've played with famous and not so famous people..
    I've decided to work on piano and production for the next 3 years. I haven't picked up my bass in a year. When I do, I noodle...
    BUT, ;)
    I'm always thinking about how to approach a chord, and tunes.. albeit on the piano now. I figure that I needed a break to enjoy the bass.
    Sometimes noodling can be a great catalyst for a song, or a motif, but...

    "If you aren't going to practice, technique arrives in a very haphazard way, leaving great gaps of competence."
  16. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
    that lick when he sings "empty rooms" whew, that's some fingers lolol. oh god and then you gotta try and sing over it xD

    but for me personally, I rarely practice any true material. I would never call what I do noodling tho. no, that sounds too unproductive. I call it "becoming familiar with my instrument" :D
  17. villhelmromero


    Oct 12, 2013
    hell yeah. geddy wrote some tough licks
  18. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    I have never been the type of player who picks up a bass or a guitar just to noodle. I practice or I gig, that's about it.
  19. Murmaider


    Oct 20, 2013
    What is noodling? Is it just playing random notes that aren't music or is it practicing things you already sort of know? Since I got my bass I've been going up and down a few scales and a couple exercises and that's about it for me really, is that noodling?
  20. wild4oldcars


    Jan 22, 2012
    Garner, NC
    to me noodling is just playing whatever sounds good to my ear. sometimes this leads to elaboration of different skills (this is how I learned to incorporate my thumb in chords and classical-guitar-style stuff) so I guess you could call it practicing. but again, its mostly just me becoming more familiar with bass.

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