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Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by bkberwanger, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. bkberwanger


    Jul 6, 2012
    I'm sure this topic is one that has been beat to death and isn't one that will be going away any time soon, so here goes...

    I am in need of a more structured practice routine. I am looking for some precise examples of what you guys and girls are doing.

    I get scales, sight reading, transcribing tunes, etc. What I'm looking for is hard and fast, definite ideas on your routines.

    ex- I spend X amount of time on _______. The way I approach it is_____. Here are a couple exercises I use to achieve ______ practice.

    I know everyone is different and our approaches will vary. I have asked several people this question and very few can give me exact examples of things they do in the practice room. Someone saying, "I just work on tunes," isn't the answer I'm looking for, I need specifics. My brain works better that way

    Thanks in advance
    Quinn Roberts and rickwolff like this.
  2. rickwolff

    rickwolff CGJ Emeritus (Certified Gear Junkie) Retired???

    I'll be watching the answers to this closely as well.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Keerist, I've typed this out so many times over the last FREAKING TWENTY YEARS (omigod what have I done), but I can't find it in a SEARCH, I can't refine the terms enough to not get a million pages to click through. Oh well.

    It's not a specific breakdown of time as it is percentage. And they're all kind of equal percents, sort of. If something specific needs to be practiced for a specific gig, that takes predominance.

    First, as a double bassist, there's a physicality to the instrument that isn't there in the same way for electric bass. Particularly if you have arco as a part of your practice routine ( and I highly recommend that, for a couple of different reasons). So that needs to address the physical concerns, so I spend some time on long tones, first with open strings, then two octave scales, using a metronome. Pretty much everybody understand using the bow to practice intonation, but it's also an excellent way to magnify any issues with left hand technique. If you don't have a good, stable STOP under a finger, you can skate in tune in a number of ways. If you're holding, say a Gb on the E string, for 8 quarter notes at 60 bpm, it's going to become pretty clear whether or not you're using arm and gravity. Or are just trying to push the string down into the fingerboard with your finger.

    There's an improvisational exercise described in the REALLY Learning a Tune thread stickied under the MUSIC THEORY DB subforum, running through the four tunes I've chosen just once is about 15 minutes so, again, if you don't have an extended amount of time to spend, you don't hit all four.

    Then there's ear training, the method I use is in a thread titled HEARING INVERSIONS, I think it's post #8.

    Then there's the transcriptions I work on, in a methodology used by Lennie Tristano and Sal Mosca, I know I've run through it here before, but I can't remember where.

    Then there's the fun or hobby stuff - playing melodies to tunes, either by ear (for standards) or reading through it (for something like APRIL IN NIMES), Bach two parts or really just anything you're having fun with. I've only just started looking at them, but my friend Dan has done a bunch of duo arrangements of Bach partitas and such for tenor saxophone and bass. He's in Seattle now (I think he plays these with Paul Gabrielson), but he's sent me mp3s of the saxophone part so, as soon as my schedule resumes normalcy, I'll dig into those.

    Now this doesn't really touch on stuff I've done in the past, working on 2 octave major and 3 minor scales with different rhythmic and accent parameters (which are sort of touched on in the REALLY Learning thread), triad arpeggios in open and closed positions, 4 part arpeggios in open and closed, 4 parts with 1 tension, with 2 tensions (those kind of get you into polytonality).

    I haven't done any work with triad pairs, negative harmony, specie counterpoint. The only work I've really done on metric modulation has been on the stand, not in the shed. I've worked a little bit on odd time signatures in a jazz setting, just cause that seems to be a thing. ANd started digging into Brazilian music and rhythms a little more heavily, because a drummer and tenor saxophonist I play with a lot are VERY down with it.
  4. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    A line I read recently, if it helps:

    “If you practice with your fingers, there is no time limit. If you practice with your brain, two hours should suffice.”

    So, here’s what I do. I’m working on solo repertoire at the moment, but I apply it to jazz as well.

    Every Sunday evening, I sit down with a planner. This planner is for only practicing. For each day, I select three or four specific goals. For instance, This last Monday’s goals were as follows:

    Penderecki, Intro, mm. 94-112 at 90bpm
    Postcards from Prague, Mvmt 1-3 at tempo
    Dragonetti Waltz 7 mm 1-repeat at tempo
    It Also Snows, read through (new piece)

    This way I can keep a detailed record of what I’ve already worked on, and I can slowly, but consistently make progress.

    Warmups are kind of a given, but they usually go something like this
    Long tones until my shoulders and arms are relaxed (range of instrument)
    Vomit exercises range of instrument (usually starting in half position, each string, then second partial each string, and first partial each string)
    Single string major scales, then major scales in position, one octave, all 12 keys, all the way up the fingerboard.

    By now I’m pretty warm. This usually takes about 30-45 minutes. I don’t want to spend too much time warming up when I could be working on material.

    Hope that helps!
    Quinn Roberts likes this.
  5. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    I disagree with you here Adam.
    For those with the time and ambition, I would say four hours daily with half scales and technique and half on music. Once you reach a very high level, I can name a few classical players that maintain their level with about two hours a day on top of rehersals, but they did a lot more than that for a good many years leading up to that point.
    Adam Booker likes this.
  6. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Teaching at Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2018
    Quinn Roberts and Tom Lane like this.
  7. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    It was a quote from a Juilliard violin teacher from many years ago.

    And I agree, for a good many years I did the 4-6 hours daily. Nowadays I’m lucky to get two, so i’ve had to learn to be hyper efficient. There is a great body of work on how the human brain works compared to even twenty years ago. Doing my practice deliberately yeilds great results for me. As always, ymmv
  8. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Galamian is said to have asked students at the Meadowmount school to practice for 50 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of rest, repeated from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon, then again from 1:00 - 1:50. That gels more with those I know personally who have made it to a high level.
    One principal bass in a major north american orchestra who for a brief time was a fellow student told me he did two hours on top of the job once he had won his first gig. He is one of those few that have never lost an audition. Thing is, at that point he had extremely good basics from many years of very good practise and great teaching. How much he did prior to this, I don't know, but he did not major in music and may well not have had time for more during his undergrad.
  9. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    4 hours daily seems high and possibly dangerous to the body. A 4 hour session here or there can be great.
    I have played that long for sure - I recently did a performance of a 5 hour composition during the day and then did two sets of "normal" free jazz in the evening.
    Not skipping days is the very most important factor along with understanding the difference between practice and playing. Daily practice of rudiments and etudes along with study of solo pieces or music you are going to perform at least 20min a day with longer sessions interspersed through out the week in addition to playing is pretty good for a bassist performing a lot.
    I live in an Apt. building and try to stop practicing at 10, often I will try to get in some practice just before and I am amazed at what you can do in 15 minutes or so.

    If I am playing a lot of concerts I focus more on arco and pitch as concerts tend to erode your subtle accuracy in favor of projection. If I am not playing a ton I will do longer sessions walking with the metronome as well as drum genius.
  10. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Well, we must move in different circles.
    I would be surprised in any of my fellow bassplayers back in college practised less than 3 hours a day, most of the time more. In the six and a half years I was there, I would guess about 80% eventually won fulltime jobs.
    As for skipping days, we were actually encouraged to take one day off per week when possible.
    damonsmith likes this.
  11. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    Right, and practice for a bass major vs. a working adult is a whole other situation. 4 hours a day is not a lifelong practice regimen for most of us.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Lots of threads on this, but I do a 36 minute 12 key warmup routine, followed by what I have time for among the following:
    - preparing music sent for upcoming shows. I like to work far out in advance when possible, but it's not always possible. When it is, it's nice to really dig deep into each chart and try to really nail it instead of just getting by.
    - working on whatever solo bach movement is up next on the agenda.
    - working through whatever tune is next on the rotational repertoire list. When I get to the end, I start over again and find that I've kind of forgotten some tunes and other have holes. I have a color coded system for keeping track.

    As mentioned in the other thread, life often gets in the way. But as life goes on and the years add up, accepting that doing as much as life allows is often about as good as it gets becomes easier. Better to practice as much as you have time for than to wait until the optimal chunk of time comes along.
    Tom Lane likes this.
  13. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    Different strokes for different folks. One of the things that's fascinated me for years is the different amounts of practice time different musicians need to achieve the same thing. The disparity is astounding, and the variables are too many to even start on. One thing that fascinates me about creating music with a computer is that a whole new personality type can be a musician. We all kinda like the repetitive nature of practice, but there are creative, artistic people out there who just aren't wired like that. Now, with computers, they can be musicians too. Haven't heard it yet (by a long, long shot), but some really wonderful music will be made by these new musicians.
  14. bkberwanger


    Jul 6, 2012
    I know it's been a while since you replied to this post, but thank you. That is exactly the answer I was looking for. Much appreciated.
  15. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Teaching at Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    My pleasure. I assumed that you didn’t respond sooner because you’ve been busy practicing... :)
    Chris Fitzgerald and Joshua like this.

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