So we have all sorts of threads about practicing. My favorite right now is the "How Often Do You Practice?" thread. I see a lot of people responding that they practice about an hour a day, but most of the people that I know, don't really practice an hour a day. They may play bass for an hour a day, but is their a gameplan? Organizational thought? A purpose? This is not to knock the practice routine of anybody here. Also, this is not say that what I do, or what someone else does is either right or wrong. Different strokes, for different folks. I thought I would share some sage advice by a sage teacher, Mr. Mark Levine. Most of the information that follows is from "The Jazz Theory Book" by Mark Levine. I won't give all the information, because you should buy the book, but maybe this excerpt will help convince some, that haven't been exposed to the book, of it's worth. I've never been a fan of mindless finger drills that have you randomly move your fingers across the fretboard in hopes of building dexterity, strength, or speed. I'm sure in some situations, they have their place, but too many bassists that I know make these drills the crux of their practice time. I've always been a fan of more focused, and musical practicing. So without further adieu, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE Make Music When Practicing. Instead of simply moving your hands across the fretboard, "play with feeling and intensity. Practice heads and melodies as beautifully and personally as possible." Instead of just mindlessly running through scales, make music with the scale. Practice Everything in Every Key. Such sage advice. "Practice everything in every key. Everything: voicings, licks, patterns, and tunes. Especially tunes. After you've learned a tune, practice it in a key other than the original one. This will highlight all your weaknesses, telling you immediately what you have to practice. Practice Your Weaknesses. "When practicing, concnetrate on things that you don't play well. Suppose you're practicing a lick through all 12 keys. Which keys give you the most trouble? After a rehearsal or a gig, think back on what part of your playing felt the shakiest, and start your next practice session working on that. As you pinpoint your weaknesses, you'll know exactly what to practice. If you have limited practice time, it becomes productive to pick up your instrument and practice for 15 minutes because you'll know exactly what to practice." Speed Comes From Accuracy. "If you're practicing something fast, and it's not getting any better, slow down. Speed comes from accuracy and relaxation. If you play something accuaretly, you can then play it a little faster." The Tactile and Visual Aspect. "As important as the aural (C7alt sounds like this), and the theoretical, (C7alt is the seventh mode of Db melodic minor), are the tactile (C7alt feels like this), and the visual (C7 alt looks like this), ways of internalizing music. Know how everything feels and looks like on your instrument. As you practice, a visual impint of the notes you play is made on your eyes, and a tactile imprint is made on your fingers, hands, and arms." Transcribing. "Learn to transcribe early and well. The best way to learn a tune is to transcribe it off the record." Years ago, before there were tabs and the internet, musicians bought the record, (instead of downloading it), and just listened to it over and over and over until they could play it, or part of it. While this will seem like a foreign concept to many of the younger members, this is how your ear is developed, and how you become a musician. Play Along with Real Records. "Try to get the same groove at the same energy level as the players on the record." Keep a Notebook. Raise your hand if you do this. How many people here, maybe one, two? Probably not many of us. "Write down the names of tunes that you want to learn, or things that you want to remember to practice. This can help you focus in on your needs, and bring some sense of order to the ever-lengthening list of stuff you want to woodshed." Relax. "Be aware of any unnecessary muscle tension as you play. Breathe normally and deeply. Drummer Billy Higgins always smiles when he plays. Does he know something we all should know?" Tap that Foot. "Whatever feels natural is ok." Cultivate Your Environment. "Listen to as much live music as possible. Find the best musician on your instrument in your area and ask if you can study with him or her. If he or she doesn't want to take you on, keep asking for at least a single lesson. As you watch a live performance, be aware of the interaction between musicians. How do they communicate? By signs? Verbally? Non verbally?" Everything in quotes is from Mr. Levine's mouth. But he speaks very wisely. Personally, I've always believed in a well-rounded practice routines, concentrating on all aspects of my playing, and focusing on my weaknesses. It doesn't serve anybody well to keep rehashing that bassline to Higher Ground that you know inside and out know. The one thing I might add to Mark's list revolves around your practice space. Avoid distractions like the telephone, roommates, and especially television. Have what you need within reach, paper, pencil, tuner, metronome, books, CDs, etc. Have an ergonomic and comfortable surrounding. You'll get out of your instrument exactly what you put into it.