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Practice Practice Practice

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by jazzbo, Mar 22, 2003.

  1. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    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,


    • 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.
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  2. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Good stuff Jazzbo, thanks for sharing :cool:

    That part about transcribing:

    I can't emphasize the importance of this enough. I am someone who has "learned to transcribe early and well" - and I'm continually grateful and thankful for this, even as I continue to work on my ear. It can just teach you so much about music.
    Matt Hoyle likes this.
  3. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    I can only add to this by triple emphasizing accuracy.

    I am learning "chromatic fantasy" right now....and I usually read the chart, slowly go over the notes and then try and run it at jaco speed.BAD IDEA

    Last night I realized how I wasn't making much progress, I would spend an hour on the song and only progress a tiny bit. So I decided to SLOWLY sit down with everything I knew, and played every note very slowly, feeling my muscles as they moved, and locking it in my head. Sure enough, after doing this, I was able to play it much quicker, with greater accuracy.

    I cannot stress enough how important it is to play things slowly, and train your fingers to go where you want them to, slowly.

    once your fingers know where to go, speeding up is NOT going to be an issue.

    Might I add

    this webpage is a great resource for practice methods and learning techniques.
    pduffett likes this.
  4. stephanie


    Nov 14, 2000
    Scranton, PA
    What a wonderful post! Thanks Jazzbo for sharing all this info.

    *raises her hand :D

    Hehe, I do this! In my notebook I keep notes I need to remember from my lesson, interesting music-related quotes I find here and there, information from here at TB (I don't have a printer and have to copy everything by hand, boohoo), things I need to practice, and many other things musical. It helps keep me organized and focused.
  5. Thanks Jazzbo, you never disappoint. Just another thing to add to my Bass Practice folder!
  6. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
    Great advice Jazzbo.

    You guys might want to check out Dave Liebmans (saxophonist) website for jazz practicing. His website is http://www.upbeat.com/lieb Check for Articles and look around.

  7. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Any jazz musician owes a world of debt to Levine, Aebersold, and so many others like them. Sometimes it feels like the next best thing to hanging out on 52nd St. in 1947, and talking to Dizzy backstage.
  8. kirbywrx

    kirbywrx formerly James Hetfield

    Jul 27, 2000
    Melbourne, Australia.
    Once again you have saved me

  9. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Also don't forget to practice performing, by playing with other people as often as you can and with people that are better than you.
    Old P Bass Guy likes this.
  10. on the other hand, I've got to hear about various songs on the internet (too many to mention), especially on this site;) I wouldn't have otherwise, and then hear them by downloading them, and then work them out by ear.
    so the internet hasn't necessarily meant the death of players working things out by ear.
  11. Great post Jazzbo. I love your guide to scales, and this is good advice too. Thanks! :)
  12. Howard K

    Howard K

    Feb 14, 2002
    This poses a question in my mind jazzbo... do YOU really think that transcribing is alien to many younger TB members?
    What do others think, surely these newbies cant all be that bad?!

    I mean how else would they learn stuff?

    I can't imagine NOT transcribing things, even now. I only ever seem to transcribe entire songs when going for audition, but I transcribe bits from CD, TV, video, radio, adverts, jingles, other players live, all the time!

    What else do these kids do if they dont transcribe their "hero's" music?

    I can remember the day I sat down and worked out Higher Ground by the peppers al those years ago and being SO chuffed when I got it to sound recognisabley like the record!!
    Now I just listen to Marcus Miller and weep quietly to myself in a dark corner...

    Oh yeah and I keep a notebook! I use to jot down ideas, chords, melodies, songs, anything that I want to work on, look at, or try out with something I'm working on... it's a damned good idea actually
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I notice people have focused on this part - so the bit in quotes is what Levine says - but the rest is pure Jazzbo!! ;)
  14. Lovebown


    Jan 6, 2001
  15. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Also - Jazzbo has left one out!!! So the headings are all the same as Levine's in the chapter titled PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE ...

    But between "The Tactile and Visual Aspect" and "Transcribing" is another heading :

    "Licks and Patterns"

    "You should practice licks and patterns to get your fingers, brain and eyes all in synch, so that you are comfortable in as wide a range of musical situations as possible. Licks and patterns should become part of your musical unconscious.....

    Use licks and patterns to get to know your instrument but try not to us them exclusively as you solo.

    That having been said, note that virtually every great soloist has practiced licks and patterns. As you practice, you might worry that you're going to end up as a copy of a player whose licks you're stealing. The fear is largely unjustified. Very few musicians wind up sounding like a clone of another player. Your notes alone do not make you a player....your embouchure, lung capacity and finger dexterity aren't the same ...neither are your life experiences. "
  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I debated on whether or not to include that one, as Mark's book is designed for jazzbos, but this thread is not. Thanks for putting it in for me Bruce.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Ah, I see what you mean - it just seemed pertinent in the context of another thread that was going on around here!

    I think that any type of music has "licks" - it sounds a bit "derogatory" to call them that, but there are things that work in situations and seeing how somebody did that - constructed phrases etc, can help you in your playing. And as ML says - you can construct your own licks, to help you practice - so it is a useful idea to liven things up so you are not always just playing scales?
  18. Good advice as always......if only jazbo would post a thread on what shops sell the discipline required to practice properly:D
  19. skaboy


    Oct 16, 2001
    Exactly right man, if only. But I am glad that I am finally come to my senses to discipline myself. Even though it is still a struggle sometimes.

    Yea cheers Jazzbo you've been supurb!

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