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Practice Routines/Developing A Practice Routine! What's Yours?

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by BigBasserino, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. BigBasserino


    Apr 30, 2017
    Lately I'm trying to pick up the bass more often while I'm out of a band but trying to get more involved with home recording/recording myself (as "decent" as I think I am I still shudder a bit at the thought. ...it feels awkward.) .

    One thing with me as far as playing is I feel like bass is so nebulous when it comes to practicing compared to horn. I'm much faster on horn and I have a much more fluid understanding of playing that I feel like as much as I'm trying to branch out on bass, I'm not sure what good it's doing.

    Right now I take the bass out of the case, don't bother plugging in, and start playing. I play all sorts of song/riff ideas. Then I run through basic scales (major minor) and basic arpeggios. Cleanliness of playing I try to emphasize.

    Then I usually put on a couple tunes on YouTube and play along. Could be a movie soundtrack, could be metal. ..I just try to follow because I think my relative pitch is pretty good. If a tune is downtuned I try to ignore it and octave up the parts I don't have. I have a bass exercise book for dummies but I honestly haven't gotten too far.

    I'm going for a nightly 20 minutes routine on weeknights and an hour on weekend days.

    Anyhow. ...what would you guys recommend? I know I can "play" and fit a bill. ....but I want to get better than my "average". If not for a bands sake for my own.
  2. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Not sure what you mean by the bass seeming "nebulous." Does it mean that you don't know your way around the fingerboard very well? Like, if I asked you to play all the C# notes on your neck, how long would you have to stop to think about it? Or if I asked you to play Gmaj7 arpeggio? Really learning the notes on the fretboard, as well as the patterns for arpeggios/scale tones, might be a good place to start if you haven't mastered those things.

    Also, I'd recommend against practicing unplugged with an electric bass, especially if you're trying to emphasize "cleanliness" of playing. If you can't hear yourself well, it's difficult to tell just how clean your notes are sounding. Using an amp (or headphones) will expose any sloppiness much more readily. Plus, practicing unplugged tempts you to pluck much harder than you would need to if plugged in, in order to hear yourself, and you want to learn how to play with a soft touch and let the amp do the work.
    Old P Bass Guy and BigBasserino like this.
  3. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    My practice routing these days is pretty much squeezing in the learning of whatever songs I have for the weekend. I don't have a whole lot of time to commit anymore. I'm playing more live than ever before though, so I guess that makes up for the loss of practice time. I also learned to practice while driving, as I spend a lot of time on the road. I put whatever songs I'm working on on a usb, and run through them (imagining the fretboard and fingering) in my head while listening. I've also gotten better at learning songs without a bass in hand. Listening and learning, then checking later when I get home is really starting to tune my ears. I hear intervals much better since I started doing that. It gets easier as with anything else that's practiced consistently.
    buldog5151bass and BigBasserino like this.
  4. BigBasserino


    Apr 30, 2017
    I kind of meant in general for string/fretted instrument players it's easier to be undisciplined. A lot of times I've met with "bands", meeting with the group was the "practice" and the only directive was "the gig". There was no sense of practice vs rehearsal. So a lot of times I have walked away thinking someone's "practice routine" may just be farting around on an instrument, finding patterns/hooks that simply sound cool to them and playing with the song. Basically everything that's not focused on actual technique.

    As far as the C notes on a neck I can tell that there's C on the 1st note on the B string as well as well as the 13th fret, E that's 8 and 15, A 3, D on the 10th, G on the 5th fret. ...probably in a minute or two. Gmaj7, g b d f. I mean I DID go to music school just not for bass lessons.

    I was generally lazy about plugging in in my room because I generally don't have much space for my amp and I thought that it would be similar to how people say acoustic guitar playing is more difficult then electric.

    One thing I notice about myself about playing is I feel like I have enough knowledge and experience I can shake off "rust" easily. I can go a few months without touching a horn and warm up in 5 and run through scales and stuff. ...bass not so much. But I'm getting to the point I truly want to stop BSing myself and get serious about producing tunes at a higher level, whatever that is.

    This is honestly good stuff and good topics to get the blood in my brain going. Thanks.
  5. What you are doing looks fine.

    Seems like after we get our scales, arpeggios and or chord tones into muscle memory we then trend to practice the songs we will play this week.

    If the songs to be played send us back to the drawing board on scales, arpeggios and or chord tones -- we practice what is needed.

    In our band we often get the set list for Sunday service late Saturday night. So I look over the songs and see if it includes any new songs and if so I'll spend some time with them. No new songs I just wait until we all get together an hour before Sunday service.

    We used to practice a couple of hours on Wednesday night going over the set list for Sunday, but, took a break for the summer, and have not started Wednesday night practice up again.

    Another band I was in - ole time classic Country - we never practiced just showed up and played. We normally played the same ole 50 songs over and over, and in my case I'd been playing those 50 songs for 15 years... Course we all were in our 70's and 80's and pretty well had all the basic stuff down.

    Point of this post. There does come a time when we just practice the new songs that will be played this week.

    Should mention I'm now at the retirement home and not connected with any band - yet.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    saabfender and BigBasserino like this.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    There is no inherent difference between bass and horn in terms being "easier to be undisciplined"; being "disciplined" is in your head, not the instrument. The kinds of bands you've evidently been hanging out with are exactly the ones that countless folks complain about around TB: i.e., bandmates who don't learn and practice their parts on their own, and waste "rehearsal" time to do so. The only reason that bass might seem to require less "discipline" is that the electric bass and guitar are physically easier to play than a horn; anybody can make musical sounds without much training, so it's possible to move from zero to being in a mediocre cover band more quickly than you could do on with a horn. But once you get that far, there's no end to the ways in which you can improve, which requires work.

    If it took you "a minute or two" to find all the C's on your fretboard, you don't know your way around your instrument. If I asked you to play all the C notes within your range on your horn, how long would you have to think about it?

    Not the same thing at all. Either find space for the amp or get a pedal or something that will allow you to listen through headphones.

    It sounds like this is because you've spent much longer studying and practicing your horn. The better you know the instrument, the more quickly you can re-learn it after a long hiatus.

    I'm glad to help if this will spur you to get as serious about playing bass as you once were playing the horn. As I said above, there's no reason why you can't approach your bass skills/knowledge/ability in exactly the same way that you're accustomed to with a horn.[/QUOTE]
    BigBasserino likes this.
  7. BigBasserino


    Apr 30, 2017
    One thing about horn. ...unless we're discussing overtones, the range is "set". 3 Octaves on C's alone. Bass I can play C's as far as the fingerboard will allow, considering alternate fingerings. You can factor in the harmonic C's as well. It's an open ended question, no? If someone asked me how many C's are within a hands range, on a 4 there's two. On a 5 there's 3. Realistically with a 24 fret board there's 2 "octaves" per string on any of the 12 given notes. But how many of those tones are you going to use? Not trying to be difficult. Just thoughts that cross my mind.

    I've got an interface I can plug into. Maybe I'll see about lugging up one of my combos, depending on what works better.

    I'll get on it and maybe we'll see some recordings pop up here.
  8. BigBasserino


    Apr 30, 2017
    Definitely know what you mean. I always think about music at work maybe come up with drum patterns to program when I come home, render/listen on phone/car , work some more. ...and then by the time I get to actually think about music I'm like "ugh I got other things calling". It's no fun but it's the way the deck is stacked.
    I know what you mean. Idk there used to be a time when I was younger/hungrier to work with people that I spent all the time in the basement, shedding, a master of all things first position and able to tune from ear alone. ...and then the dark period came. And with that I lost my old playing style.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  9. Back to where are all the C's. Long story short. What you can do at the C on the 3rd fret, you can also do at the C at the 8th fret or the 15th fret. Did that open up your fretboard?

    Major C scale pattern at the 3rd, 8th and 15th fret. Are there more? Like has been said; "Sure", but three is enough for we mortals.

    BigBasserino likes this.
  10. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I think you're missing my point: I'm guessing that if you had the horn in hand and ready to play, and I asked you to play all the C's you were able to, you would be able to do so without hestiation; it would be practically automatic. But when I asked you to play all the C's you were able to on a bass, you said it would take minute or two to find them. My point was that to be proficient on bass isn't really that different from being proficient on a horn -- i.e., that bass is not inherently more "nebulous."
    BigBasserino likes this.
  11. BigBasserino


    Apr 30, 2017
    Power of the internet is a great thing. ..a little easier than thinking about it all in my noggin. Yea I think it's safe to get 3 in a row.... there's more to music than C's, unfortunately.
  12. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    I'm sort of in the same situation except I am probably older than the OP and may have more time an patience at this stage of life. For me I am rebuilding my whole approach to the bass. Sort of like rebuilding my golf swing that had a terrible slice.

    I never new how to read notation since when I was younger I was pretty good at learning by ear. I was much too impatient to have the self discipline to work on it.
    I am focusing on three things right now:

    1. Reading notation for an hour each morning.

    2. Learning cycle fourths on every string on my bass. My goal is to get through my fretboard on triads at 100 BPM 3 times around with no mistakes. (Got that from Jim Stinette). About 1 hour per day.

    3. Picked up Stinette's book on reading bass clef. One hour each day. Not moving to the next exercise until I have each one perfect 3 times in a row at the perscribed bpm.

    40 years ago I would have thrown my axe out the window and headed to a bar. The only thing old age is good for is maturity and self control ( with some things).

    I have my good days and bad days. Some days I think I just spinning my wheels and other days I can really tell I am making progress.
    BaticaBG likes this.
  13. I start out by using all four fingers on ea. string, up and down for an octave on ea. string, then I do major and minor scales two octave scales in a couple of keys, then arpeggios and Bass Hanon. I also try my best for clean sound. Takes about 1/2 hour, then I move on to new stuff and old stuff.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2018
  14. dexter3d


    Jul 4, 2005
    If your practicing is fun and comfy, it means you're not progressing in any significant way. Practicing should be painful. You have to hit areas that are the hardest for you, and do it with discipline. Like, do 500 runs of a particular arpeggio fragment until it's butter smooth, only then proceed to another. Some say you need at least 3 hrs a day of disciplined practice (no noodling) for any decent gains.
  15. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    I know exactly what you mean. I have a degree in trumpet and another in French horn.
    The trouble with bass is that in relation to nearly any other instrument, there is little accepted pedagogy. Sure there are some books, but many different ideas on how and what to play. Add to that the relative ease of EB with scales and arpeggios (same fingering all across the board), and there is little to no problem with tone production, (brass instruments will take months of practice just to get a good tone and be reasonable sure the note you want will come out of the instrument), you've got a axe that can be readied for simple gigs in a matter of weeks.
    So work the things that you had trouble playing the last time you had the bass in your hands. Work to make sure your fingerings are consistant (no extra movement, learn the neck so you can move quickly and gracefully to the next note). The bass is a wonderful instrument for learning and using music theory, probably better than even the keyboard since all the same finger movement always gets you to the same interval (for instance, with second finger down, move to next highest string and lower one fret and you'll have a major 3rd, everywhere on the instrument). So, in effect, hand position and fingering becomes a physical expression of solfege.
    You didn't say what horn you play, but my guess is that you learned in school. Get a bass clef version of the books you learned and play them on the bass. There are tons of pdf's on line for beginning and intermediate trombone, bassoon, and cello books. Download and read, read, read. Also many transcribe bass lines from recorded songs etc.

    finally: jazzbooks.com: Product Details
  16. Being a programmer; I wrote a simple Python app to bring me random exercises on random keys. Examples:
    • Find D# -> A on each string
    • What is Bb7 degree 6?
    • Transcribe a new groove
    • Do an arpeggio on F#-b9
    • Practice 2-5-1 licks
    • Do walking bass with tritone substitutes
    • Play Db mixolydian degrees 6, 11, 3, 5
    There are more exercises, but you get the idea. When I discover new things I want to study, I simply throw them into the program; and they start coming to me in my daily routine.

    With a little knowledge of macros & formulas, the same can be achieved on Excel as well.
  17. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    I used to do a lot of "car playing" in my mind I had a long commute. I remember a few times making a mistake in my head and "hearing" it. That was when I knew I really understood the changes.
  18. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.
    I just learn the tunes that I have to play for the gig.. and depending on the material, it doesn't take anymore than little over an hr. and I'm good to go for the most part. Anything beyond that I'll will more times than not lose interest.
  19. Old P Bass Guy

    Old P Bass Guy

    Nov 26, 2017
    Do you read notation, listen to the tunes or What? Sounds like you a a pretty accomplished player.

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