1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Practice Time - Technique vs The Music

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Seanto, Mar 25, 2018.

  1. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Curious for your thoughts on how you manage practice time between exercises for technique and playing actual music. Part of this is the question of where the most value added work is and killing numerous birds with one stone.

    My curiosity derives from having limited time to practice and while away from the bass, contemplating how to best use my practice time to progress. My conundrum is that i wonder if i am killing multiple birds with one stone by practicing the music deeply instead of practicing technique exercises deeply. By playing the music, i am working on the technique to play it at the same time, right? At the same time, i for some reason get a kick out of running through technique based exercises for shifting, moving across strings, bowing, etc.

  2. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    To better add context, its sort of like, i have 30 mins to practice. Am i better off running through scales or a pleasant sounding etude that utilizes multiple techniques at one time? Assume there is no gig to prepare for, just focusing on personal progress.
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    The advice I've been given and use is that practice time should always be about something you don't do well. If you work in something you're good at, you're not really learning anything new. However I still believe in calibration so sometimes I still play stuff that gets chips back into shape though I may have been good at that particular thing. Bird heads is my calibration of choice. But only for a few minutes or tunes.

    Because practice time is very limited I focus on hand-ear coordination. That way if I have to gig all of a sudden I can still rely my inner ear to solo and I just focus on nailing that note. After that it's usually between trying to develop a new concept over an old tune or it's a new tune. If I have to gig then I'll focus on sight reading the melody because I suck at it. Along with learning changes of course. All depends on where you are in your journey.

    Even with limited time I think there is still something to be said for the "really learning a tune" approach
    Les Fret, Scott Lynch and eJake like this.
  4. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Good points, and i guess the end answer is that it varies from player to player, and point to point in their bass playing career. Right now i really try to do both...i start with more technique driven warm ups and then work on some actual music. Sometimes i get it into my head that i should just skip everything and go straight to the thing i actually am practicing for, playing music. But of course there is a realization that, if you can't perform the techniques well enough then trying to perform the music will be a very frustrating experience.
    Scott Lynch and btmpancake like this.
  5. btmpancake

    btmpancake Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2015
    Apollo beach, Florida
    I deleted my post because Seanto said it good enough for me.
    Seanto likes this.
  6. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Just to add: Sometimes, you just have to have fun too. Practicing and making progress is obviously important, but sometimes it's got to be enjoyable and not a chore. If you dig and feel inspired by doing etudes and exercises, I'd say keep at it but don't lose sight of what you need to progress on. Doing something where you get both the challenge and satisfaction is obviously the ideal.
    Jeshua, longfinger and Seanto like this.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I think both are important. For years I've worked with a mindset that focuses on distinguishing between conception and execution. Both are important and interrelated. In order to lump how to best spend your time, it's important to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are. Are you better at coming up with interesting things to play, or at smoothly executing things that are put in front of you? Where is that balance for you? The answer to this is usually a good measure of what it is wise to work on.

    Since I came to the bass from 10+ years playing jazz piano, conception was always far ahead of execution. For this reason, spending a lot of time with drones and metronomes has always made a lot of sense for me. For a number of my students who are primarily classical players learning to play jazz as a sideline, the paradigm is often reversed. Conception (hearing) can be measured by singing what you intend to play. If you can sing something interesting in whatever context you are studying but can't get it out of your bass, then that suggests working on that skill. If you can play anything that you sing but don't find it interesting, that suggests the opposite.

    In a perfect, world, there would be time to balance the two spheres in a consistent way. In an imperfect world, setting priorities is paramount. For me, technique and calibration always come first, followed by specific repertoire for upcoming performances and increasing vocabulary. These things can often be combined when time is short by practicing challenging material slowly and methodically until it starts to flow.
  8. I see 30 mins/day the same as a 3.5 hour practice session spread over 7 days. Break things up and spread them over the week.

    eg. Day 1: I'd do scales pertinent to a song, then play thru that song, then solo a bit.
    Day 2: revise day 1 then repeat process for a new song.
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2018
    Seanto and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  9. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    7 Steps to Heaven ( your personalized East German practice routine)

    1) In Excel first column, type in a list of skills you consider key to achieving your musical goals. Examples could be walking lines, speed, slap, sight reading, improvisation, ear training, singing while playing etc. Really anything you want.
    2) in the second column assign a weight to how important this skill is to your musical goal:
    Essential =1.0
    Important = 0.5
    Nice to have = 0.25
    Low relevance =0.125
    Not relevant = 0.0

    3)In column 3, assign a proficiency weight.

    1.0 = I suck at this Grade D or less
    0.5 = passable, but need to improve Grade C
    0.25 = Ok, Grade B
    0.125 = Cam do this easily, Grade A
    4) In column 4, multiply column 2 by column 4 by 1000.

    5) Sort your entries by column 4 in descending order. Save the spreadsheet
    6 Work the top items- 15 min per item. If you only have 30 min to practice, work the top two. An hour, work the top 4.
    7) Next practice session, update the list and realign priorities.

    Anal, but effective, especially when coupled with good practice skills. The weighting forces overall balanced competency. If you really are serious, let your instructor fill in the weightings.

    Dedicated in fond memory of one of my former instructors who is still kicking ass.
  10. My basic recommendation to students is based on one hour of practice time. During that hour, you should:
    • 15 minute Warm up. 1 or 2 octave scales, major and minor up the neck in all keys, arpeggios, dexterity, rudiments, etc.
    • 30 minutes on whatever new you are working on. An etude, a solo, a cello suite, whatever.
    • 15 minutes on something fun. Turn on the jazz channel and play along live, even if you don’t know the song. Sing a melody and try to double it in real time. Your choice—whatever you consider fun.
    The key to me is breaking up the time into manageable chunks, without weighing too much time on the hard boring bits.
  11. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    I took a few lessons from Dave Holland, and he had thoughts on this. This was 30 years ago, so keep that in mind. He felt that most people spent too much time shedding stuff that didn't directly apply to the music they were performing. So, for example, if you're a jazz player, you're better off working on rhythm (best without a metronome!) than shedding some etude Arco. Next would be pizz sound, then the music you play on gigs. If you're playing with an original music band work on that music rather than learning standards in 12 keys, or vise versa. None of us have unlimited time and it's good to focus.
  12. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Great way to think about it, thank you. Yes i would say my conception is far ahead of my execution, in that i feel i have alot of great musical ideas in my head that i have trouble executing on the instrument. I think this definitely informs me to make sure i am including the right technique practice to bridge this gap, which has honestly always been the high level goal for me as a player...play what is in my head, seamlessly.
  13. damonsmith


    May 10, 2006
    Quincy, MA
    There is no killing two birds with one stone with this instrument. Each bird needs their own stone. A far better saying for us is using hundreds of stones to kill one bird. The more you separate out and focus on specifics the better bassist you will be.
    Right now, I am only playing free so all my practice is technique.
    I did a project with written material in Feb. and I did whole other practice sessions with it in addition to my standard double bass practice.
    I have a set of warm ups/scales I do, then Simandl, then Bach, then metronome practice. I don't do anything until I run through that.

    Chris Fitzgerald and Seanto like this.
  14. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    Exactly the type of thing i wanted to hear about. Thanks Damon for your perspective. There are no short cuts.
  15. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Focus is the key like you said. I have poor self discipline with a bass in my hands. Thats why I use spreadsheet method telling me what I need to practice on.
  16. I had a good think about how I practise. I get bored with drills but love songs. I can manage 1 'set' of 12 songs each month: 3 songs/wk on average, 15-45 mins/day.

    1. Compile a song list on iTunes.
    - of songs I want to learn (for my enjoyment), or
    - a setlist for an upcoming gig, or
    - a specific bassist, album or band I want to learn to emulate.

    2. Play thru the entire songlist by ear in one go, no music. Stretch yourself.

    3. Learn one song at a time, get up to basic gig standard. Transcribe or use sheet music, play melody, etc. until memorised.

    4. Go Deeper with select songs.
    - address technical skills that need refreshing.
    - harmonic analysis.
    - singing while playing.
    - soloing.

    5. Play the entire song list, this time with better skills and familiarity.
    - Apply the new things you've learned into each song.
    - It helps build confidence seeing your skills emerge, keeps me motivated.

    6. Revisit old song lists to refresh your memory, sharpen your skills, & savour how far you've come.

    Hope that helps.
    Chris Fitzgerald likes this.
  17. This article was mentioned in the link in the post above.
    10 Easy Ways To Optimize Your Music Practice
    Here's a few points I liked (edited version)...

    "Begin with the end in mind: Have a goal for each practice session before you start playing.
    Just playing through your music isn't the same thing as practicing. Before you start, think: What do I want to accomplish today? Write down a few concrete goals to work toward and refer to them during your practice sessions.

    Practice smarter, not necessarily longer.
    You'll probably accomplish a whole lot more in a short amount of time if you have a very focused objective — and science tells us that we have a limited amount of willpower to draw upon anyway. So make the most of the time you have.... Break it down into even smaller and more manageable bits, go super slow, change the rhythm, etc. If you still have trouble with one section, then make a note and come back to it again tomorrow. Chances are it will be much, much easier the next time around.

    Practice away from your instrument. Many musicians use visualization in the same way that athletes do: They run through their music without touching their instruments. Bring your music with you and when you have some downtime, such as during a car or train ride, listen to it or read through the music.

    Reward hard work — in positive ways — to help your brain automate good habits. That sounds like out-and-out bribery, but again, science! Finding something that your brain likes helps it remember the "habit loop." "
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2018
    Seanto and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  18. In addition to all good tips above: I like to think of it and explain it by comparing it to writing and giving a speech. If you just read a dictionary, you'll learn a lot of words, but wont be able to put any meaningful into it. If you just write speeches, without looking in a dictionary (or other relevant literature), you probably gonna end up saying almost the same thing every time, and it wont be a great speech. You have to do both, and you have to give a lot of speeches to find out what works and improve your skills.

Share This Page