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Question about allocation and division of practice time

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by ABlueJazzBassist, Dec 10, 2013.

  1. ABlueJazzBassist

    ABlueJazzBassist "Always play beautifully."

    Dec 26, 2012
    Hello everyone, I just was hoping to discuss your idealized method of practicing. Perhaps this will be made more clear and specific if I set up the situation first. My teacher advocates practicing fairly briefly, but in very intense bursts everyday. Essentially, practice this one thing for 5 minutes everyday, but very focused, and then move on. This is very different from my previous teacher who was more of a, pick something and work on it for 30-45 minutes to really get it for a month type of guy. There's also the issue of breaking up the practice. Under my current teacher, I probably stop to take notes and think about every 5 minutes. Previously, I'd take notes at the end of the hour or two hour session. Either way total practice time can drag on all day. Anyways, this is all to say, I'm curious how you guys practice, what is your focus (is it ritualistic, or is it fragmented to allow for a high intensity on each exercise?) I'm sure there's not any one right way, and even if I found one, by the next day my needs would be different, but I'm curious what you find efficient and useful. Happy holidays!
  2. Mennolineum


    Nov 12, 2013
    I think taking notes is Done when needed. I am someone who chooses something i want to learn take for example a scale.. i will do this scale anyway possible for about 10 15 minutes. After that i mostly rehearse a song from One of the bands i am in. Then i will Just jam to a progression using the scale i did before.
    I noticed i need some variation, i Just can't work something for 45 minutes and still be 'serious'
  3. punkjazzben


    Jun 26, 2008
    At one stage I was practicing (at the bass) 4-5 hours a day. That was when I was at uni studying music, and that was what everyone but the horn players did (because they couldn't). Now I manage, at most, one hour. So long as I've got, say, 30 minutes minimum, I've always split my time up like so:

    1st quarter: open string tone exercises from Rabbath or Rufus Reid's Evolving Bassist (arco or pizz, whatever your focus is).

    2nd quarter: Scales and arpeggios. Pick a scale at random for the day, play three fingerings with different rhythmic patterns (and bowing patterns if applicable), do the same for it's associated arpeggio(s).

    3rd quarter: Work on a study or two, preferably two focusing on different techniques.

    4th quarter: Repertoire and/or improvisation.

    If I don't have time to focus on a proper practice section, I'll just pick one of the above and do what I can.

    EDIT: I should also add that, especially at uni, there was plenty of extra activities that went under the banner of 'practice'. This included listening to new material , transcribing lines and solos, and so on. That was jazz. In classical, extended practice might have also included going through repertoire (say, a symphony) with the full score in front of me. Every week, I would bring a journal to lessons, describing what I worked on, what I listened to, what I discovered, etc.
  4. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    It's essential to address the inherent problems of the instrument, and to tackle each of them every day. String crossing, shifting, intonation, etc...

    I have a set of basic exercises, many directly from Hurst's pedagogy, which I do first every session, and often repeat later after a break. After this, I work on a few pages of Rabbath 1, and a couple sections of Sevik, some scales, and a pizz string crossing exercise. This takes around 50 minutes, and puts me in a good place for the rest of the practicing.

    I won't bore y'all with specifics of what else is on my stand, but I think it's of utmost importance to be honest about these inherent problems, and to focus on getting a little better at each one every day. Needless to say, I feel that every jazz player should spend at least an hour with the bow every day. There's no better way to improve your intonation, and I've never once had a leader complain about anyone's intonation being *too good.*
  5. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Some I'm doing at work just got me thinking....

    When it comes to practicing, what is the definition of "Done"?
    For example:
    * When are you completely done with a particular piece and never need to practice it ever again?
    * What should be the criteria for being "done" while working on a particular piece during a single practice session? Is it a set amount of time spent on something or should it be when some amount of progress on given a topic be "palpable"?

    I'd be interested in hear what everybody has to say. If you can define "done", it would be easier to divide time up accordingly methinks.

    If it's just a set time, well yeah 20 minutes a day for 20 days - that's pretty well regimented. 20 minutes a day til I can get Donna Lee up to 200 bpm? That's a pretty clear goal. When someone says, practice this for 30 minutes a day.... for how long? 6 months? 2 years? Sure, but doesn't seem very fun.
  6. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Here's an interesting read:

  7. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz

    The basics are never done. Mastering the instrument is all about finding joy in practicing simple things, and just being grateful that we get to spend time with the bass.

    After all, we play the *bass.* If you find simple things boring, you've likely chosen the wrong instrument.

    FWIW, Donna Lee at 200 is a lot easier than playing a ballad perfectly.
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I'm not looking for advice - just interested in what people have to say.

    My answer is that nothing is ever done. There are some who believe that a classical piece takes 10 years or more just to master it. I certainly thing the same applies to a Bird head or just about any ballad.

    OTOH, I'm a big believer in the 80/20 rule. Get it going to 80% and move on to the next thing. So for me, it's not ever done but it's "Done for now".
  9. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    This is kind of my opinion too, except maybe 95/05. I tend to work things until they're consistently very easy to do competently - okay, sometimes I get distracted by something else before I reach that point. Okay, more than sometimes, but NOT the majority of the time. Eventually, I'll feel that I can play it in my sleep and can't really think of anything more to do with it. I've slowed it down, sped it up, different keys, different styles, melody, comping, soloing, riff-lines, etc and then I put it aside for some period of time. Then, I'll wind up playing with somebody or hear a rendition that gives me a new take on the tune and back it goes into the rotation. It's never *done*.
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Hal addresses the idea of regimented practice in his latest vid around 9'30".


    Put simply: Don't be bored while practicing. "Practice what you're interested in or you're just wasting time."

    Also, prob doesn't fit well for college students taking coursework. Also my problem with so called "basics". Scales are great but it doesn't hold my attention. I turn to playing melodies slowly with the same intensity as I should play a scale. This is prob the same reason why I shy away from theory based practicing - it doesn't resonate with me. *shrug*

    Singing scales is more appealing that breaking out the bow and doing long tones. I don't know why.
  11. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    I hear you, Huy, but I have to say that I've gained dividends learning my scales well - 3 or 4 octaves. Helped me tremendously with my shifting and intonation, and now I tend to shift properly more often than moving my first finger down from note to note, for instance. Ultimately, I find scales just like any other melody, once I can sing them competently, I can play them pretty much anywhere, with a few logistic execptions.
  12. chicagodoubler


    Aug 7, 2007
    Chicago, that toddling town
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland, Genz Benz
    Well, we're talking about two different things.

    Basic work like scales and arps is never done, and should be treated like eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep. It doesn't matter if you like it or find it interesting; just do it. It's good for you.

    Tunes/rep/improvisation? That's an entirely different bag. That's more like desert.