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Structured practice thoughts...

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by kesslari, Mar 12, 2008.


  1. kesslari

    kesslari Groovin' with the Big Dogs Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2007
    Santa Cruz Mtns, California
    Lark in the Morning Instructional Videos; Audix Microphones
    I've been thinking about ways to organize my limited practice time, since I definitely find that I'm most productive in my practice when I'm focused.

    I'm thinking about 5 "general areas" of focus, all of which are areas that I want to improve, and which, together, make up a huge chunk of musical and bass-specific knowledge. And of course there are overlaps between areas, because life is like that.

    I'd like your thoughts and input as to if I'm missing something critical, or if this seems like a reasonable way to work.
    Note - I've got years of experience playing in bands, generally groove well, and do OK in both "plays well with others" and "runs with scissors" kind of stuff. So the advice "play with a band', while good, isn't what I'm talking about here.

    1. Fretboard knowledge. For me this is getting comfortable with and really knowing (immediately) the notes on all strings up the neck. I'm good in on the first 7 frets, but I feel waffley between the 8th and 12th frets, and have to think too much about which note is where. Once I feel solid from nut to 12th, I'll be sure to work it from 12 to 24, though I think that should be more straightforward as it's a repeat. Pacman's fretboard exercise, as well as slowly playing arpeggios while naming notes, and scales while naming notes, are my main tools here.

    2. Dexterity and "building blocks". This includes exercises that both increase my physical abilities and give me the "legos" with which to build musical concepts - scale and modes (and sequences), interesting riffs, arpegios and sequenced arpegios. This in my mind is truly "practice" as opposed to "making music" - these are the ideas from which music is made, and create the physical structure and skills to be able to play what I hear.
    This also includes playing along to drum machines to improve timing, working on grooves, technique, etc.

    3. Reading. This is a seriously weak area for me, and consequently it takes a lot of effort for me to work on it (because the instant gratification factor is low). So it needs to be on the list, and scheduled, so I at least keep slogging through and making progress.

    4. Putting it together - playing over changes. Here's where I take the various "building blocks" and work on using them to create music and to express. Working through Todd Johnson's "Jazz Gym" material tends to straddle the line between this and #2. This is the area to move "plays arpegios well, but sounds like he's playing arpegios" to "plays well". At least I hope so...

    5. Goofing off - sometimes it just feels good to pick up the instrument and play whatever. All work and no play might as well make Jack an accountant.
    Thoughts?
     
  2. nonohmic

    nonohmic Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2005
    ABQ, NM.
    Aahahaha i used the search function before asking the question as that is the thing to do. Found pretty much EXACTLY my situation, and my question to the forum. But no replies. smh

    So...anybody care to comment?
     
  3. hs123

    hs123

    Aug 11, 2011
    Westminster CO
    Sounds like an excellent plan. I didn't see a time section so, you'd have to give yourself x-minutes on some of these things. The only thing I would add would be to either read or play some type of music that you don't like.
     
  4. After we get the basics down we then turn to songs and practice specific songs. The song will point you to what else you need to get under your fingertips. You can do this with a band or just by yourself. With a band is much better, as the other members will be able to guide you.

    Of course IMO.
     
  5. LeeNunn

    LeeNunn Supporting Member

    Oct 9, 2012
    Charlottesville, VA
    OP, you have a good practice routine.

    I guess the main thing I would add is transcribing. You already have the basics of reading. I think transcribing is a great way to add new tools. Of course, you can just listen to songs to borrow ideas, but transcribing forces you to be more precise about the rhythms, pitches, and rests. I highly recommend notating each chord so that you have the context of the bass line. Software that loops and slows down makes this process easier (I use Transcribe by Seventh String), but transcriptions get easier with practice. You can use notation software, but you can also use blank music paper (download a pdf) and a pencil. If you've ever been frustrated with the poor quality of tabs or YouTube videos, transcribing songs yourself is the answer.

    Playing over changes is great too. Try iReal Pro. You can download hundreds of free charts or create your own. The software provides playback of the chart (with just drums and piano if you want). You can play arpeggios, walk, solo, or whatever. A special feature allows you to change the key each time through (e.g., down a fourth). That's a great way to learn the finger board.

    In terms of sight reading, play any written music you have to a metronome. Drum software is more fun, but a metronome forces you to focus on the clicks. I would start out with the clicks on beats 2 and 4. TB has lots of threads on effective use of a metronome. I use an Alesis SR-16 as a fancy metronome. Sight reading is great way to learn rhythms and your finger board.

    Also give Sight Reading Factory a try. It's web based software that provides both the written music and playback. Playing in unison with the playback helps identify any mistakes. You can adjust the difficulty, key, time signature, tempo, number of measures, etc. Just do each exercise until you play it correctly. The point isn't to memorize the line, but to sight read it. For fretless players, working on intonation (without looking the fingerboard) is an added benefit. I start every practice with 15 minutes of this.

    Finally, I recommend listening to recordings of your rehearsals and performances. You can do this in the car. I use a Zoom H4N digital recorder to record the entire session. Then I use Audacity to chop the original recording into individual MP3 files. I think the sound quality is surprisingly good. Some things you thought would work don't, and other things sound better than you would have expected. Also, you'll find yourself thinking of an idea to play next time. Transcribing and sight reading has really improved the accuracy of my subdivisions, and the improvement is reflected in the recordings.
     
  6. mambo4

    mambo4

    Jun 9, 2006
    Dallas
    You need to add repertoire to the list.
    You should always be learning a new song (s).
     
  7. Link Ramone

    Link Ramone

    Dec 25, 2009
    I've already got number 5 down perfectly. 1-4 are a little shaky.
     
    Bodhammer likes this.

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