Structuring my practice time

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by Peter McFerrin, Sep 10, 2002.

  1. I spent the summer mostly doing technical drills and noodling, and I don't feel as though I've made too much progress as a player in the past three months, although I'm a lot faster than I was in May.

    My schedule is slowly filling up and out--I'm getting a job, I'm finally starting to go to the gym regularly, homework is getting increasingly important, and I will have both jazz and rock groups in which I play--so I will have a good 90 minutes each day in which to practice.

    This semester, I'd like to accomplish the following objectives:
    1. Maintain or increase my left and right hand speed and increase my precision.
    2. Be able to sight-read at a level of sufficient competence that a medium-difficulty college-level big band chart could be placed in front of me and I would be able to get through it on the first try.
    3. Improve my intonation and speed on fretless sufficiently that I can switch between fretted and fretless without a hitch.
    4. Increase my slapping speed and cleanliness.
    5. Increase my soloing proficiency, particularly above the 12th fret (I am still uncomfortable playing in the upper register).

    Yes, this is a tall order. Anyone have any ideas how I could do this? This summer I did ~45 minutes of drills a day, but in a daily practice session of 60 to 90 minutes, that doesn't seem feasible.

    I will have a teacher to help me with #2 and #5, and possibly #3, so my time spent on those will be more productive.

    How would y'all set this up? Any exercises recommended?
  2. MorganM


    Dec 11, 1999
    I would devise a way to stop time and practice forever. But hey that's just me:)

    Sorry I'm no help, time for bed.:oops:
  3. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    I wrote a big long reply earlier, but when I went to post, it crapped out cuz I used too many smilies. :( So I'm gonna try again.

    #1. Practice
    #2. Practice
    #3. Practice (see a theme developing?)
    #4. Practice
    #5. Practice

    Now, in all seriousness:

    First off, get a tape recorder, then tape all of your sessions. This way, once you're done practicing you can listen to the recordings and get a new perspective from a third-person point of view.

    #1. What I've been doing to increase dexterity is to practice doing scales in thirds. Take C Major for example. I play two 8th note Cs, then two 8th Es, two Ds, two Fs, etc. up and down the scale. Practice with a metronome, and increase the bpm every couple of days. When 8ths get too easy, switch to triplets. When those are easy, switch to 16ths, then triplet 16ths, etc. Make sure you have what you are doing down solid before you up the metronome.

    #2. A good teacher will only let you sight-read, which will force you to increase your reading skills. When I started playing 5 months ago, I had all but forgotten how to read sheet music from when I played saxophone 20 years ago. Now I'm pretty comfortable in the bass clef. Again, practice is key here. If you have books with TAB + sheet music, white out the TAB. Remember TAB == Totally Artificial Bassplayer (j/k).

    #3. I'm building up GAS for a fretless myself. What I would do is record yourself playing some music on your fretted bass. Then play the same piece on the fretless. Now, listen to the recordings (you did get the tape recorder, right?) and figure out which notes you aren't getting on the fretless. I figure it'll probably be your pinky finger giving you the most trouble, I know that's my problem finger. My teacher gave me an exercise to do to work on my pinky strength which I'll TAB out for you for simplicity's sake:


    Use the metronome and start at a speed you can handle, then play this pattern 3 times in first position, 3 times in second position etc. all the way down to the last fret, then come back up to the first position. Then do the same thing on the A & D string, then D & G strings. Do this every other day at the end of your practice (like resistance training, you want to give your muscles time to rebuild after this). Do this exercise for about 15 minutes.

    #4. I can't slap so I can't help ya here. Hopefully someone else will chime in on this one.

    #5. Your teacher will be able to help you here.

    Hopefully this helped. Let me know what you think.
  4. Boplicity

    Boplicity Supporting Member

    Peter, you have an admirable set of objectives clearly written and defined. I'm a big believer in written objectives. I've written many myself. One thing I discovered, though, is that some things just take more time than you planned to learn. I mean not every skill comes at the same time. With me it just seemed like there were some objectives I set that were determined NOT to be achieved in the time set.

    My point is, don't get discouraged if one of your objectives does frustrate you somewhat. Just keep on trying. I really believe that with the ambitious and serious program you have set for yourself, you will one day be an excellent bassist...if you aren't pretty close already.