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You have 6 hours to practice. How do you use it?

Discussion in 'Jazz Technique [DB]' started by Sam Dingle, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Here's a question I've got. If you had the time to practice 6 hours a day constructively, how would you break it up. Down to the hour/half hour/ minuet if needed. My personal hope is it will inspire me to create a "perfect" practice schedule for the next 6 months or so as I've come across a lot of time to practice the next few months during the day. I'd like to hear specifically what @John Goldsby and @Michael Karn have to say (As I remember michael stating that he split practicing up into two parts: being a better bassist and being a better musician).
  2. bassmastan

    bassmastan Guest

    Jun 25, 2011
    This is my daily routine:

    1 hour of warmups, I use the max dimoff packet or the warmups in Orin O'Brien's book, scales with drone and improvisation with those scales and drones.

    10-15 mins of break/stretching/hydrating

    1-2 hours of orchestral excerpts, I have a daily rotation so I get through the major ones twice a week. At the end of this session I "perform" them for my video camera and take notes

    10-15 mins of break/stretching/snacking

    2 hours of current repertoire; right now I'm working on Bach Suite 2, I do a choreographed version of it, working each finger and shift really slow. I really do a focused 2 hours, and I try to perform it in parts, and bridge gaps.

    1-2 hours of new repertoire; could be sight reading, could be something I've always wanted to try, maybe a new excerpt. It's my way of building repertoire, and flexing that analytical muscle.

    20 mins of cool down, of vomits and vitamins.
  3. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    That's killin! I'd have to translate that into a jazz players practice time

    Playing scales with the bow (different key a day?)
    Playing etudes with the bow
    Pizzicato exercises
    Learning tunes
    Transcribing a solo/bass line

    Then I gotta fit an hour or two of electric practice :rollno:
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    * 30 min scale warmup
    * 30 min rhythm exercises
    * 2 hours refresh old tunes
    * 3 hours new rep

    * 2 hours farting around
    * 10 minutes freaking out about wasted time
    * 5 min scale warmup
    * 15 min rhythm exercises
    * 30 minutes noodling
    * 30 minutes getting distracted with something non-music related
    * 80 minutes refreshing old material
    * 40 minutes new material

    eldegas, Mechanical, tpa and 11 others like this.
  5. tinyd


    Mar 11, 2003
    I suppose it depends on what you want to improve. If I had 6 hours a day to practice, I'd probably do scale / arpeggios as a warmup and to get my intonation in shape, some sight reading to expand my vocabulary, then I'd spend the rest of the time working on tunes. I personally use learning tunes as the main motivation for all the other stuff so I tend to identify places where my lines are clunky/repetitive/boring/bad and use this as a basis for improvement. This can take the form of transcribing, listening, improving my understanding of the underlying harmony and back again to scales and arpeggios.

    As a more general thought, I wouldn't stress too much about a 'perfect' routine if I were you. Instead, I'd focus on trying to take small steps each day that make you a better player. You might not feel like working with the bow on a given day for example, so why not pick a new tune from the Real Book and see if you can walk over it?

    In reality, I have nothing like 6 hours a day to practice and I suspect that my reality would be a lot closer to the schedule that @hdiddy sets out above, except with extra 'farting around' :)
    Levin likes this.
  6. 2 hours having serious practice. Scales, theory, using a metronome, etc.

    2 hours playing with other people if possible. The more the better, hopefully creating your own bass lines at times and not only playing covers note for note. .

    1 hour on an instrument other than bass. Piano is great for all kinds of musical knowledge but any other instrument is good.

    1 hour experimenting, improvising, trying new techniques. Maybe try effects, take some solos, go outside the box.
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Warmups are fine, and I think it can be healthy to have a standard warmup. When I had more time to practice, I had a warmup routine that included playing 2 octave major or minor scales /patterns in 12 keys along with a drone & metronome at increasing rhythmic subdivisions and RH fingering permutations (i.e. half notes, quarters, 8th, triplets, 16th). I even edited my drone tracks from 6 minutes to 3 each to automated the process. Obviously, this warmup took 36 minutes, after which I took a break. I still do some variation of this occasionally and wish I had time to do it every day.

    For the rest, I'm going to go against the grain and say that I think it's less important to practice voluminously and more important to practice efficiently and with a clear and focused intent. For me, that means rather that do a half baked job on 10-15 things, really try to nail two or three. These days, that means whatever Bach suite movement I'm getting ready to record, learning/relearning a new tune until it is completely solid without any written music, and one other long term skill that has been on my radar because of my inability to execute it. The past week, this has been Courante from Suite 1, Lush Life, and the long term goal/skill has been working on soloing on Giant Steps slowly and in tune without thinking of any note names.

    Two books have changed the way i think of practicing because they resonate with my experience: The Talent Code and Flow. I recommend both wholeheartedly.
  8. Jmilitsc

    Jmilitsc Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2013
    Fairfield County, CT
  9. Seanto


    Dec 29, 2005
    6 hours just seems like a really long practice stretch to me. I rarely practice more than 2 hours at a time. How do folks actually do these 6-8 hour daily practice sessions and actually stay focused?

    Anyway, i''ll offer up one suggestion and it's the Ray Brown lesson of practicing 2-3 octave chords, up and down, in all keys. Cycle through all basic chords, but you dont necessarily have to touch on all of them in a single session.
  10. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    @bskts247 — Since you name-checked me, I'll offer my $0.02.

    Here's a synopsis of a handout that I give out at workshops and use in lessons. I would recommend breaking up your practice into 90 minute to two-hour blocks. Take breaks, do something else. Also, separate practicing technique from playing music. You can practice (1) pure technical skills, then (2) "apply" some of those skills in a musical way to an tune or etude, and then (3) practice "playing" or "performing" music. I think a lot of players mix up the three areas. They spend time playing things they can already play well, or they try to play things that are way too hard, without learning the fundamentals.

    I'm offering some concrete schedules here in two-hour blocks. If you want to practice more, then just double the times, or repeat sections later in the day. These schedules work for nerdy-type players. A lot of free-spirit, play-from-the-heart, always-wait-for-inspiration practicers won't find these schedules useful. I'm guessing a lot of our heroes did not have a concrete plan written out . . . they just played and played and played some more.

    I found that practicing this way—with a written plan—kept me on track. Of course, I can deviate from what I have on the page . . . but having everything written down makes a commitment to the task at hand.

    If you're the organized type ( or especially if you're *not* organized), these schedules will help you. The important thing is to write down your practice schedule the night before, so you have a written contract with yourself the next day when you get up. You won't waste time talking yourself out of doing boring or hard practice stuff . . .

    If you find that this is too restricting, you can schedule a long "free play" block of time after you've worked on the other specific skills.

    I've been using this information for years. The handouts are geared to students at a college level who are trying to solidify technique, while at the same time dealing with a lot of repertoire, ensembles and other requirements (piano lessons, theory lessons, bowling . . . )

    *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
    Developing a Practice Schedule

    Develop your own practice schedule! Your schedule must be thought out and written down. Follow your schedule precisely for one month. You can change your schedule only if you decide in advance to do it before your practice session. Re-write your schedule and then stick to the “new” schedule.

    You may substitute items in a category, for example: a different type of scale exercise, a different key, a different sight-reading exercise, or a different new tune to memorize.

    You can replace any “bad” musical habit with a “good” musical habit if you commit to your schedule. By using a schedule, you will have an exponential increase in the productivity of you practice time! Why do you need these goals for your practice sessions?

    Goals create satisfaction, give you a track to run on, outline measurements for your musical accomplishments, and bring the massive amounts of music you are faced with into perspective.

    Here are some sample practice schedules. You may adapt any of these for your own use. You may change the time allocations and modify the schedule as you progress. These are all two-hour practice sessions. Yours can be longer or shorter, or you can divide your practice routine into several periods during the day.

    Schedule #1

    15 min Long Tones & Intervals / 15 min Patterns & Licks / 30 min Learn New Tune / 20 min Transcribe Solo or Bass Line / 10 min Fast Tempo Practice / 10 min Sight-reading / 20 min Review Repertoire

    Schedule #2

    15 min Long tones / Slow Scales / 30 min all major scales – Fast / 20 min Learn Bebop Tune
    / 20 min Learn Ballad / 20 min Learn Standard / 15 min Arpeggio Exercises

    Schedule #3

    10 min Long Tones / 10 min Arpeggios / 15 min Diminished Patterns / 15 min Bebop Patterns / 15 min Learn new jazz tune / 15 min Classical Etude / 30 min Review Repertoire

    Schedule #4

    10 min Long Tones / Arpeggios / 20 min Classical Etudes / 30 min Classical Solo
    / 10 min New scale pattern / 30 min Transcribe & learn solo / 20 min Review Repertoire

    These are just a few sample schedules. You create your own schedule depending on what you think you need to learn. Be honest in evaluating your progress. Stick with your schedule and see what happens. Time is not the fuel for getting things done . . . human energy is the fuel for getting things done! Set up your schedule and do it . . .

    John Goldsby


    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  11. Bass_Machine


    Oct 29, 2004
    Nerdy player here - thanks Obi Wan Johngoldsby. Where do I send the cheque?

    The only thing I would add is that I have personally found it very helpful to stretch off before and after longer sessions (especially important after time off the instrument).
  12. It's important to put in some blocks of time for formalized ear training, followed by playing on the instrument. Also block in some time to listen to new-to-you recordings of music. Expand your aural sense of what's already been done out there. There should also be a block of "play time" where we can just play without having to "accomplish" anything other than connecting to the music on a emotionally satisfying level. Adding those 3 things can make the rest of the packed schedule more rewarding to do and stick with.
    bskts247 likes this.
  13. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Agreed. I'm thinking a listening session per day would be good. Just sitting down and listening to a record im checking out (that maybe has a future transcription on it) or a new record. Maybe a good idea is for me to write out a perfect schedule in detail and then have it edited or have suggestions on it. My thoughts would be:

    1 hour (1.5?) Scales arco/pizz across the whole range of the bass and strings. Major/melodic minor/harmonic minor/ diminished/wholetone. Do arpeggios and patterns on all of them

    15 minuet stretch/break

    1 hour playing simandl method or which ever piece I'm working on arco

    15 minuet stretch/break

    1 hour learning new tunes (trying to get down two a week)

    0.5 hour practicing fast walking (with a metronome or a recording)

    0.5 hour break

    1 hour solo transcription and walking transcription (half hour each?)

    0.5 hour break

    0.5 hour licks in all 12 keys (be it two five one licks, diminished licks, blues licks etc)

    listen to a record

    I'd keep a practice journal of everything I worked on as well. including breaks this is an 8 hour schedule. I should break this down because realistically if I start at 10am ill be done at 5:00 which wouldn't work. any suggestions on what to combine or cut down on.

    Oh and after the record i'll leave half an hour to change my strings again :p
    Jason Hollar likes this.
  14. John Goldsby

    John Goldsby Supporting Member

    Mar 4, 2003
    Bassist @ WDR Big Band Cologne, Columnist — BassMagazine.com, Conservatorium Maastricht, NL
    I'd suggest just listening to music whenever you're not playing the bass. Of course, there's a difference in intense listening and how you might listen when you're driving in a car, but you should just listen a lot.

    Regarding stretching: That's in the category of non-musical things, like yoga, jogging, power lifting, bowling, juggling, etc.. What I've included on these lists are activities with the bass in your hands. If you want to stretch, do it outside of your practice schedule, and put on a recording while you're away from the bass. I used to like to practice the bass, then juggle for awhile, practice, then juggle (seriously) . . . but that's just me.

    Intense listening sessions are good, and they should happen outside of your bass practice schedule.

    I would encourage you to break things into even smaller time frames. It's tempting to write "Play all of the scales in all keys for 1.5 hours, but it might be more effective to focus on two or three keys over the course of 20 minutes.

    Same thing with 0.5 hours fast walking practice. You might get worn out and discouraged playing really fast for 30 minutes . . . maybe it's better to do "sprints" and work on fast playing in shorter time frames.

    At this point, I'll respectfully suggest that you stop worrying about the minutiae of what you're going to practice . . . and just go practice :)
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
    Peter Brendler, dhm, marcox and 4 others like this.
  15. lurk


    Dec 2, 2009
    1 hr on technical stuff.
    1 hr playing with recordings and transcribing stuff you hear on them that you like. This is for players of all styles and genres IMHO.
    1 hr making music - improvise, Bach Cello, whatever.
    3 hours doing something else. Get a life. If you actually concentrate and focus for 3 hours, you need a break. Enjoy yourself.
    damonsmith likes this.
  16. I have recently come into a similar situation. I do 2-3hrs of listening when I wake up (I find CDs are best for this, if I use digital from the laptop, I interrupt it too much with stuff that comes up here and on facebook, LPs have to be changed too often so I load the CD changer with 2 or 3 CDs), during that time I have really good coffee, make a serious breakfast, stretch, do my internetting, work on my albums and playing schedule. Then I do my standard warms up and etudes. Depending on what I have coming will depend whether I do more walking with a metronome or arco exercises. I do my repetitive work listening to podcasts, art talks or poetry readings.
    I don't find I practice that much more, what I find I have way more focus when I practice. I also practice several times throughout the day. A 30 minute practice (5 as the case may be!) with a relaxed body and clear head is worth hours of stressed practice.
  17. Reiska

    Reiska Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland

    Thank you!!!
    John Goldsby likes this.
  18. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    I honestly think I'd spend the first hour just staring at the wall wondering how the hell I wound up with six free hours in a day!
  19. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Thats usually what I do which is the point of this thread.
    Bob_Ross likes this.
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    The interesting thing here is that despite the six hours of practice time, in nobody's regimen is there a significant amount of time dedicated to working on ones time and rhythm. Apparently despite the lip service that "the pocket is everything", we definitely don't walk that talk when it comes putting the time in at the shed.

    Odd meters, cross rhythms, even basic two feel. It's more than just playing basic stuff against a metronome set to click on two and four. Closest thing I see above is walking fast, but nothing even in 3. I still struggle with phrasing in 3 sometimes.

    Just sayin.

    Imma rewrite what I posted above:

    If I were to plan it now:
    1 hr rhythm work (odd meters, cross rhythms)
    30m scales
    30m refresh old bebop heads/tunes
    30m walking fast
    30m soloing fast
    1hr old ballads
    2hrs new tunes

    When in reality what I'd end up doing:
    30 min scales
    1hr rhythm work
    1hr using said rhythms walking over tunes (including walking and soloing)
    1hr soloing using said rhythms with tunes I already know
    2.5 hours learning new tunes with breaks thrown in here and there

    If I happen to be working on vocab, replace said "rhythm" with "vocab" above. Why shouldn't 6 hours be virtually dedicated to almost just one subject? Imagine doing scales for 6 hours. You might get bored but you should see some decent improvement. There's something to be said for being focused.
    Jmilitsc likes this.

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