How do you practice?

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greghr
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How do you practice?

Post by greghr » Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:10 pm

Hi Fellow bass players.
I've had a reasonably good look through the existing threads and not found anything specific to my question above. There is good information on 'What to practice' but I thought it might be fun to develop ideas about practice routines. It's always been something I've struggled with a bit whether on the bass or on my other instrument the tenor sax.

So how do we try to practice?

As I am a newbie to bass I try and practice the following routines. Firstly, I usually devote about 1 to 1 and a 1/2 hours per day to practice, as that is what I find I can manage, energy wise, and in relation to other things like work ( secondary school teacher). I can practice in the holidays and weekends more than I can during a working week. So that means that the progress I make is incremental. A real little bit at a time. As I am learning music primarily as a passion and personal spiritual journey, I am not pressured by 'working musician' considerations too much. I do need to play with others more and I try and seek out whatever opportunities I can find here in Gisborne. At present I mostly play with a woman who is a singer songwriter and I get 'arranged' by her to suit whatever songs she is developing which is great practice I find.

First principles:
I try and play something from the list below every day and usually that works.
I try and divide up my practice sessions to cover a range of skills.
I'm much more concentrated in practice in the morning than at night, unfortunately most of my practice happens in the evenings as I have other things I focus on in the mornings.
You have to be a bit obsessive/disciplined to practice regularly.

1. Exercises: Scott Devine's online bass is an excellent resource I think for this. Short sharp exercises that are quite specific to a particular set of skills. e.g. at the moment I am working with his Chord tone exercises in 11,V, 1 and his 'How to expand and develop bass lines exercises.
His online videos are great I think.

2. I have a current jazz song or piece that I am trying to learn the melody for. At present, the pieces I am working on are: Birdland by Joe Zawinul, All the things You Are by Jerome Kern, and I'd like to get going on Lush Life by Billy Strayhorn. These are all works in progress (slow progress). I like to have things that are challenging and really stretch me. They also help with my learning how to read bass clef. In this area I have found that it is best for me to concentrate on one piece only for several weeks so that I can internalise the chord sequences. This is something I find real hard to do as my memory is not what it was. I fantasise about playing for more hours of each day but tiredness and a light sleep pattern does not help here. But I try and keep the attitude that I am enjoying the practice, that it is all worthwhile spiritually and eventually it may bear fruit when I find a group of other musicians who are like minded. Jazz is my great love in music and ideally what i want to get good enough to play. I hope I don't run out of life before I gain enough competency.

3. I like to have other non jazz pieces to work on. My passions at present are: Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zep, Hallelujah and So Long Marianne by Leonard Cohen, Leaf and Stream by Wishbone Ash, From St Kildas to King Cross by Paul Kelly. I just work from the chord charts to try and find a bass line as well as use Tab charts in books I have. These pieces are really just for fun and I don't get too obsessed to make them note perfect, as long as the notes i play along with them sound in key. So I suppose it's ear training.

4. I Try and learn scale/chord shapes/inversions for: Maj7, Min7, Dim7, Aug7 in different keys. I find if I learn an arpeggio through to the 7th then I also learn the triads. Again Scott's Bass is great for this.

5. I practice any songs I am working on with other people such as my singer/songwriter friend. I usually do this by recording her singing and playing into Garage band on my iPad then I bring the track into iTunes to practice with.

6. I try and do some work each week on a blues, with the aim in mind that I could use that at the local Blues club sometime.

So in the course of that hour I try and cover a little bit of some of the above. One of my practice faults maybe is that i spread myself a bit thin acrosss too much, but I find that if I don't have variety in what I practice I can get a bit mechanical and find I am just going through the motions of practice rather than really practicing if you know what I mean.
I should add that I am open to feedback, criticism, opinions and suggestions about how to improve or refine any of the above.
Last edited by greghr on Sun Oct 13, 2013 10:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

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pins
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Re: How do you practice?

Post by pins » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:24 am

Keep up the good work,after reading your post I realise how bloody lazy I am.

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by john » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:49 am

I hardly ever practice these days.
I do noodle around on the bass while I watch TV quite a bit and sometimes for fun I just play along to whatever is on the stereo, which is good ear training I guess. But playing with others is my main form of practice

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by foal30 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:29 am

if you need any bass clef forms mailed up give us a yell Greg

I practise less than I used to but I might practise better. Bass Nerd says it's taken 20 years to learn how to practice :lol:

1. Am I playing music?
2. Deep practice is the way forward
3. No scorn for mistakes, I am practicing.
4. Can I hear what I am playing
5. Can I read and hear what I am playing before I pick up the bass?

rudimentary piano skills, Aebersold playalongs, and semi-decent bass gear all are imperative. Proper books too. Write things down. On the stave. Improvise in practice time too.

I also write random things on random days in my diary at the start of each year. :oops: So on may 14 I might be working on major arpeggios up to the 9 etc...

I do less specific ear training , most of now is reinforcing the intervals and trying to hear maj , 7 , sus, minor chords.
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Re: How do you practice?

Post by foal30 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 8:33 am

Band Practice is different again

Band practice is working the band not my own parts. I'm still surprised at how (to me anyway) is seemingly hard for some musicians to get.

Bassist as accompanist or soundboard I haven't done for a few years. Listening , feel and empathy are more important than chops IME
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greghr
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Re: How do you practice?

Post by greghr » Mon Oct 14, 2013 3:09 pm

foal30 wrote:if you need any bass clef forms mailed up give us a yell Greg

I practise less than I used to but I might practise better. Bass Nerd says it's taken 20 years to learn how to practice :lol:

1. Am I playing music?
2. Deep practice is the way forward
3. No scorn for mistakes, I am practicing.
4. Can I hear what I am playing
5. Can I read and hear what I am playing before I pick up the bass?

rudimentary piano skills, Aebersold playalongs, and semi-decent bass gear all are imperative. Proper books too. Write things down. On the stave. Improvise in practice time too.

I also write random things on random days in my diary at the start of each year. :oops: So on may 14 I might be working on major arpeggios up to the 9 etc...

I do less specific ear training , most of now is reinforcing the intervals and trying to hear maj , 7 , sus, minor chords.
Great suggestions foal. Thanks. I am intrigued by the principle of 'deep practice' Could you expand on that a bit when you've got a mo.
Yes finding a band situation? This is something I think I am ready for and need. The few times when I have had the opportunity to play with others in a performing situation it has been so valuable. I go to open mics to get some exposure musically when they happen, but in a small town like Gisborne it's not easy, and I also would admit I can be a bit fussy when it comes to type of music I'd like to play in a band. I also subscribe to the 10,000 hour idea. This hypothetical number is apparently the time it takes to get competent at something. At 1 hour a day that's a lot of days of practice. I do spend a lot of time thinking about music even when I am not with my instrument or unable to play it. I find music (all sorts) and it's structures so fascinating.

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by foal30 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 4:46 pm

Deep practice is similar to the rationale around the 10000 hour mark

It's (or at least my understanding of it) is from the book The Talent Code which handily enough covers music, football and tennis :D

To summarize (possibly badly) the practice routine is very focused and mistakes are where we are actually learning from. In laymans terms an example could be the difference between remembering a Tab line vs learning it properly off the stave. There is a reason why one sinks in and the other doesn't.

Another thing which Jeff Berlin talked about is not practising in time. Play the notes then the rhythm...
Anthony Jackson also has some fantastic ideas about how to practise. Although probably not for the faint of heart :) he's pretty furiously opinionated to say the least.
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Re: How do you practice?

Post by Tim1 » Wed Oct 16, 2013 8:47 pm

Jeez, this thread just makes me feel guilty. I do make a point of playing a bass at least once a day if I don't have a gig or band practice, but only for fifteen minutes or so. I do have some exercises that I have picked up over the years but often I will focus on learning a new song. At the moment I am laying down some tracks for a friend's album, so for the past couple of months I have been developing and refining lines - a most rewarding exercise and made the more interesting because each player only gets to hear him playing with a rhythm track before going into the studio individually to put our lines down. The end product will be most interesting.
I am heartily ashamed to confess that I have lost most of my reading skills from lack of use. My years of doing stage shows and ad work are well and truly past, and rust has set in. A good argument for disciplined practice such as Greg's regime. Unfortunately "use it or lose it" seems to apply here.
One suggestion, Greg - I too am a secondary teacher and I have found that helping bass playing students is a great way to bring together your musical knowledge and put things in order.

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by Tim1 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:20 am

After writing the above post last night I felt so lazy that I got up early and spent 45 minutes playing/reading a Bach piece. It all started to come back towards the end. Thanks,Greg, for a most rewarding post :)

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by greghr » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:06 pm

Following on from Foal's suggestion about keeping a diary of practice notes here's my last weeks practice routine. It skips around time wise and also what I practice. The numbers represent the minutes I spent on the practice e.g. morn 30 mins etc. So 520 mins practice which is about 8.5 hour per week. Interesting to look back on. I'm going to start week 2 and see what that throws up.
cheers

13/10/13 Afternoon 60 Birdland melody
14/10/13 morn 30 Birdland melody
Afternoon 45 chord tones of Autumn Leaves with med slow Gm
15/10/13 morn 20 2,5,1 in C Maj 7 from Jazz improv basics
evening 45 Birdland melody
16/10/13 evening 25 Noodling on birdland, dolphin dance and All the things, 251 in C
17/10/13 morn 45 Dolphin dance melody
Afternoon 25 dolphin dance/birdland melody testing mibass amp
evening 90 Jam with Ian, Bass on Beatles tunes and Georgia and Black Coffee
18/10/13 Afternoon 30 Testing Hartke amp with Birdland
evening 20 blues riff Ed Friedland reading bass clef CB1
19/10/13 morn 15 blues riff Ed Friedland reading bass clef CB2
Afternoon 30 blues riffs, Birdland
evening 40 Jamming at Moananui meeting

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greghr
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Re: How do you practice?

Post by greghr » Sun Oct 20, 2013 4:15 pm

Tim1 wrote:Jeez, this thread just makes me feel guilty. I do make a point of playing a bass at least once a day if I don't have a gig or band practice, but only for fifteen minutes or so. I do have some exercises that I have picked up over the years but often I will focus on learning a new song. At the moment I am laying down some tracks for a friend's album, so for the past couple of months I have been developing and refining lines - a most rewarding exercise and made the more interesting because each player only gets to hear him playing with a rhythm track before going into the studio individually to put our lines down. The end product will be most interesting.
I am heartily ashamed to confess that I have lost most of my reading skills from lack of use. My years of doing stage shows and ad work are well and truly past, and rust has set in. A good argument for disciplined practice such as Greg's regime. Unfortunately "use it or lose it" seems to apply here.
One suggestion, Greg - I too am a secondary teacher and I have found that helping bass playing students is a great way to bring together your musical knowledge and put things in order.
Great idea Tim,
The year is nearly over but I will follow that one up next year with the music teacher. There are definitely bass playing students at school. I have done this in the past playing with the students on my sax.

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by martyforrer » Sun Oct 20, 2013 5:03 pm

Depends what you want out of life.
When I was 16 (1963) I switched from lead guitar to bass because I was too lazy to get good. In one month I was in a steady working band, a year later I was in a full-time professional band (google "rumble and bang"). I achieved that by learning songs from records (vinyl is a lot more painstaking to learn from than CDs!). I couldn't tell an augmented chord from a harmonic minor, but I was playing r n b and making a living from it.
When I took up double bass in 1990, I went to Taura Eruera's School of Music in Ponsonby and learnt a bunch of theory. I started playing jazz around Auckland and managed to score gigs with some of the best players (Alan Brown, Steve Sherriff, Beaver etc), and I discovered a remarkable thing...... except for when it was time for me to solo, they all without fail wanted me to play 1, 111, V and a passing note, in other words outline the chord!
I became friends with Jeff Berlin in the mid to late 90s, and learnt from him that the three Ts are what matters.... Time, Tone, and Taste. This has been my mantra ever since, and I make a point of seeing what I can leave out, not what I can put in.
Now for a real pearl of wisdom..... I believe with all my heart that practising in your music room for X amount of time doesn't amount to a can of beans compared to playing with other people in a band situation. I believe you learn more at band rehearsal and band gigs than on your own. Don't get me wrong, you still need to learn songs and tunes, but don't get hung up on technical things like learning the Spanish Phrygian mode!
Another.... play as many types of music as you can. I know you said you are fussy about what you want to play, but I have played Irish, bluegrass, country, blues, Latino, top 40 pop, neo-classic jazz, rockabilly, big band swing and hard rock, and I loved it all. And, I have made money from playing the Mickey Mouse song in a shopping mall.
As I said, it depends what you want from life, but you wont get it sitting at home learning scales. This is all my opinion, and in my opinion, it's a bl**dy good opinion! :D

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by greghr » Sun Oct 20, 2013 5:49 pm

martyforrer wrote:Depends what you want out of life.
When I was 16 (1963) I switched from lead guitar to bass because I was too lazy to get good. In one month I was in a steady working band, a year later I was in a full-time professional band (google "rumble and bang"). I achieved that by learning songs from records (vinyl is a lot more painstaking to learn from than CDs!). I couldn't tell an augmented chord from a harmonic minor, but I was playing r n b and making a living from it.
When I took up double bass in 1990, I went to Taura Eruera's School of Music in Ponsonby and learnt a bunch of theory. I started playing jazz around Auckland and managed to score gigs with some of the best players (Alan Brown, Steve Sherriff, Beaver etc), and I discovered a remarkable thing...... except for when it was time for me to solo, they all without fail wanted me to play 1, 111, V and a passing note, in other words outline the chord!
I became friends with Jeff Berlin in the mid to late 90s, and learnt from him that the three Ts are what matters.... Time, Tone, and Taste. This has been my mantra ever since, and I make a point of seeing what I can leave out, not what I can put in.
Now for a real pearl of wisdom..... I believe with all my heart that practising in your music room for X amount of time doesn't amount to a can of beans compared to playing with other people in a band situation. I believe you learn more at band rehearsal and band gigs than on your own. Don't get me wrong, you still need to learn songs and tunes, but don't get hung up on technical things like learning the Spanish Phrygian mode!
Another.... play as many types of music as you can. I know you said you are fussy about what you want to play, but I have played Irish, bluegrass, country, blues, Latino, top 40 pop, neo-classic jazz, rockabilly, big band swing and hard rock, and I loved it all. And, I have made money from playing the Mickey Mouse song in a shopping mall.
As I said, it depends what you want from life, but you wont get it sitting at home learning scales. This is all my opinion, and in my opinion, it's a bl**dy good opinion! :D
Thanks Marty,
No doubt you are correct. Playing with other people does create opportunities for musical improvement that it's real hard to emulate in the 'shed' on your own. Playing with backing tracks, while useful has the main drawback that they are the same each time, but I think also useful for timing.
Thanks for the info about what was required when you played with Beaver et al. 1, 111, V and a passing note. Good tip for practice. As far as finding other people to play with regularly, I have been trying to network and really my tastes are fairly broad. Unfortunately at present Gisborne's main option are the monthly blues night which can be very good - if you are a guitarist, the occasional open mic's (I have heard from friends of mine in Napier that the Cobana in Napier runs fairly regular open mic's. I do enjoy my home practice, and I do it not only to improve my musicality but also because it's a discipline, like yoga or pilates for the fingers and brain maybe. Perhaps I should advertise locally more. I register with the local music shops as a basics bass player and sax player.
Cheers

martyforrer
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Re: How do you practice?

Post by martyforrer » Sun Oct 20, 2013 8:32 pm

Greg, a basics bass player is the guy who gets the gigs. I am, and always have been, strictly a meat and potatoes player..... mainly 'cos I'm a lazy s.o.b. Pins on here is also a meat and potatoes player, and he's been 25 years in Hawkes Bays' hardest working band. In the mid 90s I scored a jazz residency with some players who were way above my abilities. Their bass player was a Jaco type, every tune they played he was just soloing all the time.... throwing in chords, harmonics, he was absolutely amazing.... but the leader said to me "We need a BASS player" .... so he was out and I was in.
I'm currently playing in a covers band and my main band which is bluegrass. I spend most of the gig playing root, fifth, which is what the music requires. The challenge is to keep the time slightly ahead (a requirement of bluegrass bass), to keep the notes the right length, to keep the pendulum (or "bounce") happening, and to lead to the changes. Even a simplistic music has it's challenges.
I live in Napier, and Roy Brown the owner of the Cabana is a mate I have known for 23 years and played in two bands with. They don't have an open mic night as such there, and you'll find the open mics down here are different from the jams I used to go to in Auckland. There, you rocked up, let everyone know you were a bassplayer, and you'd end up jamming. Here in Napier they are more structured as a rule, with specific acts playing. I guess in Gissy you just need to keep networking and promoting yourself. Possibly organise your own jam night?

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Re: How do you practice?

Post by Tim1 » Sun Oct 20, 2013 9:18 pm

I agree with every post in this thread, Greg. None of us are the same and in the end I guess you pick and choose and take what works best for you. Marty is right about keeping it simple where possible - I always tell my students that the first five (I used to say three, but they won't believe it and initially struggle with open strings) frets are where the money is.
Marty is also right about the Cabana, a great place to pop into if you are a muso. I first played there in 1985 and through the past thirty odd years it has basically been home base for my blues band. In fact I can rather immodestly point out that we were recently the first inductees into its inaugural Hall of Fame, along with local legends Jakob and the Kawekas :oops: Roy has done a great job of opening it up for all musos - check its website and when there is an interesting weekend coming up pop down for the Friday and Saturday gigs. There is also a well researched book available detailing its history.
One final point, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just noodling on the couch simply because you like the sound of bass :wink: Not everything you do with it needs to be analysed and rigidly structured - try playing along with the ads on TV just for fun.

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