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Practice Routine: Quality Over Quantity

bass-guitar-player-practice-5545450I’ll be honest, when it comes to developing and keeping to a practice routine for bass, I keep mine pretty to the point: practice for as much time as I need while incorporating what I’m trying learn into my playing style. And that’s generally it. It seems pretty simple – but it is very effective and yields the results that I am personally trying to achieve as a musician and bass player.

In this post, I want to cover practice routines. All of us have them and all of us have our own ideas that work and our own concepts that reach our own personal goals. I want to share some of my thoughts on practice routines. Not at all is this post intended to force anyone to do anything! I’m just providing some ways of thinking and ideas regarding practice. With that – take from them what you will.

1. Long Practice Doesn’t Always Mean Good Practice

I’ve harped on this point before in an earlier post (LINK) and I’m going to hit it again (only briefer): long hours practicing doesn’t always lead to “effective” or “lasting” results. Instead, more often than not, it’s quite the opposite. Like trying to run 3 hours every day and really forcing yourself to run for hours on end only leads to deteriorated muscles and an even larger feeling of exhaustion and weakness after, so does long practice sessions for your brain (not exactly – but the premise is still the same).

practice time bass

Beyond a certain amount of time (around 90 minutes), the brain begins to lose interest in the subject and turn off. Going longer than that usually means that the information won’t stick as well and what’s going on is more akin to forcing a square peg through a around hole. It’s just not going to work.

Solution: Square off AT MOST 90 minutes for practice. There was an old adage from a musician that said (link) (quote). I see this as very true. If you can’t get what you want done in that amount of time, you’re not doing it right.

2. When AND Where You Practice Matters

There are tons of self help courses out there primarily pertaining to work/life balance that accent trying to think of when in the day are you most productive (link) and where you do this. This same logic is equally relevant to your practice routine.

This does take a little bit of time to isolate, but when you do understand where and when you practice best, you’ll begin to maximize your time tens over simply by understanding this little detail. I recommend making a note on your smart phone or on a piece of paper of when you’re practicing and how you feel during that time. Once you feel like you’ve gained enough data, make the changes accordingly.

3. Integrate What You Want to Learn Into Your Playing As Much As Possible

This point is very under-discussed and that is certainly a shame because I think this point helps to identify why people feel like they’re not making progress like they think they should be when learning a new technique or concept. The mentality is as follows: when you try to do something totally and radically different from your normal “flow” of practice i.e. setting very lofty practice goals or reaching for too much too quickly, it’s likely not to stick because it’s so different from your natural routine and playing style that you’ve become accustomed to playing to.

Take my experience for example. I recently undertook the massive task of trying to learn the Wooten Double Thumb technique. And I was pretty terrible at starting out (and, honestly, I’m still not that great – I can only do it on 1 string for very specific circumstances). But what I didn’t do was allocate 15 minutes or 20 minutes of time to doing that to a metronome. Instead, I picked up my bass as I normally would have and started playing to a backing track like normal.

The difference was that this time, I would try to sneak the double thumb in at certain points. Usually the end of an 8 bar pattern to show the turnaround.

I didn’t try to go at full speed like Victor, nor did I expect to. After a few days, I was squeaking out tidy little 16th note bits on beat four of bar 8. It wasn’t a lot – but it was a start – and a good start, none the less, that gave me confidence and helped me move forward.

But what really should be noticed is that I didn’t allocate special, dedicated time to learn this skill: I worked it into my jamming and played with it in real time. I didn’t do a whole lot of sitting down, analyzing the technique in silence and then play it in a vacuum. I turned on the music and just worked it in and the results appeared faster than I expected and stayed with me, too AND encouraged me to get better.

 

These are just some of the points I wanted to float past at this time. If you’ve got a system that works, I hope this was good and if you’re looking for a system, I also hope this was a good read and you got something you could incorporate into a practice routine for bass.

-Mike

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