Hello everyone. I have been following this forum for sometime and have commented and posted sparingly. I really love this forum though. I check it at least 5 times a week. I'll get to the point of my post here. I know that there are tons of posts and info on practicing, but i wanted to add another one to the ton. I am just struggling with constructing a practice routine that makes me feel like I am progressing and happy about my practicing. I wanted to get some insight on how others are practicing and/or structuring their own practice routines. If anyone has any comments or insight on the basic things that should be covered by all practicing, for lack of a better term, jazz musicians. Any books, info, websites, videos, personal practice routines, ect. that could just confirm that I am practicing in the right way. Thanks ahead of time and I really appreciate everyone who posts on this forum.
Another Post About Practicing(11 posts)
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Adam, very excellent question. I have studied with a few big names, some of the guys that are moving the music along. I used to ask them this question at the end of our lessons. Without fail, every single one of them said basically 'basic stuff'. I ignored this sage advice for a long time, looking for more and more esoteric stuff to shed. Like, for years.
I finally, after really getting frustrated by how little progress I was making vs how much time I was putting in, realized that what these guys said is true, at least for me. Basic stuff is powerful and you have to OWN it, which I clearly didn't. Something as simple as really seeing triads all over the guitar and being able to voice lead them between chords, for example. Or not stuttering when you see a -7b5 chord. Or not freaking out when you improvise over an F#7alt.
Owning basic shit takes a lot of work. I think for me, learning to trust the process of learning was crucial. Learning to chill the f*** out about my progress was also pretty huge. I think I read a quote from Nir Felder which is my mantra - We all have a lot to learn about music and always will. This stuff just takes a lot of time and a lot of work, as you probably know. I spent way too much time stressing over not being Holdsworth.
So, kind of a round-about answer but I personally work on basic stuff and focus on small things to the point of as much mastery as I can, and focus hard on good time and a good touch. I am focused on making whatever I play, even something like a root position triad, sound and feel as incredible as possible. This has required a lot of discipline to not just let my fingers go nuts. It is hard to be simple.
I read a great book called Practice Perfect which lays out some really good suggestions for getting better at some skill (such as music). Long story short, plan your work and work you plan, whatever that plan is. I highly recommend it.
As for whether what you do is right, that is hard to tell. We all like different things and want different things in our playing. There are a lot of paths to the waterfall. I'd suggest starting with an honest evaluation of your playing, look at what you want to improve, and build a plan around improving that area to the detriment of everything else. Then rinse and repeat.
My advices would be :
1- as smoke said, just be cool with how long/hard it takes. You have to enjoy the process more than the outcome. The journey is the reward.
Don't be too emotionally involved with the frustration. Tell yourself : "I'm not going to be the next Kurt at the end of this practice session, I'm just practicing to get better - end of the story."
The main thing I get from reading you is that you aren't happy with how much progress you're getting from what you practice. Just take one practice session at a time, forget trying to find the perfect practice routine, do what you can. Don't waste your energy with frustration, focus on practicing, use your energy on practicing.
2- make it simple, think 80/20 : what are the 20% of activities that will produce 80% of the results. Basic stuffs for sure ! Repertoire, transcribing and vocabulary, ear, composition... that's pretty much it.
Happy practicing to you-
Thanks Smoke and Filters for commenting. i get what your saying. I just need to pick something and stick with it. I got Jerry Coker's book How To Practice Jazz and he just overwhelms you with ever single area possible to work on so it just made matters worse. I like Hal Crooks big six which I'm going to use to make a new practice routine. 1.Technique 2. Improvisation 3. Ear Training 4. Repertoire 5. Etudes 6. Reading.
Thanks again guys for your comments.
It's easy to get overwhelmed with some jazz books... they are sort of made that way to make you think they are giving a lot of stuff and to perpetuate the notion that this has to be "very hard". There's also the opposite school of thought, with the "no modes" approach, learn jazz in a week, I know a secret no one else knows.
The trick is in the middle to me. Focus on 3 or 4 topics and follow your intuition; practice stuff that is not too easy nor too hard, stuff that really makes you play better.
I think the Hal Crook book is vastly superior to the Coker one. I never liked any of Coker books to tell you the truth,
thanks jorgemg1984. It's like being a Buddhist, find the middle path and keep it simple. I agree with you on the Coker books, but i do like the patterns for jazz book that he had a hand in. Thanks for the tips man. Everyone has been so helpful with their posts. I love this forum. See you guys for now. I'm off to practice.
1. Get lost in whatever you're playing. It's good to be thorough and rigid about practicing sometimes, but I think it's also important to get totally enveloped in whatever you're practicing or playing... when time is passing by and you're unaware of it... you might play the same thing for an hour straight or even multiple hours without wanting to stop.
With that said, I do think it's also important to spend at least some time practicing things that I find very difficult. Those are the things that really push my playing. Playing straight 8th-note arpeggios over Countdown at excruciatingly slow tempos every day for a month sucked, but by the end of it I drastically progressed in my ability to play on those changes.
In terms of the rigid stuff...
2. Keep a journal of what you're practicing. If there's a specific exercise you believe will push your understanding of the instrument, and you want to do it on a daily basis, track your practice. I have to keep a journal for my ear training, because I'm liable to let a day or two without ear training turn into a week. In the month of December I only did 4 days of ear training, and I didn't realize it until I looked at my journal... Stuff like this can be upsetting (for me anyway), but it puts your work ethic in perspective.
Jonathan Kreisberg once told me in a lesson if you're are ever stuck with what to practice or have to pick one thing to practice, only one thing, he said it's always tunes.
If your not sure put on a cd and learn that head you have always liked or open the real book to anything and read it or improvise over the changes.
This happened to me last week, wasn't sure what to do so I thought I'll learn Hot House, always loved that tune, the version off the Quintet at messy hall recording.
By learning the head by ear I was covering ear training which then led me to realize I could use some work improvising over minor ii-v-i's which then led me to I haven't played What is this thing called love in a while, same type of chords next I realized I could use some more voicing for minor ii-v-i , even -7b5 chord alone and I also realized I don't use the super locrian (Locrin nat 9) much when thinking of minor-ii-v's which I could practice.
See by picking one thing I'm on a whole trip at the moment with minor ii-v-i's, improvising, chord voicings, the heads to Hot house and what is this thing called love, using different modes over each of the chords and listening to different versions of those tunes.
Big things have small beginnings my friend, one thing will lead to countless others things to practice.
One last thing, I think it was Kenny Burrel who said when he was asked what he practiced, he said something like "It changes from week to week , I practice things I'm not good at so it's never the same"
Hope that helps.
Thanks again guys for all your replies. I love that site jazzadvice.com that you mentioned miss marple. That site and this forum and smalls website are my favorite and check regularly. I like what you said jazzcast55 about your lesson with Kreisberg. I'm just using the tunes I am learning as a vehicle to practice everything for the most part. they have everything in them and then plus the recording, it has all the answers. This really helped me with my practice rut. thanks again guys. This forum is amazing and filled with amazing people full of great insight.
Here's some practice advice from my old bass teacher....
The three stages of practicing
Frist is the struggle to just get the notes right.
Second the ability to play the note correctly using complete concentration, went the mind wonders the music goes 'off'
Third stage is when the mind wanders the hands continue to play the correct notes.
When you reach the third stage continue to practice for a few days to "hard-wire" it in, then move on.
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