Effectiveness of practice sessions

(8 posts)


  1. LeonardoB

    I am continuously haunted by the fear of working not hard enough in my musicality and how to translate it with my instrument, but recently I have been thinking that the amount of hours a day one spends studying has obviously no objective value, it mainly depends on how you work on your skills.

    So I often find myself asking if the practice session I've just ended was really improving myself, and I decided to ask this question to you all and to every professional music I'd meet/listen to.

    Last week I saw Mark Turner with his quartet (with Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums); besides the great and refreshing music, it has been a marvelous occasion to ask him, which I always imagined as a thoughtful person, as well as musician, hence looked like the guy who could seriously answer such a question of mine.

    So after the concert I went talking to him and he answered that he used (and uses, still now) to be satisfied from practicing when he realized that he had shaped a little more his aesthetic; so, in a certain sense, understood a little better himself and what he wants to be as a musician.
    I do agree with him, even if I feel like I haven't still comprehended thoroughly what he wanted to say.

    What do you guys think about it?


    PS Tomorrow I'm going to see Jeff Ballard with Sam Yahel and Matt Penman, I will probably ask him too, stay tuned if you're interested in this topic.

  2. natjanoff


    Man, I think that is a great question! Can I ask do you yourself ever record yourself playing
    over tunes or any music that you will be performing live ? What I'm trying to say is I find recording
    myself on gigs, in the practice room etc.... Helps me really hear what I sound like, what everyone
    else sounds like and give me clarity regarding whatever I'm working on, comping, soloing, my time,
    sound etc... I just find it to be a invaluable tool!

    There are cassette tapes of Coltrane practicing, he had like 3 of them and would just constantly reuse them.

    I can't wait to hear what other players might say regarding your question.



  3. Matt

    i feel like it's effective to not worry so much about work and practice all the time.

    but before i address that, i think practicing in 'units' (ie 15,20,30 minutes) is helpful, taking 2-5 minutes inbetween each to stretch and reflect and chill out, especially with more technical practice but i find that in the past months i've not been able to find new concepts to practice or the enthusiasm i have had before nor the focus.

    so i think it goes in cycles. i doubt if mark turner or kurt truly practice a lot and dilligently anymore because 1) they focus more of playing with other musicians and 2) they're established such a strong fundamental foundation in technique, ear training, etc that they do not have to take the time, or as much time, to figure new concepts out.

    so as i am down in my cycle now (not the menstrual one!) i do not worry much because i can look outside of the practice room to inspire me and give me ideas to communicate. life is not all about music and it would be a shame i think to spend the entirety of it worrying about productivity and practice when truly so many enriching, beautiful things are there to be appreciated outside of music.

  4. mabhingwane

    Hi frendz,i feel every succes comess from percevierence,too much infomation is poisonous,get what you tink you need n start working on it piece by piece,and u cannot gobble everything that you cant swallow.yul choke definately.listening to other recordings helps a lot with practicing of scales being yo main priority,sing scales along when practicing,sing melodies from records,mostly those that appeal to u and arouse uwhen ever you hear them.also it depends howmuch tym do yu spend withyo instrument.cut most of the things that habitual and waste of tym by half and eventually completeley.I hav been with my instrument for almost 30yeaz,for the past nine months i have started all over again and i have never played like this my entire tym with the my instrument,i can feel and see vast progress,my friends and my fellow mussoz also have commented about my progress.i play tunes i never thoght i wil tackle in my entire life.ilooking forward to see and hear my self in 3yars tym.good luck my frendz.practice is the key to success.and new beginnings.

  5. jleber

    For me, practice is most fruitful when I focus on something specific. Here are some examples of individual practice sessions.

    I will transcribe a 2-4 bar phrase from a solo that I like. Then spend an hour trying to internalize that small piece of music. Play it in all keys through the cycle of 4ths. Put on some playalong tracks (great if it's the same tune that the line is from) and work on using that line in my own playing.

    I will focus on "time" stuff the same way. For example, getting comfortable playing in fast 3/4 (around 180-200 bpm). I will pick some changes (eg c minor blues) and just play with the metronome unaccompanied for 30-60 minutes (you can also do this with a backing track, but do the metronome thing first).

    Spend 1-2 hours working on learning just one tune: i) learn by ear from a favorite recording, ii) write out a lead sheet, iii) analyze the changes, iv) analyze how the soloist(s) on the recording approaches playing over the tune, v) play the tune over and over with the metronome (on 2&4), vi) then solo over the changes with the metronome and a playalong vii) try different tempos, different styles (funk, Latin, ballad)

    This approach avoids the problem of getting overwhelmed and of not seeing any results. With each of the above, you can see some tangible progress after each session. Steady progress will keep you motivated.

    Also, I strongly agree with the other post that recommends recording all gigs/practice sessions, etc. Hearing what you sound like to a listener is very informative, and you'll identify your strengths and deficiencies very quickly.

  6. Quintricacy

    I'm currently getting back into practicing. It's been a while since I've felt motivated to do it but I'm currently in a band with 2 older, much more experienced musicians which is really putting me to the test. I have so far been working on economy of movement and posture and playing in 11 but as a fast swing. I'm dividing the beat into 5 and a half but I'm trying to completely internalise it so I'm not tapping the 5 and a half with my feet.

  7. silverwater

    Speaking to the effectiveness of practice sessions...I've been wondering a bit myself what some players do to "stay in shape", as far as being able to remember all the scales/arpeggios/chords and where they fall on the neck. It can be kind of disappointing when you've put in all the time and effort to these sounds, but then aren't able to utilize one or more of them at a gig because you haven't run through it in a week.

    For this I run all the scales up and down the neck, via the coltrane changes, 4 notes per scale, with major, melodic minor, harmonic minor, and harmonic major (got this from listening to a Kurt masterclass). It's effective, but not as much as I'd like since you're not getting a good review of each scale everywhere on the neck.

    For Mark Turner's comment: I think he meant that he felt satisfied if what he was practicing at home was something that would develop his sound while in real life playing situations, as opposed to practicing something just for the sake of a challenge. I can relate to this; often I've spent time practicing things, while technically and mentally challenging, really haven't helped me achieve my goals as an expressive performer as much as some other things could have.

    For the odd time practicing, I can suggest this tiny and free program called Weird Metronome:

    While I was writing this, I came up with a solution to the problem I posed: Do the same exercise of 4 notes per scale, but stay in a position!

    I'd still like to hear what others do, but I guess this shows the effectiveness of that favorite tactic of psychotherapists: Solutions to your problems seem to present themselves after you spell them out!

  8. Yadayada

    First time posting but here´s what i´m trying to do these days.

    First of all i am really trying to better my focus and efficiency in my practicing. I do this by routinely recording them and fast-forward through it and try to take notice of how much time i spend between stuff i´m practicing and how many things i work on etc. I´m trying to get more work done in less time by being more focused. Also try to keep a practice journal as best as i can to keep track of what im working on and not forgetting something.

    My usual routine is something like this:

    Warmup: Can consist of everything from just noodling and seeing how i´m feeling and just trying to get into the mood of practicing if it´s an off day.

    Scales/arpeggios. I try to wary this up and try to always be doing something that is at least somewhat challenging for my brain so i´m not just burning through the same stuff. It can be playing different scales in various intervals, some new arpeggios or playing diatonic arpeggios up the neck or down. I find it´s not too hard for me to find areas here that challenge my brain and knowledge of the fretboard.

    Chords: This is mainly where i try to either find new chords and voicings from experimenting with different inversions. Also trying to incorporate them into songs via backing tracks or just free playing.

    Chord sequence?: I try to have a chord sequence that i´m trying to work out or trying new things over. Lately i have been experimenting with different things over minor II-V-I sequences. All these things also connect in a way so i may try some voicings also over it and so on.

    Reading is a thing i don´t like to do but try to incorporate via something else be it reading lead sheets, reading transcriptions or various reading exercises. Like probably many others this is something which i should be doing more of.

    Playing songs: The fun part :) I try to take a song probably something i know well and try to both incorporate the new things i have been working on into my playing. I also try to get out my comfort zone and play over the song in areas i am less comfortable with, or staying in one position the whole time and so on. Basically trying to do things i find are somewhat challenging to me which again is not that hard :)
    Another favourite of mine at the moment is playing a standard and taking it through the cycle of fourths every chorus without stopping and trying to add the voicings i´m working on and so forth.

    Transcribing: This is something i should do a lot more of. Just basically transcribing stuff and trying to take elements from the songs/solos i like and trying to incorporate them into my playing.

    I´m also big on doing various exercises for example basic things like running sales up and down the neck to a metronome and taking them through a cycle focusing on notes and how cleanly i play them. Another is playing a certain triad inversion from the lowest part of the neck to the 12. fret and back down and taking that through a cycle a. la. the George Van Eps book. Also playing over songs like Time Remembered from the low part of the guitar and having one line continue steadily up the guitar and then coming back down and repeat changing scales when i need to without stopping etc.

    Also have gotten comments from my teacher to play more "forward" or with more authority which i´m working on by recording me a lot.

    I really like reading what other people do and any suggestions are appreciated. It´s worth noting also that i´m playing maybe 1-3 times a week everything from jazz to funk live with groups and also in various bands in school so performing is also something i´m working on.

    Great forum BTW :)


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