How to you approach practice? Do you practice a lot of things in a little time or work on a few things for longer amounts of time during sessions, and do you mainly work on increasing technical facility, improvising, etc? Do you have different days for each area of playing?
Practice Approach(33 posts)
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Sometime ago i read sentences like these ( not literally but the meaning is the following ):
You just need to practice what you don't know until you know it, and
You just need to practice what is difficult until it become simple.
I know that this could seems some kind of Zen sentences but i love Zen and i also enjoy these sentences. I think that following the suggestions of the sentences you will be busy for all your life. I am already busy : )
My only suggestion is to discover the way of practice that work for you and to approach the practice as if it is a performance. Always try to define some goals ( realistic goals ) and work trough each of them, steadily. Everytime you practice, is really important to finish a practice session with the feeling to have accomplished something. Do not waste the time noodling. Have fun : )
All the Best
Eventually the impossible becomes very difficult
Why do we practice at all? (Is there by the way any group of instrumentalists that discuss this as much as we guitarists do?) For me, it starts with this:
1. I practice because I want to play with other musicians. What do you often play with your fellow musicians?
2. Tunes/songs! But how practice tunes?
3. Practice presenting the head (tech), playing the chords (harmony/tech), playing scales (over the tune, practicing sequences, arpeggios, etc)
4. Timefeel. I do nr.3 above with a metronome, always and always. When it comes to technuiqe, I break it down in linear (solo), and parallell (chords). I often think when people discuss tech, playing/changing chords is hardly mentioned. When I practice those areas, I always do it in a song context. Why? I just want to bring so much that I can into the song when I join other musicians and play with them.
There is tons of information on different practice methods out there (just try google, scribd ect. and you'll see what I mean).
As Sandemose says, one aspect might be: Goals. (But only might be as we all have different needs. There ar not truths in the world of music!)
But goals is not the first step. Playing Donna Lee in tempo 260? Fine - but for what reason? Yes, it's good for your tech but how often are we going to play this tune - or at least the head? Playing it this fast with a sax most of us fall short anyways (I'm just trying to make an example here - sorry if it's a bad one). So ask your self:
What do you wanna learn?
Why do you wanne learn it?
How are you gonna learn it?
One way of defining your goals could be looking at models known from project management: SMART(ER) / DUMB:
* S = Specific
* M = Measurable
* A = Attainable
* R = Realistic
* T = Timely
* E = Evaluate
* R = Reevaluate
* D = doable
* U = understandable
* M = manageable
* B = beneficial
This might help in order to get your goals straight. Then it's up to you to put in different musical aspects and find out whether or not you should be practicing it (or at all).
This is just some thoughts on how to find out (on your own!) which elements of music to practice.
If you have the option, you may also just go out and play with people - play music! Just play - that's what it's all about. But not all of us have this option (me neither).
Another interesting way of looking at this stuff is the Victor Wooten book: The Music Lesson. Interesting spiritual approach.
I hope these inputs will be helpfull.
Thank you all for your replies.
I, unfortunately, live in an area where there are very, very few people to play with, except college students (i am a highschooler), which i may not be at their level of playing, nor would they necessarily want to jam with me.
Also, technique building is something i feel i need to work on, but cycling exercises and trying to push myself seems to be making me a worse player, and it discourages me. Maybe i should rethink my goals?
hope you will not be disappointed for my reply, i know that it's possible to misunderstand my words.
I don't know which are your goals, they are personal, i just firmly believe ( cause i also had this problem when i was younger ) that a musician absolutely needs to know his instrument first. Until you are a really natural born genius ( and there were really few ), music is fun but it's a matter of blood and sweat and tears too.
In my personal experience i discovered that i wanted to play, also if i would not know all the notes: i was playing, believing in the God's inspiration: "a true artist doesn't need more than that". Sounds familiar? Actually, i thought i was an artist : ). "Hey guys hear to me playing, i am a real artist , i don't know what i am making but i make it.".... Yes....... but it sucks : ).
I always had a good ear but i was basing my playing just on that. Yes, we can arguee that's the best way to play, using your ear, and it's true, but you need to have a really well developed ear, not only a good one, and you can have that only after working on that. Earing and learning how and what to hear.
So...when i realized that the best immediate goal for me was to learn all the notes on my instrument, and to know how they sound, instead to practice faster the old same licks, i started from that. And i discovered how much i sucked...and still i suck often : ).
All the hip scales, arpeggios and fast furious licks come after.
learn your instrument. Learn to sing the notes you play. Internalize the sound. The best it's to know the actual name of the notes, singing in a solfege way but it's not mandatory, you can also just sing some sound with the correct intonation.
So, i don't know which is your actual level of playing but for sure everyone could become a better musician. But it's hard too. So..you know...ask to yourself which is your actual level of playing and start from there.
For example ask to yourself:
Do i know the notes on my instrument? Everywhere? Can i sing the notes i play? If so.... it's great, it's already a big step...then go on asking....Do i know the chords and the construction of the chords? Do i know the major scale? And the melodic minor? And the harmonic minor? Do i know the modes of the major/minor scales? Do i know some II V I? In a major key? And in a minor key? Do i know some pentatonics? Some blues scale? Do i know triads?
Can i play a tune in a chord melody style? How many songs i know? How many heads i can play without too many mistakes?Can i comp reading a chord/chart? Can i read a sheet? Can i improvise on a tune? Can i play a blues?
There are many questions that you can ask....and the funny thing is that the more you think to know the more complex question will arise : )...For example: Do i know polychords? Can i play with a 7/8 feel? Wich is the best substitution for Emin7b9? And so on....So, just make the questions honestly, you will sure discover what's the first thing to practice. Start from there and go on growing : ). It's a never ending process.
And also: play with other people, play with all the people better than you, don't be scared. you will learn faster.
I want to leave with a sentence i read on a book of Bill Evans, he said:
"I had to work harder at music than mosts cats, because you see, man, i don't have much talent"
If a genius as Bill Evans said that, i think that we, common human being, we can learn a lot from that
Last but not least: Have fun and pratice hard. If you don't suck when you pratice you are not practicing correctly ( "translation": if you always practice the same things you think to be good cause you already know that but if you practice what you still don't know you must suck, cause you are learning: phisically, aurally, mentally and spiritually.
I don't want you or some other people, reading this post, could think that i have the presumption to be already a great musician, absolutely not...but for sure i am working on that...i just want to be the best musician i can be...compared always to myself not to others.
Hope it helps.
All the Best
i really dig what you said. Thanks for the food for thought.
Some interesting ideas from all here.
Sandemose, I think your 1st question is important. It's easy to get lost in all the info and ideas out there, but I think it comes down to one thing:
We practice to express ourselves.
So, before we can work out what to practice, we have to work out how we wish to express ourselves. Ways to do this are to listen to other musicians (transcribing etc.) and exploring music in general. You could also do this by exploring the 'craft' of jazz guitar, along the path of improving your craft you may make some decisions about how you want to play and what you like to hear. However, I don't think you should get hung up on the craft. Can you play 26-2 in all keys?
Can you listen to a musician and say "yeah, they sound great, but I can tell they can't play 26-2 in all keys'?
Of course, on the other hand, if you want to communicate with other musicians you will need an understanding of the craft (in this case jazz music). So, I think there should be a balance of art and craft. The 1st being the most important.
Anyone vehemently disagree?
Recently, i have discovered that before to think to be a "jazz musician", instead to know all the fancy "substitution", we MUST know a lot of standards. This must be our practice more important point.
I think i will use my all my practice time to learn as many standards as i can. Learn the melody, learn the chords, learn to improvise on that tune. I think that's difficult to meet a musician who can't play, if he knows one hundred jazz standards, at least. This is something you can use, it's pragmatic and usefull. It's nice to know many great licks but if you suck playing the head, or comping, you completely miss the point.
In my humble opinion, often, we, and mainly myself, we "waste" time practicing something that is not practical. When you play with others, the first thing is to know some tunes, the more you know that, the better it will be. This will help you to become more strong on your craft and it will help you to become an artist. "Honestly express yourself", this is not a sentence from a jazz musician, this came from a martial artist: Bruce Lee. I think it could be a great advice: always honestly express yourself. But before to make this expression you need to know the craft, in our case, just in my opinion, these are the standards. The more you know them, the better.
Maybe i will open a new post on repertoire: how many tunes you really know? i mean "to know" in a deep manner.
All the Best
A lot of the time I spend on guitar is just doing some free-form improvisation, melodies and chords..it's good practice for application of scales and harmony, voicings, etc, and you rely only on your ears.
This summer I'm trying to solidify my actual practice time. I boiled it down to three basic categories, which you could spend any amount of time on in a practice session:
1. Listening/Transcribing - just listen, and anything that jumps out at you that you decide you want to learn, transcribe it. I prefer taking licks to working on whole solos.
2. Tunes - pick a tune, sightread it, try playing it in different keys, positions, and in a solo/trio style of playing. Shed the changes, and patterns/scales/arpeggios over the tune would help. good place for applying technique and transcriptions. and review the tunes! i have a list of the top 172 tunes I want to know, and I'm just working through it alphabetically. I'm up to the Cs. This category would also include progressions you want to shed, like coltrane changes in different keys.
3. Technique - everything else. Scales, arpeggios, patterns, voicings, reading, picking and speed. For my lessons, my teacher has me learn 28 inversions for each of 10 different chord types, that's 7 string sets. Should keep me busy for a while.
I'm using technique as the warmup, doing some sort of picking and speed exercises and from there work on scales, voicings, or whatever I'm currently working on.
Is there a specific way to practice imrpov, other than transcribing? I play through the chords using arpeggios and scales, etc, but nothing super specific.
matt- that's about all you can do...listening to be able to start hearing the stuff when you play, transcribing so you can play it, playing through changes with arpeggios and scales and 8th notes, and most importantly to me - just spend hours playing over the changes with band in a box or a playalong. that used to be all i did for and it helped a lot, and you can use it to apply scales, arpeggios and voicings.
Man this is a cool post because this has a lot to do with what I have been thinking most about lately.
This is sorta the stage I went through recently with my playing.
For a while this is what I practiced:
Every week I would pick a standard or whatever and do this
1. learn arpeggios and bebop scales
2. substitue different chord qualities in tune for chords of the same quality but different tonalities
i.e. C maj 7 #9 for C maj 7 or using a whole tone for a ii-V instead of the mixolydian tonality
And I would do this for chords and lines
That would take up 5 hours or so a day.
Then I was like. Man this is way too much. It worked for me for a while of playing because I eased myself into all this stuff but I realized that when I played something that came out of the major scale, such as a f maj 7 in a c major scale, I could play it all over the fret board, but if I wanted to use the tonality of some altered V before it (so C7 alt) I couldn't think fast enough to get it there and that's when I started to realize it was because I was thinkink so much.
I started practicing then with the thought of making everything so small that it would all be second nature. So I would practice just playing F maj7 to C alt for a while or whatever. It seems basic, but I wanted to be able to play these sounds all over the fret board at any time.
So I started using a random generator. I mapped out all the possible chords that came out of the following scales: major, melodic minor ascending, harmonic minor, whole tone, h/w dim and the augmented scale. I forget how many tonalities that is off the top of my head but then I would assign each to a number and the 1-12 for each chromatic pitch. And I would get a sequence like 12 6 which might mean G# # 5 with a natural 4
I would get four of these chords then I would get it topick a random interval structure like 2/6/ 3 So I would only play in the tonality of whatever chord I got and play lines of a 2nd in a 6th up a third until the next chord. For example F maj 7 # 11 e f d then that sequence up a 3rd.
I started running these interval sequences through scales as chords and what not but found that that was extremely overwhelming after a month or so.
Then I realizedthat I wasn't focusing my sound. For example playing an inside F maj7 sound as opposed to randomly playing in the key. So I started using triads to create either an inside or outside sound. i.e. Fmaj7 inside- dmin, F triad, a minor triad, C triad Outside or not focused- G major triad, e minor triad, b dim,
And I started taking things really slow.
I got really frustrated because using the triad wasn't for me. I didn't like the sound of it, it was stupid to my ears. So I was like well I like the sound of a 2nd and 6th together (like a triad is a 3rd and a 3rd) why can't I use that as my way of focusing sound.
I kinda gave up for a week on practicing a lot because I couldn't find what I was looking for. But through all those misdirected practices I finally fine tuned and found what i wanted to sound like, through knowinf what I didn't like.
I realized I wasn't happy with the way I was improving because it wasn't what I wanted to play. I love Kurt Rosenwinkels ,usic, but I don't want to be him, he already exiists, or lage lund or mike moreno or whoever. I realized that I was trying to use concepts of practicing that benefited others more than myself. But now that I know what I want to sound like I can practice things to make my sound better.
Now I practice a lot of just learning ideas for licks that sound like me and getting them really into my fingers. It's not like I prepare licks to show off how bad my licks are, but to have something that sounds like me to fall back on so I don't go to playing my bulls**t stuff. I find that preparing stuff really helps you know what you like so you aren't just meandering in a key.
Anyway that's been my journey. And I hope maybe someone found something useful in this.
Anyway. What I'mm saying is:
Learn music theory, then learn what you like, then practice what you like and permeatate it (sp?) until you have no boundaries.
I dont know what makes one successful as an improvisor. I thought of the other post on time keeping. Sitting home practicing will help you to be prepared when you want to improvise. With that I mean: you dont wanna stand around wondering where the notes for C minor dorian scale is. But, even if you know the scale, it wont make you a good improvisor. How strong rhythmic and harmonic imagination do you bring into your trio, quartet, duo or big band? So I say, prepare yourself at home. Release it among people.
Here is Brad Mehldau discussing improvisation:
I've started becoming less regimented about practicing lately. I still feel a strong passion and desire to become a better musician and I always look forward to the next time I get to jam with people, but lately I've been enjoying just doing what I want and not being so hard on myself about shedding. Obviously it pays off to practice things that "aren't fun" or things that are "hard" or "mentally challenging." It's important to do those things, because as some have mentioned above, you want those hard things to become easy or 2nd nature. But I find it fulfilling to simply pursue one thing I'm really interested in for a few days at a time.
The past 2 or 3 days I've been strictly transcribing a song. I'll jam by myself on some standards for 45 minutes or an hour. But most of the time I've been transcribing.
A few days earlier in the week I started each practice session with a nice warm up of _____(insert any modal scale name here) 3 octaves through all keys. Then I take the same scale using 4 notes per string per key (KR exercise from 2001 Berklee clinic). Another day last week I picked up the guitar and just played a Metallica song that I used to play along with all the time when I was in high school.
If I was aiming to be a world class player I'd be much more dedicated to shedding the same thing day after day for months on end. But I've just been enjoying myself and going with the flow of whatever I want to do on that given day.
I've noticed my technique gets worse when i work on it (picking), and gets better if I just improvise on tunes, etc. This observation is just over one day, and i'm worried that if i don't focus on it, it'll get worse than when i do. I can't never tell.
Also, these KR exercises, where can I see them?
I'll reiterate this post:
"You just need to practice what you don't know until you know it, and
You just need to practice what is difficult until it become simple. "
I've found what works best for me is to take a handful of things that I am the worst at or that I would get the most immediate use out of practicing, and I focus on those for just a little bit each day, every day, for about 2-3 weeks minimum. I find that I always make the most progress when I tackle it this way. I don't usually work on a particular topic for more than 30-40 minutes a day, so I find I don't really get more out of it by spending more time than that on it. Instead, when I want to practice longer, I just work on more different things, each no more than an hour. When I'm diligent about doing this every day for 2-3 weeks, I find it really sticks and I make leaps and bounds in digesting the material.
Matt: I noticed you're a student. If you're at BCM there should be a video of the Kurt clinic from 2001 in the library. It was filmed in the Uchida building first floor.
Thanks so much guys. Really appreciate all this advice :)
This was so helpful for me, hope it helps some of you too!
Since you all have helped me, I thought i'd throw this out-
As a beginner/intermediate jazz improviser, when i work on improvisation, i'll just play the tune and listen to myself, then write in my practice journal (which i highly recommend having) what i think i should work on ie phrasing, playing from chords, etc. So i'll focus on those things on that tune and maybe go through a couple transcriptions for licks that are applicable as well.
I wanted to add some nice things to this thread. The great pianist, Dan Tepfer, has some great program files for download on his site. The metronome is cool for accents.. well he gives some advice and you can go off with your own concepts. The Charlie Banacos file.. well it's CHARLIE BANACOS INFO!!
The last file, Random Notes, is the one i've been going a little bit deeper into on my skype lessons with my students. Just like the metronome, you can use this program as is. Simple slow.. a serious challenge fast. I've been working with combining this program with voice-leading and counterpoint practice. I have made quite a few to challenge myself and students ( most involving slow tempos ).
Here is the link. It's under ( Misc ) on the bottom right side of his site. Enjoy! http://www.dantepfer.com/
Nice page geetarted, I enjoy these kind of little exercises that can take you decades to master.
Based on my career (i'm music teacher) and my personal experience (I apply every theory about education I might have first on me), I believe that a nice way to practice is to take an easy standard (easy is a relative term, take one that's easy for you, and I mean EASY), and basically destroy it. Play on a vamp of every individual chord for a while, then take two chords, then two bars. Focus your playing, restricting your choices (playing just with the arpeggio, or just the pentatonic, or just on one string....). Basically I see a standard as framework which gives us a set of changes and a melody suggestion (the head).
Now, the question is: WHAT to practice? Well, for me I will just practice something I've already mastered in an isolated way (for example, the major scale in three notes per string, over the whole fretboard, in every key).
My approach has a deffect, and that is that you need to be really motivated to study, because you won't really see a constant improvement. It's just when you've mastered a concept that you start to applying it (in the practice session), so it kind of seems that you improve on "steps".
Once I masted everything under my book, my next goal will be to see and play everything thinking on the notes, not relying on any kind of pattern, CAGED or similar. In that sense, I think Kurt's exercise of 4 notes per string scales will be very helpful, though probably I'll develop some kind of new "torture method" based on it, lol.
@jorge, i've tried those things you mention at the bottom, and their fun! nice ways to cut loose..
as for those Dan Tepfer apps, can those run on Windows somehow?
jorge can u say an exemple of 1 shape of that 4 notes scale system? and how many fingering shapes exists. seven? only if you want answer this though i just need the first exemple to guess the other ones. gracias. i really need to learn english xdddd in order to write in this forum
Right now im trying to sketch chords in tunes by playing stadard i dont realy know without any time. I want to be able to hear each chord is i want it to be before moving on to the next. It helps me to play larger lines, atleast i think so. Im not realy trying to make music. Its more of a sound thing.
Its hard to explain it. I recorded a bit when i praticed it this morning. Maybe someone gets what im aiming for.
R / Z
zjivve - whatever you're practicing sounds very good. I cannot believe the wealth of talent and skill in the world - sure makes me want to practice more!
When I practice my main aim is to make my metacognitive abilities, as it pertains to musical improvisation, fluid.
That usually just takes a shit load of repetition. Progress varies across individuals and as a function of individual learning styles. I also look to maximize intrinsic reward. So, if I feel like doing chord melody stuff I practice it, if I feel like transcribing I do it. I realized a long time ago that there was no secret code to getting to sound good. All the methods books I bought were great in principle. However, the beauty of the guitar, for me, is that everyone is going to see the fretboard in their own unique way. Look, I still suck compared to you guys, but since I realized that my practice time has been much more efficient and rewarding.
I'm also not a professional musician like most here and I don't gig anymore. Consequently, I have zero thoughts about what I 'should' be doing while practicing. Though, when I was a music student at Berklee I think I spent more time mind f*cking this process than was really needed.
I also don't understand this: project management: SMART(ER) / DUMB
There seems to be a ton of overlap in constructs in that model and seems more cute than anything.
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