Get The Most Out Of Your Practice Time
Many of my students become incredibly frustrated when it comes to scheduling their practice time. They either:
- Lead busy and stressful lives and can’t find the time
- Already have a regular practice schedule but don’t feel as though they are able to structure their time in a productive way
- Feel totally overwhelmed by it all and have no idea where to start
I’m going to share with you a quick and easy process I teach my students in order to help them get the most out of their practice routine. Hope it helps you too!
The Golden Rule – Practicing for short bursts every single day is infinitely better than 3 hours once a week
Personally, I think 30mins a day is ideal, but if all you can manage is 10-15mins that’s great! The focus here is on daily practice, so make sure whatever time you set for yourself is realistic and achievable. I find it helps to do this at the same time each day (for example, every morning before work or in the evening after dinner). You’ll be amazed how in a relatively short amount of time, sitting down to practice will happen very naturally, just like making a cup of coffee in the morning (or in my case, being British, a cup of tea😉).
A book that quite literally changed my life is The Morning Sidekick Journal by Habitnest. It’s a journal to help you conquer your mornings. When I’m not touring, I get up at 7am every day, which to most musicians will sound terrifying! Honestly, I thought the same thing before I started. But after getting through the first week (aka Hell Week) I was amazed at the results. Not only do I get more work done, I sleep better and and have a lot more energy than I used to. Strange, but true. You don’t have to be like me and start at 7am – you can make the morning begin any time – the most important thing this book helps you with is starting a routine and sticking to it. Give it a try.
SPLIT UP YOUR PRACTICE TIME
I recommend dividing your time into 4 sections.
Working on a Song
Feel free to spend more time on one area than another if you think it’s more helpful to your
situation but try and set an overall time limit. For example, if you spend 30mins a day practicing – you could break down the above into: Warmups (5 mins), New Vocabulary (10mins), Working on a song (10mins), Improv (5mins).
Scales on melodic instruments and rudiments on percussion are a great way to warm up. Along with scales, there are dozens of useful finger exercises / sticking patterns you can play up and down the neck / around the drum kit. Do some research and find the ones you think will help you the most.
ALWAYS use a metronome!
Start off slow and gradually speed up. As with everything in music, it is NOT about speed before accuracy. Take your time, it’s worth getting it right!
To this day, whether I am practicing bass, guitar or drums, I am always working through a music
book. There are so many FANTASTIC ones out there with a ton of useful information. There are also online courses from websites such a Udemy. Find something you think will really benefit your playing and help you grow as a musician.
Start from the beginning, don’t skip anything 😉Set a timer and do whatever you can in the time available to you.
Remember; if you are practicing lines / patterns without any audio backing always use a metronome!
WORKING ON A SONG
I have learnt an enormous amount by sitting down and figuring out various bass lines, drum fills and guitar parts within a song. Always have a tune to work on and really understand why the player chose certain notes and how they played them. If you want to get super nerdy (which I always do) try transcribing what you hear by creating your own charts or notation. You can also go online and buy the TAB / sheet music so you can really see what’s going on.
It’s a lot of fun 😊
This for me is one of the most important elements of playing. It takes a combination of technical knowledge, along with knowing the right notes to play at the right time.
Randomness and Drum Machines
Over the years I’ve used a few different techniques for practicing improv. One idea I had for bass guitar was writing out different key signatures on a piece of paper, ripping them up and putting them in a hat. I’d do the same with a selection of bpm numbers. I’d then pick one of each, set the drum machine to that tempo and jam in whatever key I picked out of the hat. I would also try and lock in with the pattern on the drum machine (which I also chose at random).
I use drum machines when practicing drums too. I start off by copying the beat note for note and staying as in sync as possible, then I start to move around – playing different time signatures or a pattern that is similar but slightly different, adding in different elements as I go.
Loopy-loop pedals are a lot of fun live, but they are also an excellent practice tool. For guitar, I’d layer some chords and work on solo-ing as well as different chord inversions. With bass, I would pick a key and see how many times I could loop and layer different ideas. You’re forced to think about multiple elements, including melody, chords and groove – it’s challenging but extremely fun. I also record bass lines into my looper, hop on the kit and try playing along, the goal being to stay in time for as long as possible while experimenting with different ideas.
This is SO important. Record everything and store it somewhere in date order. I do this for a couple of reasons:
1. You’ll have a better understanding of what you need to work on. Listen back to what you have played – I often find that by taking a step back and listening to my playing I can hear which elements I need to spend more time on. I record both my practice sessions as well as live shows and always make notes on how I can improve.
2. You’ll be able to hear your hard work in action. In a couple of weeks’ time, go back and listen to the very first recording. You’ll be able to hear how far you’ve come. It’s extremely gratifying, especially on the days when you feel as though you’re getting nowhere. We quickly forget how difficult it was to play a particular phrase and in moments where we’re being hard on ourselves it’s a nice reminder that our hard work is paying off.
I hope this list has helped you in some way, did I miss anything? What would you include? Let me know in the comments below!