Approaching Practice


Practicing is boring! I don't get anything out of it. Why would I want to practice? I just want to play."

That was what I got back from a student of mine a while ago when I asked him if he had gone over the scales that I had suggested. I had asked him how much he practiced overall and he told me what I wrote above.

I then proceeded to show him a couple of ways that he could go about approaching practice so that it didn't seem so much like practicing at all.

I'm going to list what I told him here for your benefit:

1. Don't call it practicing, call it playing.

If you call it practice, and you try it like you're approaching practice, it will feel like practice.

Next time, instead of saying "I'm going to go and practice bass for a while", Why don't you say "I'm going to go jam on my bass for a bit"?

For some people, that's all it takes to make you want to play your bass. If you don't call it practice, you might not think about it that way. Try it next time.

2. Vary what you practice.

If you're sick of playing scales all of the time, why don't you try playing Chords? Maybe trying to walk or create bass lines over chord changes might spruce up your practice schedule?

What about learning lines from your favorite song?

Practice doesn't always mean boring theory and scales. It can also mean messing around with funk lines or Slap licks. It's up to you what you practice.

3. If you're bored with one thing, try it another way.

Are you tired of playing scales in quarter notes? Maybe try going through the same scale by tapping, slapping or playing chords along with it? If you approach practicing the same thing, but in different ways, you might not get bored of it as quickly.

4. Take two steps back, one forward.

Feeling overwhelmed? Try playing just the basics. If that Hijaz-kar scale in thirds is making you want to kill a colony of ants with a rock, maybe you shouldn't practice outside. (Seriously though, keep away from ants. They suck).

If you're having trouble with a scale or a melody, take your time with it. You're only as rushed as you think you are. Take your time and relax. Your mind will thank you for it.

5. Don't go over what you already know.

If you're stuck in a bit of a rut and you find that you're playing the same licks over and over again, try playing in a different time signature with a different kind of scale and with a different rhythmic feel than you're used to.

For example, if you're used to playing funk licks with the blues scale in E in 4/4 time (personally very, very guilty), try playing reggae style lines in 7/4 time with the major scale in the key of G.

This might help "re-ignite your fires" (so to speak).

6. If it doesn't make you want to play, don't do it.

If you don't want to play classical music, don't.

If you don't want to play Funk lines or Primus licks, don't.

If Jaco doesn't float your boat, don't play his stuff.

It really comes down to playing what YOU want. Do it because YOU want to, not because you're told to by someone else.

7. You can play simple exercises in various styles.

If you find that everything sounds like funk to you, maybe buy a book of reggae bass lines and play through that, or buy a book of jazz standards and learn to walk over the changes.

If you feel hampered by a style, learn to play it. It will increase your ability to play different kinds of bass lines many times over.

8. It's only boring if you can't figure out how to make it exciting.

One of the best ways that I've found to make practice exciting again is to practice in a different location. Sometimes I get different ideas if I practice at the beach or in a park rather than at home.

You might also meet different people if you make it a habit of playing in a different spot once in a while, so why not?

9. The first 10 minutes are the worst!

During the first 10 minutes or so of practicing, you aren't generally warmed up or into it yet. If you push yourself to relax and just play for a while, eventually you'll just keep going and you wont worry about wanting to stop or start or anything. You'll just want to play.

Try it!

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