June 26, 2005

#107: Best Use of Practice Time

Steve writes:

When I first got started with the 5-string I could afford to practice 4 to 6 hours a day. I normally would spend 1 hour dedicated to the right-hand, 1 hour on left-hand technique (scales and such) and the remaining hours on repitoire.

Life has changed and time for practice has become much more scarce. I still shoot for at least 1 hour (90-minutes if possible). Some days its only 30-minutes.

Pete, can you give me some guidance on what could be done within an hours time that would amount to effective practice?

Thanks,
Steve

Very good question, Steve. I'm guessing you're an intermediate or advanced player. If that's so, I hope you have people you play with regularly. If that's so, then you probably have a regular repertoire you play.

If that's so, a great way to improve is to pick specific solos you want to play better.

I recommend learning to play the melody correctly, in detail. Focusing on that elusive goal tends to bring things into perspective generally. If you can play any exact melody, with the demands for the timing of the notes to come out right, is a challenging exercise.

There might be nifty phrases or licks you can incorporate with your break, along with the melody. Put your composing skills to work to blend just the right combination of the exact melody, along with some special ornamentation. Work on composing a well-put-together solo for the song.

Now work on *cleaning up* that break -- or any break that you play regularly that has some annoying flaw(s) in it. Make loop exercises out of several of the weakest points.

The loop exercise method is explained in detail in an article by that title in the Doc's Prescriptions part of this site. Using that method tends to strengthen your hands, improve coordination and accuracy, and just happens to yield better sounding solos and playing overall! A pretty good payoff, I'd say.

Last point: Part of just about any practice session, I recommend be general "goof off" time, where you just play for fun, and work on getting a nice sound out of the instrument. This is "bonding" time, and well worth it, both for the fun, and the improvement of your ability to "make it talk".

Enjoy it, and let us know how it goes, Steve.

Pete

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