Despite every instructional book and video requiring practice, they never seem to address how to practice. Practicing is one of the most valuable skills you can develop as a musician. Effective practicing can save you years off the time it takes to be a competent bassist. It can mean the difference between becoming a professional and quitting altogether.
In these practicing articles I will give you some ideas on how to practice well. Not all of these ideas will work for you. Take what you can, test them out. Use what works. Everyone is a little different. Reread these articles periodically. Certain concepts may help you at different points in your development.
What is practicing?
First, you need a concept of what practicing is. This is how I define it:
Practicing is the absorption, mastery and maintenance of skills.
Let’s examine that more closely. Skills are things we use to create music. Skills can be bass techniques, concepts, rhythms, basslines, etc.
You can divide skills up into new, unlearned skills, and old, learned skills. Many people learn a few skills and continue practicing those same skills over and over. In order to advance, it is important to keep a balance of new and old skills in your practice routine. Only working on things you can already do will take you nowhere. The trap is you play old skills well and it is gratifying. Practicing new skills can be frustrating. People often keep playing the same stuff to make themselves feel better about their playing. Don’t tread water only reviewing things you can already do. Work on old and new skills.
Absorption is a process. Absorption means learning how to play and apply those new bass-playing skills. Absorption is the art of practicing; it is how to learn. There are a number of ways to learn skills. In this practicing lesson category and throughout studybass I will explain learning strategies you can apply to all your bass studies.
Often times I ask my students, “Do you know [something they were supposed to learn]?” And they reply, “Oh, yes. I learned it.” But when they play it back they fumble through it, get stuck, or need to look at something for a reference. They are familiar with it, but they have not yet mastered it.
Mastery is a result. Mastery means absorbing a new skill so well you have access to it whenever you need it. Some skills can be mastered in an hour; other skills take decades to master. If someone were to shake you awake at 3 a.m. and asked you to play something and you could, you probably have it mastered. If you need to play through something once or twice before you can make it through it, you haven’t mastered it yet. Mastery means being able to execute at will. You will know when you really have something mastered. It will feel effortless. Keep in mind it is possible to play bass fairly well without having hardly anything mastered at all.
Maintenance means to review those skills you have mastered. Many learned skills need to be used consistently if you want them ready at will. It’s very easy to forget skills like reading, fingerings, basslines, and the like if you don’t use them.
To practice is to absorb, master and maintain skills.