Tips on Practicing
- Always practice things you can’t play
- Practice as much as your lifestyle permits
- 10 minutes of quality practice is worth 24 hours of mindless practice
- Study music first and bass second
- Don’t be scared of missing practice time
Designing YOUR practice schedule
- Look at your week in the same way you might plan a monthly budget
- Make a written plan of an average week to visualise where practice can be fitted
- Be careful not to cut out time for responsibilities or family
Alternatively, you could make a weekly list of things you want to focus on and work through them in your own time. This can be beneficial if you are struggling to find the motivation to practice.
What To Practice
Start with a warm-up. If you have cold or stiff hands then gently massage them warm water to loosen them up. Then it is your call on what to play next. You may feel that you are ready to jump straight into some fun bass lines, or you might want to take things slowly and try a few simple exercises first. Whatever you choose, don’t go too fast and start playing difficult lines straight away. This could cause an injury.
Split your practice up into different areas if you have a lot of time on your hands. Alternatively, you can focus on your weakest points or cover those areas over a few days if you have limited time.
The five main areas I generally look at when practising are:
- Songs and Repertoire
- Ear Training and Transcription
- Improvisation and Creativity
- Applied Harmony and Theory
Reading will completely change your playing in ways you don’t even realise yet. It will open the doors to paid gigs and the opportunity to become a full-time professional (if that appeals to you).
Any translation of music from the written page to the instrument is useful and it all helps you get to know the fretboard a little better. Chord charts are just as important as regular notation so find as many types of charts, transcriptions and lead sheets as you can and play through them on your instrument.
2. Songs and Repertoire
Learn as many songs in as many styles as you can. This will also help your reading/ear training depending on how you choose to learn songs. Having a strong repertoire of songs in different styles is one of the most useful skills to have. Repertoire will also develop your general bass playing and will make you more of a well-rounded player rather than just a rock/pop/ska player etc.
3. Ear Training and Transcription
Practice learning songs by ear by playing along to the radio, TV, CDs or any other means of finding new music. Work out melodies, solos, chords – anything that catches your ear. Singing lines as you play them or singing a line and trying to copy it on your bass will improve your ear quickly.
All forms of ear training will help to link up your internal and external musical voices so you are more prepared when it comes to playing an idea you can hear in your head.
4. Improvisation and Creativity
This area consists of making anything up on the bass including lines, riffs and songs. It also includes improvising around a chart or chord sequence as this is often required for gigs (especially jazz). Improvising is a practical way to apply any knowledge of chord tones or scales you may have been working on.
Walking bass lines are a perfect way to practice improvising as you have to use theory in a practical way to link different chords together.
5. Applied Harmony
This area could consist of learning and using chord tones, scales, arpeggios and basically anything else you may learn in theory that can be applied to the neck. It is essential to really understand the theory behind any technique so you can apply it appropriately.