Practice Routines: By Travis Orbin
Thursday, 19 February 2009 20:59

Possessing a structured practice routine can be extremely beneficial to one's playing. I am oftentimes approached by musicians that feel as if they either do not practice as much as they should/would like to, doodle around too much when they do have the time, or have simply gotten 'lazy' and lack inspiration (or--worst yet--a combination of the aforementioned). As a result of the obvious absence of productivity a stagnant period can occur.

When devising your practice routine the most important thing to consider is where your goals lay. Do you wish to become more proficient at a specific technique, at reading music, or at playing a particular style of music as authentically as you can (etc.)? The key to any of this is repetition. Exploration is certainly healthy and required at times (heck, I'm guilty of indulging a bit too much myself) but if you'd really like to buckle down and progress at a quicker pace, you have to put in the hours... and boy, do I mean hours!

Firstly, you should consider how much 'practice time' you can allot yourself per week. Be honest when deciding what you wish to accomplish and if it is reasonably congruent with the amount of practice time you have. This is when you either must set your sights a little lower or begin telling your friends that you'd rather practice than hang out, heh. Of course, there could be more critical obstacles in your life; the less lofty your goals are the more fulfilling/rewarding/inspiring playing will become. Be realistic!
Then, you'll want to divide up the days of the week. For a drum-related example, you may want to work on hand technique for two days, with the first day devoted to some specific licks and the next focusing on more fundamental exercises. The following two days could be assigned to improving at a samba ostinato. As an addendum, to really 'get into' the headspace of world music it is best to immerse yourself in the culture. Texts and videos can only show so much; there's nothing like eating the food, learning the language--and possibly dance moves, haha--and educating yourself as to the history of the respective culture to really begin to grasp where the musicians come from.
Whatever you commit to--as stated above--you should be very repetitious in your training (because that's really what it is). As Thomas Lang says, "Don't count bars... count hours." Just be sure that your technique is in place and that there isn't any tension in your movements.
The last piece of the puzzle is practical application. I studied bass theory for quite some time. However, since I never utilize my knowledge in a band/musical situation (I don't have time to practice it on my own, I swear!) if you put a chart with bass clef in front of me right now I would fall on my face. Putting those movements you've thoroughly rehearsed into usage in situations that force us to react and think differently than how you do in your cozy practice space is what really drives it all home. Whew, that was a mouthful and it's probably a run-on, but I promise there is validity to it!
To close, I can guarantee that if you are stuck in a rut and you tailor a practice schedule that is to your needs as a musician, you will only progress and improve at your craft. What is more inspiring than that? Regular music lessons can help to establish a practice routine and habit.
See more from Travis on his YouTube channel .



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