Having played bass for the last 15 years, the ongoing pursuit of growth as a musician has been a long journey. Practicing used to come very easily to me. Picture a long-haired 13-year-old coming home from school, turning a tiny bass amp up to 11, and playing rock music for the next 3 hours until someone finally came home to tell me to be quiet.
As I grew older those 3 hours a day turned into 2 hours, 1 hour, and so on until I had almost completely stopped.
Practicing at home had turned into practicing at soundcheck for church on a Sunday (let me know if this is starting to sound familiar). My passion for music hadn’t changed, but my spare time had.
I decided I had to start practicing effectively and efficiently if I wanted to continue growing as a musician, so I built the perfect routine for me. “How?” I can hear you asking… thanks for asking… here’s how you can build the perfect routine for YOU.
BEFORE YOU START
The best way to make your practice effective is to do it consistently and regularly. Just like building muscle, you’re teaching your body and mind to do new things. My bass teacher growing up would always say it’s better to be doing 5 minutes of practice a day, rather than practicing once a week for hours.
The key to practice and growth is consistency! So, how do you be more consistent?
For me, it’s a mixture of time management, goal setting, and maintaining momentum. By planning a routine that takes around 20-30 minutes to complete, I can safely say this will fit into most of my days, even some of the busiest.
It’s also important to set goals. What are you trying to get better at? Do you want more speed, more control? Maybe learning a new technique? Working towards a goal will help keep you motivated, as well as giving you the ability to strategize your growth.
Through all of this maintain your momentum. Sure you’ll miss a day here or there, but don’t let that take away from your momentum! Something that has helped me a lot in this area is making it enjoyable. Don’t let it feel like a chore!
DURATION: 30 MINS
Let’s use 30 minutes as a starting point to build our routine.
I know what you’re thinking, 30 minutes a day could seem daunting, but hear me out! If your goal is to improve your craft, consider how you are prioritizing your time. If you are serious about getting better, you need to put in the time!
WARM-UP: 5 MINS
In the first 5 minutes, we’ll spend doing a simple exercise. As an example, you could use a major scale, pentatonic scale, or another exercise that interested you. If you don’t know any now is the time to learn a new one!
Start with your metronome at a slower tempo, maybe 60BPM. Focus on playing each note and pattern consistently. Each minute, increase the BPM by 10 or 20. It’s important as you get more comfortable to keep pushing the tempo to challenge yourself.
PLAY SOMETHING YOU KNOW: 10 MINS
The goal here is to have fun, so play a song or 2 you like to play. It could be something you learned recently that feels fresh or a song you’re playing at church this week. I’ve personally found if it’s something I enjoy it’s easier for me to stay consistent.
LEARN SOMETHING NEW: 10 MINS
In this next section use the time to learn something brand new. This could be a new exercise, scale, or learning a new song!
WARM DOWN: 5 MINS
In the last 5 minutes, take another exercise you know. Try to start at a faster tempo this time, maybe around 120BPM, and try to speed up again every minute. Once you reach the last minute, slow right down to 60BPM.
Playing slow is a great technique to build consistency across all your notes. This way you’ll really be able to hear if you’re playing correctly. This slow step will also help your muscles warm down.
Each time you sit down to practice, think about how you can push yourself further. Maybe that means learning a song that’s difficult to play, or something that’s in a different genre than you’re used to playing. Or maybe it’s a brand new technique!
If you use a metronome it’ll be easier to track your progress. With that in mind, you could also be setting tempo goals for your scales and exercises. For example, you could try a scale at 200BPM and work towards getting it clean and consistent with each note.
Maybe you’re thinking you don’t have 30 minutes a day to practice. An example of a shorter practice could be doing 10 minutes of exercise when you get up in the morning or when you go to bed. You could even practice while watching tv at home!
Simple solutions like these have helped me keep up with my playing and continue to push me to the next level.
I believe it’s important to continue to keep yourself motivated by people outside your world. I’ve personally been inspired by Scott Devine from Scott’s Bass lessons and MarloweDK. These are people I’ve been following for years and continue to learn a lot from.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you how fast you want to progress. The reality is it takes time, commitment and consistency to master your craft. I would encourage you to set aside time each day to practice to keep pushing yourself to the next level.
So this is your challenge, to start yourself on a journey of musical growth! Practice consistently and effectively, you’ll be surprised with the growth you’ll start to see.
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