(EDIT NOTE - this series of articles was written prior to the research that led to the writing of my book Deliberate Practice. However there is still some great information here, so I've left them up to help with people's bass practice planning....)
The would be 21st century bassist is surrounded by a wealth of tuitional material- books, DVDs, CDs, software - covering every conceivable aspect of playing the bass eg slapping, chording, harmonics, tapping, stylistic studies (rock, metal, funk, latin etc), transcriptions of players etc etc. But there seems to be no book available on effective and efficient practicing!
Let me say that again:
There's no book available on effective and efficient practicing! There's not even a book on practicing for guitar that we can adapt and use the principals from.
Most bass beginners either start out just trying to pick up tunes from CDs (and I guess now they also use tab sites on the internet) or they pick up a teacher and practice the material their teacher tells them to practice. Neither of these approaches is necessarily bad (although you KNOW what I think if your teacher is getting you to practice loads of scales and arpeggios - DON'T YOU?), but by adopting an efficient approach to practicing will improve the speed at which all bassists advance.
Becoming efficient at practicing is relatively straightforward - mostly it involves aligning practice materials to the individual bassist's goals. I wince when I think back on how many hours I spent back in the day playing scales and arpeggios that were of no practical use to me either then or now and had absolutely no connection in any way, shape or form with what I wanted to achieve.
Here are the steps you need to take to make your bass practice sessions more efficient:
1) Take some time to assess your goals as a bassist. Goal setting should
be split into long term (say 5 years), medium term ( 12-18 months),
intermediate term (the next 3-6 months) and now (this week!). Goals
should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
2) Assess what time units you have available - and when - for practicing on a regular basis.
3) Each week, construct a practice schedule which combines steps 1 and 2 by allotting the tasks needed to move forward along your goal path to time units available in your schedule.
4) Make a daily record of your practice, noting time spent on tasks, metronome markings (if applicable) etc.
5) At the end of each week spend 20-30 minutes analysing the week's activities - any tasks not mastered will need to be worked on before you can properly move on.
6) At periodic intervals (say every 3 months) review your master goal plan - as you grow older (even by as short a period of time as 3 months) your goals will change. Realign your goal plan.
7) Repeat - and repeat - and repeat..... you get the picture!
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