Results 1 to 22 of 22

Thread: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

  1. #1

    Default How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    I'm about two years into my mandolin journey. Up to this point, I've basically just been learning songs. I have maybe 25 songs and tunes pretty well under my fingers.

    What I notice has been happening recently is that, as I focus mostly on new material, some of the stuff that I've previously learned starts to fade. Someone called "Cherokee Shuffle" at a jam the other day and I couldn't for the life of me remember the tune even though I had it down cold two months ago.

    So my questions are:

    1 - How do you structure your practice to prevent songs from fading into oblivion?
    2 - How do you structure your practice to keep improving consistently in the areas you define?
    3 - How do you keep your practices fun and engaging?

  2. #2

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Warmup. 10%
    Technique practice, scales, new scales or chords or inversions. 30%
    New repertoire. 30%
    Old repertoire. 30%

    This is based on an Evan Marshall workshop about effective practice.

    YMMV.
    Play it like you mean it.

  3. The Following 7 Users Say Thank You to Bill McCall For This Useful Post:


  4. #3
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    2,994

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    1 - How do you structure your practice to prevent songs from fading into oblivion?
    Hi Dad!!

    Think of your “repertoire” as a big circle on a piece of paper. Now inside that is a smaller circle that I call “active repertoire”. This means a piece you can always play no matter what. Often this means having played and/or practiced it so much over a period of time, it is always there when you call upon it.

    The tunes not in “active repertoire”, I call “inactive repertoire”. These are tunes you know but can't always perform on demand cold. Some will be easy to add to “active” and others will feel like you are starting over with them. Going from inactive to active usually means repetitions, plus practice if something is not working. Keeping something active means playing it often enough you still can recall it instantly.

    Please don't take this the wrong way, this is not a criticism! My guess is when you played Cherokee Shuffle, it really was not to the point of total confidence. At this less confidence stage, you need to keep playing it until you don't question anything about it. It is then in the “active repertoire” circle.


    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    2 - How do you structure your practice to keep improving consistently in the areas you define?
    Don't know if you saw any of my Practice Strategies videos, but one of the earliest points was “practicing” and “playing” are totally different. How you set up your “practice” time is what determines how much you improve. Along with of course how much time you spend "behind the box" (to quote Norman Blake).


    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post
    3 - How do you keep your practices fun and engaging?
    Covered in the video mentioned above. We each need to determine why are we playing the instrument and what is the fun of it? Then do this enough that it stays fun.


    One other point: I can't tell you how often this has happened. I work like a dog on a tune and have it "cold". I call it in a jam and it falls apart. It really means I can play it at home after running through it a few times. BUT I can't play it cold at tempo. Now what I require myself to do is play it a few times as the first tune of the day. That tells me if I really know it or not...

    Hope this helps.
    -----------
    Pete Martin
    www.PetimarPress.com www.Jazz-Mandolin.com
    Instruction books, videos: Bluegrass, Jazz, improvisation, ergonomics
    Private lessons in Seattle and Issaquah WA, Skype lessons to anywhere
    Pete Martin Plays Wes Montgomery free download
    http://www.jazz-mandolin.com/PetePlaysWes.xht

  5. The Following 5 Users Say Thank You to Pete Martin For This Useful Post:


  6. #4
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    368

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Hi Dad!!

    Don't know if you saw any of my Practice Strategies videos, but one of the earliest points was “practicing” and “playing” are totally different. How you set up your “practice” time is what determines how much you improve. Along with of course how much time you spend "behind the box" (to quote Norman Blake).
    Thanks for that, Pete. I'm finding your theory book quite helpful by the way. Could you please give the link to your practice video?
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  7. #5

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    If you want a truly dynamic practice schedule, you might want to try a spaced repetition system like Anki or good old fashioned flash cards.

    The basic idea is that as material becomes more fluent, you want to push reviews farther out in time and bring in new material. A spaced repetition system is self-adjusting.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  8. #6
    Registered User Pete Martin's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    2,994

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    -----------
    Pete Martin
    www.PetimarPress.com www.Jazz-Mandolin.com
    Instruction books, videos: Bluegrass, Jazz, improvisation, ergonomics
    Private lessons in Seattle and Issaquah WA, Skype lessons to anywhere
    Pete Martin Plays Wes Montgomery free download
    http://www.jazz-mandolin.com/PetePlaysWes.xht

  9. The following members say thank you to Pete Martin for this post:

    Ranald 

  10. #7
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Central Illinois
    Posts
    2,860

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Martin View Post
    Hi Dad!!

    Think of your “repertoire” as a big circle on a piece of paper. Now inside that is a smaller circle that I call “active repertoire”. This means a piece you can always play no matter what. Often this means having played and/or practiced it so much over a period of time, it is always there when you call upon it.

    The tunes not in “active repertoire”, I call “inactive repertoire”. These are tunes you know but can't always perform on demand cold. Some will be easy to add to “active” and others will feel like you are starting over with them. Going from inactive to active usually means repetitions, plus practice if something is not working. Keeping something active means playing it often enough you still can recall it instantly.

    Please don't take this the wrong way, this is not a criticism! My guess is when you played Cherokee Shuffle, it really was not to the point of total confidence. At this less confidence stage, you need to keep playing it until you don't question anything about it. It is then in the “active repertoire” circle.



    Don't know if you saw any of my Practice Strategies videos, but one of the earliest points was “practicing” and “playing” are totally different. How you set up your “practice” time is what determines how much you improve. Along with of course how much time you spend "behind the box" (to quote Norman Blake).



    Covered in the video mentioned above. We each need to determine why are we playing the instrument and what is the fun of it? Then do this enough that it stays fun.


    One other point: I can't tell you how often this has happened. I work like a dog on a tune and have it "cold". I call it in a jam and it falls apart. It really means I can play it at home after running through it a few times. BUT I can't play it cold at tempo. Now what I require myself to do is play it a few times as the first tune of the day. That tells me if I really know it or not...

    Hope this helps.
    Advice from the Master teacher !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  11. #8
    Gibson F5L Gibson A5L
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    2,078
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    OK ..... What it boils down to is that I have to play a piece to know it and the more I play it the better I know it, that goes for mistakes too. < sigh Anyway I have seven sets and I play one each daily. That keeps the melodies almost all percolating. Occasionally I have to listen to the kick off to recall the melody when the title doesn't bring "it" to mind. Add to that warming up with a scale and the and associated double stops while a tone is playing in the background. This is a good time to watch my bowing while working in a pattern or two. When I have done all that I am thoroughly warmed up. Then I peck away at something new or something older that needs some filling out with double stops or smoother bowing. I am usually at it between an hour and an hour and a half.
    When learning a "new" song or tune I listen to it passively until I can hum it. Then actively engage it with instrument in hand finding the key , chords and eventually the melody. Then I play it about fifteen minutes at a time until I can play it smoothly. I do this as often as time allows . Usually daily though not always ... just as often as life lets me. R/
    Last edited by UsuallyPickin; Nov-20-2018 at 8:09am. Reason: always one more edit
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  12. #9
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Central Illinois
    Posts
    2,860

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    OK ..... What it boils down to is that I have to play a piece to know it and the more I play it the better I know it, that goes for mistakes too. < sigh Anyway I have seven sets and I play one each daily. That keeps the melodies almost all percolating. Occasionally I have to listen to the kick off to recall the melody when the title doesn't bring "it" to mind. Add to that warming up with a scale and the and associated double stops while a tone is playing in the background. This is a good time to watch my bowing while working in a pattern or two. When I have done all that I am thoroughly warmed up. Then I peck away at something new or something older that needs some filling out with double stops or smoother bowing. I am usually at it between an hour and an hour and a half.
    When learning a "new" song or tune I listen to it passively until I can hum it. Then actively engage it with instrument in hand finding the key , chords and eventually the melody. Then I play it about fifteen minutes at a time until I can play it smoothly. I do this as often as time allows . Usually daily though not always ... just as often as life lets me. R/
    If I can't hum or whistle a new song I find it VERY difficult to learn a new piece. This is one reason I find playing a Christmas song so much easier in that the song has been in my brain since childhood !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  13. #10
    Registered User Carl23's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Location
    New Hampshire USA
    Posts
    162
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    I have a stack of papers... in a relative order (new / old / techniques)
    I start at the top and work my way down (when I'm done with the page/song it goes to the bottom)
    Depending on the time that I have it takes 2 - 3 days to complete a cycle.
    I've been working on a lot of material lately so really like this technique.

    However, I'm about to focus on 3 more difficult tunes. at that point I'll probably go to something similar to above. warm up (memorized tunes) / techniques / focus on difficult passages / run through (at least as much as possible)

    C

  14. #11
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2017
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    368

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...


    Thanks, Pete.
    These practice videos are very good, and have given me lots to think about and to apply. I'll definitely watch them again. I suspect that what you have to say applies to any instrument, not just mandolin and fiddle. I'd recommend these videos to others reading this thread.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  15. #12
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,873
    Blog Entries
    51

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by dadsaster View Post

    So my questions are:

    1 - How do you structure your practice to prevent songs from fading into oblivion?
    2 - How do you structure your practice to keep improving consistently in the areas you define?
    3 - How do you keep your practices fun and engaging?
    The above advice is all really good.

    I would add that what ever you do, make your practice do-able. I noticed that with a scripted schedule i did a lot of clock watching. I thought that was a counter productive attitude. I eventually gave up a strict regimen for a loose outline.

    Thing is that getting behind that mandolin every damn day is more than most people can accomplish. Unless you have aspirations of giving Chris Thile a nudge, it may just be enough to keep some notes to remind you what you want to work on, and concentrate on getting in a half hour or more every day that you suck wind on this planet.

    If you get behind that mandolin every day, you won't have to track your progress on a chart to know you are getting better. It will be quite obvious.

    So yea, you should do some new tunes, some old tunes, some exercises (scales and arpeggios), some improvisation, some chord work, etc. That would be optimal. But doing SOMETHING every day, is gigantic by itself.

    Don't let the search for optimum sabotage the accomplishment of beneficial. Perfect is sometimes the enemy of good.



    Remember:

    designing the perfect practice is not practicing.
    making killer flow charts and flash cards and spreadsheets is not practicing.
    organizing and cleaning your practice area is umm... not practicing.


    I have little worry of disparaging those who seriously aspire to be compared to Chris Thile. They are not spending time on line reading this. They are... ummm... practicing.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  16. #13
    Registered User Carl23's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Location
    New Hampshire USA
    Posts
    162
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Unless you have aspirations of giving Chris Thile a nudge,
    You are a funny, funny man.

    ;-)

  17. #14

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    The above advice is all really good.

    I would add that what ever you do, make your practice do-able. I noticed that with a scripted schedule i did a lot of clock watching. I thought that was a counter productive attitude. I eventually gave up a strict regimen for a loose outline.

    Thing is that getting behind that mandolin every damn day is more than most people can accomplish. Unless you have aspirations of giving Chris Thile a nudge, it may just be enough to keep some notes to remind you what you want to work on, and concentrate on getting in a half hour or more every day that you suck wind on this planet.

    If you get behind that mandolin every day, you won't have to track your progress on a chart to know you are getting better. It will be quite obvious.

    So yea, you should do some new tunes, some old tunes, some exercises (scales and arpeggios), some improvisation, some chord work, etc. That would be optimal. But doing SOMETHING every day, is gigantic by itself.

    Don't let the search for optimum sabotage the accomplishment of beneficial. Perfect is sometimes the enemy of good.



    Remember:

    designing the perfect practice is not practicing.
    making killer flow charts and flash cards and spreadsheets is not practicing.
    organizing and cleaning your practice area is umm... not practicing.


    I have little worry of disparaging those who seriously aspire to be compared to Chris Thile. They are not spending time on line reading this. They are... ummm... practicing.
    This presents a false choice.

    If you put thought and planning into your practice, your practice will be more effective. No one is suggesting that you should plan more than you practice.

    I know plenty of people who “practice” everyday but plateaued years ago. Lack of a plan is the reason.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  18. #15
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,873
    Blog Entries
    51

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by JonZ View Post
    This presents a false choice..
    I get what you are saying, and certainly I am no advocate of thoughtless practice.

    I am sure there are those who have plateaued in part to sub-optimal practice regime. But for most of us, the vast majority, I think anyway, the problem of optimal practice is not nearly as much an issue as getting to practice. I am aiming at the center of mass.

    Or perhaps I am prioritizing concerns. First get in the habit of practicing regularly. If you are already doing that, and can't think of not doing that, then we can talk about optimizing things.

    I think we, many of us, I know I do this, we sabotage our own progress by concentrating on the easy stuff. It is much easier to design the perfect practice regime than it is to get started practicing. It is much easier to design and make a permanent practice area that to get started practicing. It is much easier to lay it all out, picks at the ready, music stand carefully lit, get coffee in hand, than it is to start practicing.

    I think of this TV show from a long time ago.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBKHoFECtRQ

    I am not saying my comments supplant the advice being given. I agree that all the stuff others are answering is important. Great ideas. But in addition to that, ahead of all that, is the commitment to practicing. It seems to me that 80% of the progress comes from doing something regularly. If you are not practicing all that much, who cares what it is you are not practicing?

    I could be wrong. I was once, I remember the day.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  19. #16

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    It depends on what you mean by “plan”. There are a lot of ways to construct a schedule. But simply practicing something because it is on the schedule is not really a plan. Learning more and more and more tunes will move your skills forward somewhat, and might be all you want to do. But the hard part of planning is knowing what skills you want to move forward or refresh and prioritizing them accordingly.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  20. #17
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Upstate New York
    Posts
    22,873
    Blog Entries
    51

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by JonZ View Post
    But the hard part of planning is knowing what skills you want to move forward or refresh and prioritizing them accordingly.
    I think we agree, but are talking past each other a bit.
    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
    funny....

  21. #18

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I think we agree, but are talking past each other a bit.
    Perhaps. But I am wondering if you have ever met someone who wasnít making progress because they spent too much time planning instead of playing. I have met plenty of people who play daily and donít progress, because they lack a plan, and people who didnít progress because they had a bad plan, but never someone whose time spent planning interfered with their progress.

    You said ďDon't let the search for optimum sabotage the accomplishment of beneficial. Perfect is sometimes the enemy of good.Ē

    Do you know anyone who has ever had that problem?
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  22. #19

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    I generally try and work on things I’m trying to get better at...I know...duh, right.

    I start off playing slowly and deliberately whether it’s scales, an exercise, or a tune I’m currently working on. I just try and get the notes to sound good and get warmed up.

    Then I take a tune I’m working on and work on the parts giving me trouble or if I’m learning a new tune work on the A part or part of the A part depending on how it’s going. I loop those things for awhile.

    Then I might work on speed or if it’s improvising I’ll try and work a new lick or run or scale into something I already know very well.

    Finally, a teacher once said to me “don’t end practice on an air ball” so I end with something I know and play very well and end on a positive note...so to speak...
    Northfield F5M #268, AT02 #7

  23. #20

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    Pete
    I am a new member and new to the mandolin. First let me tell you that what you sated above is very informative and
    quite true. I have been at the banjo for several years and have known some excellent mandolin players going back to the
    early 70's. without fail the one with the biggest grins on their face's were the one that played for themselves first. That
    the only thing at my age I care about "a I having fun" HECK YA !!!!!

    Happy thanks giving to everyone.

  24. #21

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    I quit after “airballs” regularly. They don’t negate the good attempts that came before, and are my brain’s way of telling me “Enough”.
    Object to this post? Find out how to ignore me here!

  25. #22

    Default Re: How to build a dynamic practice routine...

    I practice with a plan, and keep track of what I do. Thats probably more than many folks.

    Since I use a metronome for everything, tracking what I do is not really burdensome. I manage the time on each task by time available for the entire session. I have a list of exercises to run through and then add new topics as my interests expand. these include new technical items, new and old repertoire and maintenance of technical stuff. Since I took up mandolin at 63, not being a flat picker, I spend a fair amount of time working on the technical aspects, tremolo, cross string picking exercises, etc. I do this in blocks of no more than 30 minutes, break, repeat. Jamming 4-5 times per week provides feedback and shows me areas where I need more work, like improvising in minor keys or picking up the pace on fiddle tunes.

    And I follow the guidance of my teacher in all this, mostly to be less analytical and not lose sight of the musicality.

    Have to resume practicing now.

    ymmv
    Play it like you mean it.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •