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Thread: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

  1. #1
    Registered User Christine Robins's Avatar
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    Default Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    I'm wondering how multi-instrumentalists arrange their practice schedules.

    I usually practice each of my instruments--mando, fiddle, tenor guitar, piano--every day. I fear getting rusty if I don't play each one at least a few minutes daily.

    I had a teacher, though, who only practiced one instrument per day. One day he would play only mando, the next day, only guitar, the next, only banjo. Sometimes, he would focus exclusively on just one instrument, for days or even weeks at a time.

    Then there are probably players with no set schedule or routine--they just play whatever instrument they feel like at any particular time.

    So, multi-instrumentalists, what's your routine? Why does that one work for you? Have you tried out a different one?

  2. #2

    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Great question! I find it difficult to keep them all up and running! Recently I have launched into the Irish flute realm never having prior hands on (or should I say mouth on!) experience of embouchure. It surely steals some precious mandolin time. Then there’s the tenor Uke, tenor banjo, octave mandolin and so on! But I wouldn’t have it any different. I find the variety both stimulating and additive to the overall musicality of my playing. I’m not the type who is inspired to sit with a metronome and slowly increase the bpm to infinity and beyond. Now let’s get back to your question!
    I generally set out to concentrate and study specific tunes which interest me. Some are easy and some are difficult. The easy tunes are the ones I am learning as an Irish flute beginner like The Foggy Dew, Amazing Grace, Planxty Irwin etc. I will then pick up my Octave mandolin and figure out a nice rhythmic backup for the same tunes. Then I will take out my mando and see where I could harmonically introduce some doubles, chord variations and harmony. I often use a metronome to help organize my brain with respect to the timing. It took awhile for the metronome to become my friend! So each instrument is being practiced at a different level of playing.
    Do I set A rigorous schedule like 10 minutes doing this 10 minutes doing that etc. Etc? No! I Don’t want to be a slave to my music. I am pretty regular and self determined and really spend a significant part of my life investing in my practice. I do enjoy how I have set up this approach to practice.
    I do set some time to explore theory but find applying theory in practice takes lots of time. I usually restrict the theory to my jazz trio tunes so that I could understand the harmonic relationships of the tune I'm studying. I know this protocol does not set up a regimented schedule but it seems to work for me and keeps me positively engaged. One last suggestion. I learned in my master class with Avi Avital: science has show it is better to practice only little bits at a time and start off playing music painfully slow! Once you have perfected your mistake it is hard to correct so go slowly and rightly! The mind should be limiting practice on something for only about 3 minutes at a time. He suggests not to practice a section over and over again. Practice a small piece A then piece B. Then go back to piece A then D or whatever you feel needs work. Hope some of this is suitable for you.
    There is a great website by Noa Kageyama which I highly recommend to check out. Lots of excellent and scientific based approach to excellence. You don't have to purchase a problem to realize lots of benefits. Here is the link.
    https://bulletproofmusician.com/
    Last edited by Barry Canada; Apr-24-2020 at 2:38pm. Reason: to make it better

  3. #3
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    I think it’s been a few months since I’ve touched a guitar except for playing a few gigs, and the last gig was a month ago now! The mandolin I play or practice daily for an hour or more. I’ve been playing guitar since 1965 or so. The mandolin, only five years or so, and still not very good at it.
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    I'm a confirmed believer in permanent progress: if I practise one instrument to the point that I reach previously unattained heights, the "new best" will remain, dormant if unattended, but wakeup-able with approximately half the effort that the first ascent required.

    That said, I practise for the gig the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

  5. #5
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    I switch back and forth between the mandolin and tenor banjo every other day, works fine for me. The guitar gets played a couple of times a week.
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  6. #6

    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    My attention goes into a style or idiom for weeks or typically months, at the exclusion of all else. Unfortunately, the instruments that aren't typically used in a genre go totally unplayed, until which time I reignite enthusiasm for (their) genre. For example, I've been really into forro and other Latin styles lately (which I play on accordions). I also play scand on hardanger fdl. Pretty much everything else has gone dormant for the past year. Same thing happened with all the other styles and instruments I've played. It just washes over me and I go with the flow. I think it's rather a good thing - immersion, in my case. But of course there are disadvantages as well.

    *This approach works especially well if one's interests are, say, bluegrass, old timey, "celtic" etc. where one learns the same stuff on any number of instruments. My penchant happens to be for solo playing.
    Last edited by catmandu2; Apr-24-2020 at 2:57pm.

  7. #7
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    My currently "active" instruments:

    "Irish" wooden 8-keyed flute in D
    Mandolin
    Octave mandolin
    Steel string acoustic guitar
    Nylon string acoustic guitar

    I try to practice every day, usually for an hour to an hour and a half.

    The instrument that needs the most work to advance my playing right now is flute, because that's the most recent one (going on 5 years now). She's a harsh mistress, that flute... very unforgiving. So that gets the majority of that hourly practice. I admit to being too lazy for technical exercises, so it's just learning new Irish and Scottish tunes that are fun to play.

    I've played mandolin for 10 years and my playing is okay for hanging in with local trad sessions. So my practice time is aimed mainly at maintenance; keeping enough callus on my left hand fingers and not backsliding with my right hand picking. I might spend 15 minutes a day on mandolin or the OM, the rest on flute.

    The guitars don't get much practice time at all. I'll sometimes play one to accompany my fiddler S.O. when we share tunes at home, or to keep a few fingerstyle arrangements of slower Scottish tunes under my fingers. But they're not part of the regular practice routine. I've played guitar for something like 40 years now, so it's like getting back on a bicycle every time I pick one up. I don't lose much by not practicing. I'm not getting any better either, but that "getting better" time has to go to flute now.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    I play guitar , mandolin and fiddle. I learned them in that order. I have seven sets labeled Sunday- Saturday of a dozen or so tunes that I work at playing through. I attempt to play a set on each instrument daily. Sometimes I manage completing a set on each instrument. That way I play some of each on the days I am not going to a jam. I always take a guitar to a jam though I rarely play it as there are usually plenty of guitars being played already. So I play a bit on a guitar before I leave the house knowing I will get some mandolin and fiddle time in at the jam. I enjoy playing them all for different reasons but the fiddle … she is a jealous mistress … If I only have an hour to play she get it...… R/
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  9. #9

    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Oh, I also play woodwinds at home, periodically. These I don't practice but merely play when my daughter insists or is short on inspiration. This is usually a summer activity (she plays bari sax in high school). So I had to get out the torture stick early this year.
    Not keeping up my clarinet embouchure is sometimes painful. I usually play bass cl, but when the big horn is put away and I dont feel like putting it together, I just grab the licorice stick. Ouch.

    Another "not recommended" but just how instrument-juggling sometimes goes..

  10. #10

    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Hey Foldedpath! I just started the flute a month ago! Very humbling experience... some days are ok others are like what? I had a seemingly nice tone yesterday where did that go? If you started playing Irish flute again as a beginner again, knowing what you know now what would you suggest I should concentrate on? Any tips would be welcome. I know there is no magic! I am starting out on a nice Windward keyless flute.

  11. #11
    Registered User foldedpath's Avatar
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry Canada View Post
    Hey Foldedpath! I just started the flute a month ago! Very humbling experience... some days are ok others are like what? I had a seemingly nice tone yesterday where did that go? If you started playing Irish flute again as a beginner again, knowing what you know now what would you suggest I should concentrate on? Any tips would be welcome. I know there is no magic! I am starting out on a nice Windward keyless flute.
    I don't have any advice other than don't give up! It takes a while, actually a long while to get your embouchure together and feeling like you finally know what you're doing. Every flute player I've talked to, especially those who took it up later in life like me (in my early 60's) goes through that same climb up the learning curve.

    There are exercises often recommended like "long tones" up and down the scale that may help, but if you're like me, you'll just try learning tunes and go from there. Find a teacher if you can, but it's mainly just time and perseverance. Stick with it and you'll get there.

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  13. #12

    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Re flute: one thing you can do is not store your instrument, but keep it handy. We can't always keep our instruments (big horns) out on stands, but we keep our mouthpieces handy at all times - not inside the case, but always accessible on a desk, shelf, etc. This way you can practice embouchure periodically throughout the day, rather than for only the hour or two when you're practicing the instrument. You can also visualize/imagine fingerings while practicing with just the mpc. Otherwise, there are lots of vids online with exercises for technique.

    When I was learning flamenco guitar, I constantly practiced rasqueados away from the instrument - while driving, or anytime my hands were free.

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  15. #13
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    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Right now I have plenty of time, so I practice 3 of 4 instruments every day. Saxophone, I play bari in a big band and I have to maintain those chops, and also I
    Like to play it so it gets the lions share, every day. Double bass is same category, have to practice daily to be in shape to sub, no regular gig. Electric bass same, but its easier to maintain. I might not play that one every day. So, mandolin is strictly for me, my own enjoyment. Typically I will play it for a few hours all through day, in between or after the other instruments. I say maintain but the goal is always to improve. An hour each is a bare minimum, usually I play much more than that.

    A bari and tenor sax stay on stands in my living room, along with several bass guitars and two double basses. Mandolin sleeps on the couch in a corner. Mouthpieces lined up on the tv stand, I have a mouthpiece problem. Reed hoard is taking over the room.

  16. #14

    Default Re: Practice Schedules for Multi-Instrumentalists

    Since I'm at home all day long every day, I've been playing piano for an hour in the morning, playing guitar and singing on the porch in the afternoon, and playing Irish music on the banjolin in the evening. Some days differ, but not much.

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