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Practice For Success

As an instrument teacher my mantra is always – practice, practice, practice.

I teach and then the student learns, practices until they can play it and then practice some more until they can play it without looking.

Many people stop at just learning without going on to excel.

When I am playing music there are so many things to think about, especially in a band situation that I don’t want to have to stop and try and remember every chord or scale that I need to play. I really want them to just flow from my fingers so that I can concentrate on the harder stuff.

The only way this is going to happen is practice and lots of it. However there is a bit of a science to practice if you are aiming for success.

I have had many students who say that they have practiced, even though they are time poor, but they can’t play the things that I have given them. I immediately know that they have been playing all their favourite little bits of music and calling it practice.

We all want to feel good about ourselves and so we go to the things that we can do.

But that is not practice. So what is the solution? What is the Science?

I write out some time goals for my practice and then break it down into weekly activities to get me to my goal. Then I assess myself at the end of each week and adjust my activities. I may even have to adjust my goals.

Here is an example. Once you have learnt something you add the new subjects to it, you don’t replace them. By the end of week 10 you should be playing everything you learnt every time you practice:-

For my bass practice I wanted to learn 3 Scale shapes of every Major, Minor and Dominant Scales. I gave myself 10 weeks to achieve it.

Week 1 – Learn 1 Scale Shape for every Major Scale, starting on the 4th (thickest) string – because the way the Bass is tuned if I learn 1 shape and then move it around the fret board I can play every Major Scale with it.

Week 2 - Learn 1 Scale Shape for every Minor Scale, starting on the 4th (thickest) string. Play 6 Major Scales and 6 Minor Scales. There are 12 notes in Music so I can learn a Scale on each note.

Week 3 – Learn a 2nd Scale Shape for both Major and Minor Scales. If I play the same Scale shape starting the note on the 3rd String as the 4th string they are exactly the same shape.

Week 4 - Learn a 3rd Major Scale Shape for all 12 notes.

Week 5 - Learn a 3rd Minor Scale Shape for all 12 notes.

Week 6 – Repeat week 5 to consolidate it.

Week 7 – Learn 1st Dominant Scale Shape for all 12 notes.

Week 8 – Learn 2nd Dominant Scale Shape for all 12 notes.

Week 9 – Learn 3rd Dominant Scale Shape for all 12 notes.

Week 10 – Repeat week 9 to consolidate it.

You can take this principle and use it for everything that you need to practice. Enjoy.

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