Monday, April 11, 2011

A little easy to go with that hard

In my weekly lessons, I've been getting a "tough" song to work on for the week to push one aspect or another of my playing. It's also been neat to get assigned a song that I probably never would have learned on my own. That, in turn, has meant learning a bunch of skills I probably wouldn't have learned on my own.

The technique this exposed me to most recently was ghost notes. I could hear them, that little thud before a beat in funk songs, but I couldn't do them. I was trying to play them by muting the string with just one finger on my left hand. This kept producing harmonics-- the trick is to use two fingers on your left hand to mute the string. BAM-- ghost notes.

Only working on one song a week isn't enough though. I've found that I'm able to learn two or three simpler alt rock songs at the same time I'm working on a tougher song. And to be honest, playing simple roots and fifths is damn fun. I've got a nice little playlist of songs to play along to; I'm getting close to 30 minutes of material to work through almost every night.

This way I'm learning the tough stuff and building up my endurance at the same time.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On picking it back up

Sometimes, for one reason or another, you put down your bass for a few days, and before you know it, a week has passed. This past weekend, I helped my sister move to Washington, D.C. and as a result, I haven't played my bass since last Wednesday. Tonight (a Monday), isn't looking good either.

When I start practicing tomorrow, it'll have been 6 days. That's the longest I'd gone without playing since I started taking lessons in January. I plan on using this time for a little bit of retrospection on how I practice.

From week to week, I find that I work on the things I learned in the last week's lesson, work a song or two for next week's lesson, and then play through a list of songs that's slowly been getting longer.

I've reached the point where I've got more to practice than I can fit into one session though. Instead of doing the same session every day for a week, maybe I ought to be planning out a whole week's worth of practice. This way, I can go back and make sure I'm touching on old songs and skills that I'm not currently working on.

The tricky thing about practice isn't doing it-- it's planning it. There's a saying that "perfect practice makes perfect." Getting perfect practice involves putting the time in to planning perfect practice. There's not much point in learning new skills or songs if they just fall away after a few weeks. In the coming weeks, I'm going to work on outlining my practice for the entire week to make sure I'm rotating old skills and exercises in with the new.