How do you Practice?

dulcinina
@dulcinina
2 years ago
88 posts

I start out with some scales as Dusty suggested and prctice those for no more than 10 minutes.  Often only 5 just to warm up my fingers.  Then I quicly play a couple songs I know and like.  Then I go to a song I'm learning or one I find very difficult.  I repeat small sections of the song, especially the measures giving me trouble.  When I get tired of that or frustrated, I stop and play songs I like or are on the playlist of my dulcimer group.  I always end with playing something I really like.  But some days I just play and don't "practice."  

I like variety, too, and try playing the same song in different styles. Dulcinina

 

Robin Thompson
Robin Thompson
@robin-thompson
2 years ago
1,227 posts

Though I'm a by-ear noter/drone player, I think my approach to bringing variety to practice would work for anyone no matter the style.  I like to try different, really different types of picks or even fingerpicking on tunes to give variety to the sounds which can be got from a single tune.  It may not be to everyone's liking as an exercise, I imagine, but I also like to know the essence of a tune so well I can vary the tune slightly each time I play it through.  


updated by @robin-thompson: 03/14/19 10:18:40PM
Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 years ago
22 posts

Thanks so much for the replies!  And Dusty the video is wonderful!  I had just started working on scales and this will be a definite help!  Strumelia, I have trouble playing with feeling.  I try, but it seems to be a rare occasion when I actually "feel" it.  Someone told me long ago that you've learned a song once you can play it 3 times through at the correct tempo with no mistakes and that, to me, is becoming very boring and frustrating.  Mandy, I'm going to try the index card idea.  It sounds fun and I'm sure will definitely break up the monotony!  Dusty, I agree with the "don't put the dulcimer down when you're frustrated" theory also.  I'd been doing that quite often since after I ran through all the other tunes I'm a bit tired when I start working on the new one.  So for now I start out with practicing scales then play just one or two songs I know, then start in on the new one, and finish up with Rosin the Beau or Wildwood Flower, ones that bring me joy and I know that I play pretty well and it really does make a difference when you walk away from it.   Thanks again!  I wish more people would post how they practice also because the ideas coming in will keep us from being bored for quite some time...lol jive

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
2 years ago
190 posts

I confess my time available for practice gives me too little review time and tends toward program needs and a song or songs matching themes coming up at our local folklore society.  I use the group's monthly themes to try new material.  The later in the list, the better the amount of time spent on the song.

To add to my guilt, I have more than just MDs I should be playing/practicing.

To paraphrase a popular quote about books:  So many instruments, so little practice time.

Yes, it all comes down to prioritizing, which also shows why I'm not a musician, but a storyteller who dabbles in music. 

This is not saying I won't try to apply some of the ideas offered here.  After all that's the benefit of FOTMD.

 

Mandy
Mandy
@mandy
2 years ago
140 posts

Hey Diane, here’s what I do.  I play multiple instruments so this really helps me a lot.  I’ll also outline a typical practice session for me and what I teach on banjo.  

I first do a slow warm up.  Here’s the fun part.  Grab some good old index cards.  Punch a hole in the corner of them and put a ring binder thing in the hole.  Then write 1 song on each card that you know.  When I say “know” I mean you play it by memory and no tab or sheet music.  Let’s say you really know 10 songs well.  Then during this 10 minute warmup (or however long you use for a warmup) you play the first card (song) once through slowly.  Then flip another card and play the next song.  Do this slowly and if you mess up or can’t remember any of it, continue playing it through until you get it right, but keep it slow.  Next practice session you pick where you left off in the stack.  Let’s say you go through 2 or 3 cards each practice session.  Then over the course of the week of practicing you’ve done went through all 10 of your cards and kept those songs fresh.  Continue to add cards as you learn a new song fully.  Try it out, it’s fun, and you don’t have to think about it too much or worry about “losing” songs.  If you decide you don’t particularly want to keep a certain song, then chuck that card out in the trash and move on.  Sorry to be long winded but that’s a great warmup that will also keep your songs fresh.  *Not my idea by the way, I read this years ago somewhere and  started using it. 

After warmup, normally I have folks work on techniques.  This can be done using a song, a certain section of a song, chords, scales (if so inclined), or short pieces.  I also have them drill sections here that are sticky and a little tough to complete up to speed. This would also be where we use a metronome (if we are using one at the time). 

Next I have them working songs.  Usually we have one we are currently on (learning) and one we start with. So we are normally working on 2 songs at a time and some technique.  May or may not use a metronome here as well depending (or a drum track, or something fun like that).

Then the last bit is always reserved for FUN time.  Anything goes here, anything that makes you smile! Cut loose and have a blast playing your dulcimer.  

I ask people to devote at least 30 minutes per session, 4 times a week.  Me personally I play a LOT more than that though, LOL because all of it makes me smile.  

Blessings,

Mandy 

Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
2 years ago
178 posts
Sorry
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,485 posts

Apologies since Don and I hijacked this discussion momentarily.  It should not be about the specific scales that I play.  @Diane-R's original question is about how different people practice and how they keep up the songs they have learned.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
2 years ago
178 posts
Yes! I was able to open your video. Thank you.
Don
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,485 posts

Don Grundy:  I can’t open your video. I’m subscribed to your YouTube videos.

Try the video again. I just edited the settings.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
2 years ago
178 posts
Thank you!
I printed your tab scales and ordered Mike Casey’s book.
I can’t open your video. I’m subscribed to your YouTube videos.
I’ll keep moving along trying to get better.
Thanks for the help!
Don
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,485 posts

Don Grundy: dusty, I don’t read music and can only play with tabs. Can you give me examples of the scales and arpeggios you play? Thanks. Don


@Don-Grundy, here is a quick video I just made that demonstrates the main scales I am working on now and hints at the arpeggios as well.


Here is tab for the first scale , which goes up each string individually.


Here is tab for the second scale , which really works the pinky and goes across the strings in the first position.


I have not yet put together tab for the third scale I demonstrate that starts on the open bass string and then goes up two octaves to the seventh fret of the melody string.  Check back with me in a few days and I'll try to put something together.


In the video I mention a tune by @Mark-Gilston called "Time and Tide" which is a study of arpeggios.  It's actually a beautiful tune and calling it a study does not do it justice.  I also mention a book by @Aaron-ORourke called Faster Cleaner Better , which I have started working with for arpeggio exercises.  I should probably have started with Mike Casey's book Hands-On Dulcimer  which includes an enormous assortment of exercises for both right and left hands.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie

updated by @dusty-turtle: 03/08/19 12:53:00PM
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
2 years ago
178 posts
dusty, I don’t read music and can only play with tabs.
Can you give me examples of the scales and arpeggios you play?
Thanks.
Don
Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
2 years ago
1,485 posts

Regardless of how you start playing, I think it's important to end by playing something that you know pretty well.  To avoid the frustration that comes from trying to improve on any musical instrument, it is essential to maintain a feeling of satisfaction and confidence.  Don't put the dulcimer down when you're frustrated; rather, put it down with a feeling of joy and competence.  Make sure the last tune you play is something you know well and that gives you pleasure.

Unlike Ken, I do practice.  There are techniques or songs that I find challenging that I want to learn.  Of course, sometimes I just play and don't care about mistakes or improving. That's important, too. But when I want to focus and consciously improve my playing I always start with some scales and arpeggios to get my technique into shape.  Then I might play one song that I've learned recently, but pretty soon I start with whatever I'm working on at the moment. It might be a song or it might be a technique. Often it's a tiny section of a song, even a measure that's giving me problems, and I'll obsess on that measure, playing it over and over and over.  But as I said above, while that OCD behavior does indeed lead to improvement, it can also be frustrating, so I make sure I avoid or at least minimize that feeling of frustration by switching to a tune that I know well.

Occasionally, I review lists of songs to make sure I don't "lose" any.  Right now I have two different lists.  One is the tunes that I play with my local dulcimer group.  I don't really mind if I make mistakes with that stuff, since we play it all together, but I want to at least remember how each tune goes.  The second list is my list of tunes that I might play if someone asked me to play in front of people.  That list changes, as I add and drop tunes as my tastes and abilities evolve, but I try to make sure I can play those tunes with as few mistakes as possible.  I don't go over these lists of tunes every day, though.  Depending on how busy life gets I might only get to them once every couple of weeks.




--
Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Don Grundy
Don Grundy
@don-grundy
2 years ago
178 posts
I play a half dozen songs from my beginner DAd book. And then just roam the fretboard.
In the evening, relaxing I play my dulcimer tuned DAAA playing hymns and music in my head. It’s truly my Zen time.
I enjoy both.
Strumelia
Strumelia
@strumelia
2 years ago
2,013 posts

One way to break up any boredom is to take just one or two tunes you want to work on or want to 'refresh'- then play the tune much slower than usual, while trying to keep it sounding good.  Then play it just a little faster than usual, keeping it sounding ok.  Lastly, play it as your usual speed, but try to purposely put a lot of feeling into your playing.  I think this is a good thing to try out when playing/practicing at home, and will benefit all your tunes.  Particularly helpful is putting in the conscious effort to play with emotion and feeling... something a lot of people ignore even when playing for others.




--
Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
2 years ago
1,859 posts

I don't consciously "practice".  I just play, stream-of-conscious from the bank of songs and tunes stuck in my head.  No set number of times through.  I'll go back and re-run a sticky bit perhaps.  But I just play.

Diane R
Diane R
@diane-r
2 years ago
22 posts

Was just wondering how people practice?  Do you go through your whole repertoire and then dig in to your newest song?  Or do you start out with the one you're trying to learn?  I notice when I play all the known songs first (three times each without mistakes) that I'm a bit tired by the time I get to the new learn.  I play them all because I don't want to forget them since I memorize them. Just wanted to know what others do so maybe I can break up the monotony a little.  Thanks :)


updated by @diane-r: 10/27/19 12:02:25PM