Best Practices for Practice

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
@dusty-turtle
3 weeks ago
1,616 posts

Homer, you seem to be asking a couple of different questions.

One is just how to maintain your repertoire.   Ken has one strategy that works if you have a good memory of the songs and just need a reminder of the beginning to get going.  I keep an active "set list" of no more than a dozen tunes that I play regularly. The set list is constantly changing but represents the tunes I enjoy playing the most at any given time. And I try to keep up on those, allowing others to get rusty.

But maintaining a repertoire is not the same as practicing in order to improve.  Personally, I enjoy playing scales and arpeggios and spend some time with both as often as possible. When you practice a song, you get better at that song.   But when you work on technique, you get better at every song you play.  There are also some songs I play as exercises with no intention of actually performing them.  I used Pig Ankle Rag like that for years, forcing myself to use my pinky as often as possible to strengthen that finger.  I also use a metronome for songs like that and when doing those scales and arpeggios.

But I also spend time just playing the songs I am working on, focusing on the problem areas. I just wrote a song recently that I really like, but there is a two-measure sequence of all eighth notes that moves over several frets and two strings, and I sometimes just play those two measures over and over.

Importantly, I end every practice session playing a song I enjoy and can play well.  So the emotion I leave with is one of contentment with my playing rather than the frustration that accompanies learning new stuff. And I always make a point to take some time to just to play, without any interest in the metronome or the occasional buzz from inaccurate fretting, or whatever.   You have to have fun, after all. As Steve Eulberg says, we call it "playing music," not "working music."




--
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
Randy Adams
Randy Adams
@randy-adams
3 weeks ago
92 posts

Practice

Lois Sprengnether Keel
Lois Sprengnether Keel
@lois-sprengnether-keel
3 weeks ago
198 posts

@ken-hulme That's ...well, if not GENIUS, a darn good idea.  Those 200 songs could be an excellent idea to share &/or sell.  People tend to put down Ionian noter/drone, but this is a perfect example of how easily it can work.  Just had a thought <GASP!> Many of these songs, since they're so traditional, could be found in something like the Sing Out! book, but that is planned primarily for vocal & guitar or maybe banjo.  It would be easy to write in the dulci openers.

Ken Hulme
Ken Hulme
@ken-hulme
3 weeks ago
2,006 posts

So MANY questions!HUG    Each of us is different, of course.  I don't practice, per se.  I play.    Noter & Drone.  By ear, not tab or SMN.  Sometimes a lot, sometimes a little.

I have, I suppose, over 200 songs in my repertoire (well, tunes anyway, not words). I have about 100 of them printed on a "cheat sheet" in tiny type, each with the first measure or two of melody tab notes, so I can recall how they start.  It's especially hard for me to 'hear' the start of a tune in my head when I'm in a high noise musical environment like a song circle or Open Mic event.  Here's the first few from the Americana section of my list:

Wayfaring Stranger 11..55..454.3.0
Shady Grove 4.444.5431
Skip To My Lou 55..33..55.7 4.44...22...44.6
Old Joe Clark 4565.4.3.2 45654
I'll Fly Away 5.3.0.3.5456.5...4.....3.22.0


updated by @ken-hulme: 11/06/22 10:07:45AM
Homer Ross
Homer Ross
@homer-ross
3 weeks ago
5 posts

Wondering how people practice. I usually practice the fundamental/techniques, old songs, a new song and noodling. The time spent on each varies. The order varies and may or may not include all in a given session.   When one has a large number old songs how do people manage? I find I can play songs from years ago but not well. The time needed to play the songs at a higher level varies from song to song. Do people try to keep their entire list of songs playable? Do they move on after they achieve a certain level never to return? What does your practice session consist of? How much time to do you spend on each activity?   


updated by @homer-ross: 11/06/22 11:43:42AM