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Practice, Do You? Part 3-3


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Continued from Part 2

I began studying the guitar when I was seven years old. I hated my teacher and I didn't practice much, but when I changed teachers' and I went to Joe Geneli, I regained a love for the guitar that I first had when I was four years old when I first saw Roy Rogers sing and play. It was with Joe that I began to practice. I found an hour a day was sufficient, but as I got older and the music he gave became harder, I practiced longer.

When I was fourteen I switched to Sal Salvador. Sal was pretty well known in the fifties and sixties and it was the right move for where I was as a guitarist. Sal gave me a slew of books, which included the Arbans Trumpet Method, Johnny Smith Aides to Technique and many more. My practice routine during the school year went up to five to six hours a day. I would practice early in the morning before school. Two hours after, break for homework, sports and dinner and resume practicing at about 8:30pm. During the summers I was practicing up to twelve hours a day. I wanted to be as good if not better than Johnny Smith or Wes Montgomery or any of the greats of that day. As I got older my points of reference became John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Thelonius Monk, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler and all the players that moved me.

Through all of this, not one teacher taught me how to improvise or explained advanced harmony and theory. I took this upon myself to learn and it was part of my practice routine along with learning tunes and chord melodies.

When I became a full time musician and worked six nights a week till 4 AM in the morning, I would practice five to six hours before going to work. In 1963 with the emergence of the Beatles, every kid wanted to play guitar. Before you know it I had 110 students. It took away from my practicing, but I managed to get a couple of hours in before my teaching began and I always played with the students.

I'm 71 now and I still practice some days more than others. Through the years there were times when I felt I needed to go to another level and I would put in eight hours per if I had the time. And it's still the same. If I feel I need to get to another level, I go back to practicing longer hours.

I also spend a lot of time focusing on music. What I mean by that is, I hear music all the time in my head. I mentally practice all the time and before I re-harmonize or arrange a standard, or compose, I think about it and hear it first, so when I'm ready, it just flows through me. The same goes for writing this article. I thought about it for a long time and now the words are flowing on to the paper.

While I was thinking about this article, I thought it would be a good idea to contact some of my friends and see if they felt the same as I did. I asked only two questions:

1. Do you still practice and how much?

2. What do you practice?

I contacted a lot of musicians never expecting such a response. If everyone had answered me, this would have been a book instead of an article. Some answers were short and some were extremely long and some were hilarious.

I was amazed by some of the answers and I think you will be too.

Some of the artists are famous and some you may not have heard of, but that really doesn't matter. What matters is the dedication. I am truly touched and very hopeful for the future of jazz by these responses.

I placed the answers and artists under instrumental category. Because I am a guitarist and know a lot of guitar players, I posted the guitarists' comments last.

Bass, Cont.

Ken Filiano

I practice on average 6 days a week, with 1 day for rest and revitalization. If I have a session or a gig/concert, I'll get in 4 hours. If I've got a totally free day then I usually get in 6 hours, broken up throughout the day/evening. I have a circle of things that I try to get done throughout the week, keeping a notebook of what gets done so that I touch on all within the week's practice. They are, but not necessarily in this order: 1—Instrumental technique: 90% bow, 10% pizzicato; including long tones and "the basics" for body/instrument unification. 2—INVERSIONS—of scales, modes, intervals and chords 3—Avoiding convenient tendencies—working on tunes, etudes, orchestral excerpts, solo pieces; focusing on specific technical details. This objective challenge requires me to find a way to express the music that's not automatically coming from the instrument 4—Practice the music that's at hand for upcoming projects; pulling the music apart, see how it's constructed and find ways of expanding it. 5—LISTENING. Filling the ear with all kinds of music—studying scores; composing and sketching; singing along with recordings—filling my sub-conscious sound library for when needed in the musical situation. 6—Improvising and recording myself helps synthesize all of the above elements so that in the performance, the music has a higher chance of coming out in an organic and less preconceived manner. The irony here is that there has been preconception existing, but how it unfolds now, in the moment, may not be the same each time; getting closer to the spontaneous. Time spent on the musical awareness is what drives the needed technical abilities on ones chosen instrument

Francois Grillot

I do practice. Sometimes classical melodies and sometimes just a rumble of notes formatted into a continuum/walking bass line, and develop them into solos when appropriate. There's also bowing long tones, pizzicato with a metronome, when I have the time and feel inclined to; I'm still trying to figure out through an agenda using lots of various styles, applying my practice to what i have going on musically at the time. If I have time I go to Fauré, Schubert, St. Saens and Beethoven, bowing melodies one after the other. I also practice Charlie Parker and others great American composer melodies and chords changes. I consider myself lucky if I get the time to practice, but I make a point of not forgetting what my passion is; when I do, I make the best of it.

Part of my practice routine is also composing and playing my own tunes. Once a week I organize a session, in my kitchen, as part of playing with others, I assemble a variety of musicians to keep the flow interesting; we improvise and play tunes that the musicians bring to the table as well.

Chris Sullivan

Yes I continue to move with the insight of forever discovery within. Practice at this phase of performance expression is more of playing the instrument with an approach of not playing what I'm used to. Configuring the fingers, on both left and right hands, to move differently. This actually allows for other theoretical, choral, modal and hypo-modal structures, melodic and (so called) consonant structures to become placed under and around the figures, as well as, rhythmic time signatures of various meters to take on other approaches towards repetitive exercises. Of course, at such time of proficiency, this becomes part of the unfocused arsenal of performance, rather, more of what may happen within the feel of a performance, without premonition of thought. The bottom line I just pick up my instrument and play, as though it's not an instrument.


Shan Arsenault

My practice routine from an onlooker's perspective might look a bit haphazard as it is based on intuition and not really a definite set of guitaristic goals such as chords, scales etc. I usually play everyday, anywhere from two hours to ten or more. As Pat Martino says, " it's my favorite toy. " I tend to work on things that are specifically related to my desire to understand the art of improvising. I also tend to work on a single thing for months at a time.

For the last couple of weeks I have been playing with chord melody improvisations over the changes of Countdown by John Coltrane. I have no idea how long I will do this for. My approach to practice has changed much over the years. I am very interested in the concept of dissonance versus consonance and how there does not seem to be and objective reality to these sounds but more of a personal preference for certain sounds. I am very curious about music and the guitar is my tool of exploration. My attitude toward practicing the instrument can be best summed up by the cellist Pablo Casals, who at the age of 92 was asked why he still practiced 4 hours everyday. His reply, " I think it's getting better."

Tony DeCaprio

You want me to be serious. The word "practice" means different things to different people. Yes, I still practice, but I don't practice technique (scales, arpeggios, etc.). I mostly blow through tunes all day long and try to figure out various ways to raise hell.

Barry Finnerty

I still practice, a little bit almost every day. I try to work on things I can't do!

Frank DiBussolo

These days I practice every day in the mornings. I usually start by warm-ups with alternate picking finger exercises, then two octave scales through the cycle of 4ths. Maj, Rel. min, harmonic and melodic. Then I take Bucky's advice and just play tunes. I look at re-harmonizing, chord voicings,' transposing etc.

Solo guitar is one of the most beautiful things in the universe, so I try to keep up with you guys. Next, I keep a lot of literature, clarinet, trumpet, violin, and classical guitar and open them up to keep the sight-reading sharp. I'll spend about 90 min. to 2 hours every day. Then later I go to work! Playing with singers is a challenge, you've got to be able to transpose any tune to any key and make them look and sound good! I'm not getting any younger, so I feel I have to work hard.

John Abercrombie

To briefly answer your questions: Do I practice? Yes, but it's a bit more like playing. Not so specific in terms of technique and such. What I practice is difficult to answer exactly, but it's more like playing melodies, and ideas, usually in relationship to some harmonic framework, but not always. I like to come up with ideas/shapes/lines, etc., and practice those things in different situations. Some of my practice (many times) leads to composition. I also play things that i have played many times before, and try to get them better, or maybe phrase them a little differently.

Steve Cardenas

I still practice, but it's not so much of a regiment, more geared towards the music I'm learning for an upcoming tour or shows and/or an area that I happen to think about working on, such as learning a new tune, reading through new music (or music that's new to me I should say, could be very old music). Whenever I do practice in more technical terms, I approach from working on it slowly and thoroughly. Also, I try to pace myself for not practicing for long stretches at a time, as it tends to be less effective. Honestly, seems I have less time for practicing in general than in years ago.

Dave Kain

I still practice. I'm happy if I get two hours in a day. That is not always the case unfortunately. I practice a number of things.

1. Articulation is a LARGE part of my practice routine.

2. I try to spend some of that time composing and writing tunes.

Lately, I've been working VERY hard on my repertoire. It never ceases to amaze me how many tunes there are that are considered standards and I've really been trying to get as many as I can under my belt. My goal is to never have to say, "I don't know that one." when somebody calls a tune.

Anders Nilsson

Ok, My summary reads thusly: The right note, with the right tone, the right charge, at the right moment, for a really long time.

James Keepnews

I practice, but not enough. An hour a day is standard if I'm not too busy with the thousands of other things going on in my life. Most weekends I can set aside a few hours across each day my main music stand is always stacked with a variety of materials I'm working on at any given time. These currently include: The Real Book (the "real," legit one), Vol. I; The Real Book (the illegal one), Vol. II; Yusef Lateef's Repository of Scales and Melodic Patterns; two books of Jim Hall's work, The Best of Jim Hall featuring transcriptions of his playing and his more theoretical tome, Exploring Jazz Guitar (cover by the great Gary Larson); a chart of Joe Zawinul's "Directions" written out for me by Ras Moshe; a chart of John McLaughlin's "Spectrum" I found online; a photocopy of scale materials taken from Vincent Persichetti's Twentieth-Century Harmony; among others. Increasingly, however, the most valuable "practicing" I can do is simply to improvise.

Bill Farrish

On teaching days I practice Scales, Arps, review a song or two with progression to improvise, I usually put in about 4 hours before I get t school. Teaching takes care of reading. Between lessons I play along with recordings.I'm lucky I end up with about 5 hours of practice. On days I have a gig, very light practice just enough to make sure I'm being creative. On days I'm not teaching or gigging I practice 6-8hours I practice finger exercises, scales intervals or scales on two strings one string, 3 strings etc. Sometimes I just review a particular scale or mode straight up using Arps, long, short, anyway I can think of or that I feel needs works such as Kreutzer or the Bach Sonatas and Partitas: Voicings.'

I'll use guide-tones and extensions to flesh out the changes, then I work on mostly what I would call function chords. I'll take 3 notes sometimes 4 , clusters and follow the changes down. I'm concentrating on lines more than blocks of sound. I'm basically trying to be as creative as I can without losing the actual song so that it still works with or without a bassist. Single line study: I'll take the same song at about 50bpm. One full chorus of each rhythm as follows-8th notes, 8th note triplets, 16th notes, 16th note quintuplets, 16th note sextuplets, 16th note septuplets, 32nd notes and then back to the beginning.

Harmony: A lot of this is rehashing what I learned that day from single line and voicing's to melodies, i.e., upper-imposing new ideas over a chord progression or a complete re-harmonization of something. Mostly I'm studying resolutions.

Mark Kleinhaut

I play guitar every day, save for maybe two or three days off per year due to traveling, an It's been like that for me for nearly 40 years. I've been lucky that health and physical issues for me are few and far between. That said, I don't know if what I do would still considered practice? Probably not in the strict sense because most of the time, these last few years, I only work at specific "things" when I've got a gig coming up that requires I learn some new music. Absent some imperative to work on something, and left to my own devices, I spend my time on the instrument playing for my own amusement.

Some days I might only play a few minutes and others it could be for several hours, but I do have a morning ritual Monday thru Friday where I'm up at 6:15, grab a shower and huge mug of black coffee and have a solid 75minute session from 6:45 till 8:00. During these sessions, my primary focus is on cultivating the voice of the instrument, clear sound, cogent ideas, and flow. I play tunes, I play free form, and I noodle. I vary the picking techniques. When something catchy emerges, I'll endeavor to remember it for later use as a "composition." All the while, I seek to do these things in a meditative state, and "think" as little as possible, though I'm observant of what I'm doing, without judging. Some might call this practice, but it's certainly different than what I did years ago when I had to force myself to learn the basics.

These days I'm consistently gigging a couple of nights a week, which gives me the chance to learn new tunes, and play with good variety of people. And gigging breaks up the solitary nature of what we do in the "practice" sessions. It's an important balance, I think.

One final thought, and maybe this is obvious, but I believe what one plays is the sum total of what one practices. What you put in is what comes out-as simple as that. Now, this boils down to your goals and those highly personal objectives each of us decides for ourselves as players, that is; what do I want to sound like? If one learns by copying others, they will sound like them. On the other hand, you can't learn in a vacuum, and moreover, playing jazz means being part of a history and communal vocabulary defined by all the other players. All I'm saying is that I'm very careful about what I put into my system.

Ken Kushel

I still practice. Hopefully I'll make some progress. go through different phases. Right now I'm revisiting the Barry Galbraith Bach 2 part inventions. Good for the eyes and the fingers, and it's perfect music. Have some other duets, including bebop stuff that I'm working so that I can get together with some friends and play through. Also been revisiting some of the classical repertoire: Sor and Carulli. Nice complete thoughts musically. Other times I'll go on an Aebersold play along jazz jag and play a lot of choruses to see when I start repeating myself. One way or another, every day, I just sit down with a guitar I like and let whatever is going to come out happen. Different days, different guitars. So, not super focused but it stays interesting and I feel in shape.

One more thing. Lately I'll plug in and do an hour set that I might do for a commercial situation. I can tell when it's flowing and it feels good. The truth is that over the years I have accumulated a big library of music, mostly for or readable on the guitar. I love looking at new music (to me) and experiencing the writers' musical vision. Anything from Baroque/Classical to Jazz to Irish fiddle tunes are fair game. Also like reading through books meant to instruct and trying to catch the essence of the author's view. I like playing all different styles, so I remain a Jack-Of-All-Trades and Master Of None. Going to have to live at least 300 years to go through all this music. I keep on taking tunes and arranging them on the guitar, which is a form of practice, I suppose. In any case, it stays interesting and my long love affair with the guitar shows no sign of abating.

John Scofield

I have to practice; otherwise I lose it pretty quickly. And I hope to improve! I practice blowing on tunes and when I come to something I can't do I practice that. I experiment with voicing's and lines and I learn new music. I practice pieces I have to learn for gigs. I play along with a Jamey Aebersold's CD called "Good Time. It's bass and drums but you can turn off the bass so you're only playing with the drums, then you can play over any changes you want. The drummer is Adam Nussbaum and it really swings.

Jack DeSalvo

I practice 4 to 5 hours a day. If I have a gig that day it can go down to 3 hours. Most of my practice time is devoted to the many aspects of guitar playing but I also work on cello, mandola and mandolin, the three of which are tuned in fifths rather than the fourths (and a third between 3rd and 2nd strings) of the guitar Currently my guitar practicing is in two somewhat distinct sections—classical, meaning the performance and interpretation of through-composed material and jazz, meaning preparation for improvisation, whether completely extemporaneous or using previously composed material as a basis for improvisation.

Jody Fisher

I practice all the time. In fact, I have always considered practicing as my main gig. Performing, teaching, writing, etc. are other things I do but my main job is learning, and practicing. Without that everything else I do is pretty much worthless.

On days when I'm working at home, I do about an hour and a half of warm-ups in the morning, and work on other things after that. All throughout the day I practice between other activities—phone calls, emails, errands, etc. I'll usually also practice late at night as well. If I didn't have these "other" things to do, I'd probably just practice all day, non-stop like I used to do when my life was simpler.

On teaching days when I have very long commutes I have to be content with the warm-up routines only. It's enough to keep me in shape, but the forward motion of constant learning stalls a bit.

Earlier in my career, when I did non-stop freelance work, I'd practice for whatever gig I happened to be involved with at the time. It was about fulfilling what I had been hired to do. This is how I stayed employed for many, many years

These days I have the luxury of working on whatever I want. I generally divide things into these five areas: 1. Chords and harmonic studies 2. Single line and improvisation studies 3. Repertoire development 4. Reading 5. Technique

Mark Mosley

I learn tunes as opposed to licks. Working on Oscar Pettiford's Tricotism. Started Monday should have it completed by tomorrow. My new bassist who worked with Russell Malone asked me If we could play it and Four Brothers. I do makeup ideal patterns off chords through experimentation. When I like something, I play it through all the keys. I practice or learn parts of a new tune while sometime watching TV. My hands aren't the issue it's my brain.

I work on singing through vocal exercises more then the guitar. To me I d rather not be known as a guitarist per-se; similar to Wes's philosophy, just a soulful musician playing what I feel and hear.

John Stowell

I still play every day, and my practicing happens when I'm in the process of learning a new tune or doing the odd bit of composing. I'll send you a few new tunes of mine that you might find interesting.

Doug Wamble

Of course I do! I try to practice at least 30 minutes a day. Most of my music life revolves around film scoring and production, and less about improvising than it was 10 years ago. But I feel it's a muscle I have to keep toned as best I can. I practice the same exercises I've been working on for 20 years. And I also play along with records, learn new tunes, etc.

Joshua Breakstone

I've practiced every day for years. Minimum an hour, normally two, sometimes more, sometimes less, never less than an hour. When I'm on the road and playing every night, I tend to practice more during the day if I can (and we're not doing a lot of traveling) because it's fun to come up with ideas during the day and continue the thinking at night in front of an audience. My practice is devoted entirely to improvisation. I play solos over tunes and learn tunes.

Alvari Lume aka-Jaakko Salvolanen

I practice, daily. I think that the need of practicing never stops if you only stay passionate and curious with your instrument. For me everything I play alone is practicing and that is getting ready for the performing situation. I usually focus on something that I feel is an issue in my own playing. My major focus is always in harmony, voicing and rhythmic matters and in my single line playing.

Ian Angeloch

I practice for at least 1-2 hours a day. Some days out of the week I practice more then that. I've been practicing scales, arps, and chord changes/ subs. Also practicing my improv. I play over chords changes/ song forms by using backing tracks.

Cary DeNigris

I still practice everyday. The last few years I've been devoting myself to classical guitar and finger-style solo guitar. To that end I 'm working mostly on right-hand studies and original solo guitar pieces in a modern 20th century approach. (polyphonic) In regards to improvisation, I've been trying to develop a McCoy Tyner approach to soloing. Chords and lines simultaneously using 4th voicings That's basically it. Keeps me on my toes!

Dr. Martin E. Rosenberg

I try to practice two hours a day, these days, given I am still rebuilding my technique and musical instincts. I practice chord solos for 1/3 the time, polishing old ones and working up one new one. Using a metronome almost always, I practice arpeggios in volume two of Ted Greene's book that incorporates specific familiar progressions and altered notes, and a series of ii V I progressions. Major and minor I got from Dave Liebman. I am also working through different variants on the 12 bar blues in at least four keys each, including bass lines and improvisation, and working on challenging tunes like Giant Steps, Moments Notice, Fee Fi Fo-Fum and also applying licks learned from Dave Liebman on Be Bop tunes. Then I work on my old ECM repertoire, and working up or writing original compositions. A couple times a week, I check out slow Jamey Aebersold tracks on You Tube, and practice soloing. Most of the time, I practice everything at slow or even very slow tempos.

Rick Stone (Guitar)

The amount of time I practice fluctuates depending on my responsibilities. During the school year I'm doing a lot of technical and reading work with my students, so I don't need to do so much of that, but I tend to transcribe and write things driven by the needs of teaching. When I find time, I practice in little chunks that consist mostly of learning (or brushing up) tunes relevant to whatever gigs I'm playing. I keep guitars out on stands in every room and have learned to take advantage of "micro" practice sessions (15 minutes or so wherever I can grab them). For certain kinds of technical studies, I just like to relax in the evening and run them under my fingers with the TV on. Between all these activities and gigs, I put in about 8 hours a day with a guitar in my hands.

During the summer I love to take my laptop and guitar out to the garden where I'll transcribe, compose new tunes, work out technical concepts (I'll often write my own exercises), etc. I love doing this so much that I'm often totally unaware of time. I might put in 8-10 hours with just a couple breaks (to eat, get a cup of coffee, or just do something around the yard or house). I can't maintain this every day, but more often in bursts followed by days of shorter sessions (2 hours or so) where I'm going over and absorbing what was done in the "marathon" sessions.

Bruce Arnold

Yes, I still practice at least an hour but sometime 3 or 4 hours a day.

Practicing O 25's (Integer notation) means a whole step and a 4th so C, G, A would be an example:

G = 0 A is 2 half steps up. C is 5 half steps up from G

If you take a C major scale avoid note "F" you can form 025's

C, G, A, D, E B. You can also form 25's from the remaining 6 notesC#, D#, F# F, G#, A# and play the

C, G, A D, E, B. you get nice chords and lines for C Major

Play both: C, G, A, D, E, B and C#, D#, F#, F, G#, A# and C#, D#, F#, F, G#, A#, C, G, A, D, E, B and C#, D#, F#, F, G#, A#. You get great chords and melody moving in and out of the key center.

I know this article is long, but I found it very interesting and informative. Practicing is a way of life. Once you start, you never stop!


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