IMPROVING PRACTISE SKILLS

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IMPROVING PRACTISE SKILLS

Post  Admin on Fri Mar 28, 2008 11:51 am

01 Introduction:

Everyone needs to practise, and everyone who's a performer should, by rights, love it. But don't think that practising means just playing things through. Getting into a few good habits will make you improve much more quickly.

This section will give you some ideas on improving your skills, including:

When and where to do it
Preparing for a practice
Practising in a group
Practising alone
Giving and taking criticism
Writing
"We weren't concerned about sounds and what we sounded like - we were just having fun with it. We just whacked it up and played as hard as we could, as fast as we could, or as quiet as we could, as slow as we could - extremes."
The Music

02 When and Where:

If you're in a group arrange to practise on certain days of the week, and stick to it. This makes it easier for people to commit. Block book your practice rooms, giving practice priority over other engagements. Otherwise you'll faff about from one week to the next and practice rooms won't be free when you need them.

To practise in a group, either hire out a practice room (which could be a church hall or room in a pub), or play round at someone's house or garage.

Most studio and practice rooms make you book for a minimum of 3 or 4 hours during the week, less on the weekends. But no-one can seriously practise for four hours solid.

It takes time to build up a repertoire, and it can get very demoralising singing and playing the same thing over and over. Things become stale, and you get worse not better. So practise with breaks, or to start with, share your practise time with another band.

At-home sessions are good for saving money. Most people don't have a drum kit and PA in their homes, so it's a good opportunity to fine-tune the details, and give everyone a more ideas-based input. This is especially important if you write together. Practise in the garage or kitchen.

Try not to practise on weekends if you can help it. Weekends are for relaxing. If someone needs to go away for the weekend it messes up everyone else's plans to practice.

03 Preparing For Practice:

Whether you're in a group or a soloist, make sure that you get the most out of your rehearsals, and don't waste time.

Know your stuff. You need to play things so well that it's a habit to play them note perfect, and know how to get out of it if you play something wrong.

Work not just on the perfection of the notes that you're playing but also on your general musicianship.

If you're playing your own material, remember that it's just that: You have the authority to change anything at any time. Get into the habit of making up other tunes or words on the spot. Then, if you get caught out for any reason, you have a back up plan. Simple improvisation and imagination will get you out of a few holes.

For guitarists, remember that music is only scales and chords. Know where your fingers are going to go, and if you've got the shapes off-pat everything's easier. You need to be in a position where you can sail over the notes, and you're concentrating on expression, which notes you leave ringing, which you dampen, emphasis on the third note or the fifth, etc.

"Practice. Play to all your favourite records. Play to other records that aren't your favourite. Just play it. Play anything. Put CDs on and play to them. It's fun."
Broody - Guitarist, Distillers

04 Practising as a Group:

Here are a few suggestions to improve efficiency:

Make notes after playing each song through of what the good and bad points of the song are, and look at them in the next practice.

Record your songs. Make sure that you don't record your whole practice though. No-one wants to trawl through 3 hours of chat. This is especially useful for drummers, to check their speed, or to see who's going at a different pace. Beware though, cassette recorders can vary in speed so try and use a mini-disc if possible.

Keep the old songs ticking over - these can go off, and you never know when you might need to pull one out of the bag for an encore.

If things aren't going well, jam. This is where all the best ideas come from and will re-establish musical relationships.

05 Practising Alone:

Here are a few suggestions:

Make sure you actually do it. Don't be the person at the next group rehearsal who's worse than last week, with dust coming off their guitar.

Warm up with scales or vocal exercises

Don't waste time playing something wrong over and over - you're just making your brain think it's right. Bad habits are as hard to break as good ones, so be careful.

Have a look at notes that you've made from previous group practises about places where you need to practise. Go over these bits again, again and again. If you're still not getting it, move on to the next thing and come back later. Run through the entire song. Once the notes are in the right place, work on the expression, and enjoy it.

If you're bored, then you're not really practising. Become obsessive, improve the way that you listen, fine tune your ears to what you're doing.

"I practise all the time. I'm always singing in the mirror, rapping in the mirror. I randomly rap about nonsense, or sing about nonsense."
Roots Manuva bigs up the old hairbrush in the mirror technique.

06 Criticism:

Get used to each other, and the way you communicate. Some people are much more abrasive in their manner than others, with no ill intent behind it. Your group are your allies, and if you can't take comments from them, it will be nothing compared to what other people may say about you.

You need to be able to criticise each other without getting upset. If you're unsure, say something nice, say what it is that could be improved, and say something else nice again. This may sound patronising to those who are secure enough in their playing to take criticism, but if someone's just starting out it can knock their confidence to be told again and again that something isn't right.

If it's you who is getting the criticism, try practising more by yourself. Then you can perfect your playing without others hassling you.

Have a professional attitude, be objective about what other people say about your playing, and make sure that you're also objective when criticising. This can be difficult when you think of playing as a means of personal expression; just remember you're there to improve.

If you're writing your own material, rehearsing is often a strong part of the compositional process, as it's then that you get to try different things out. In this case, listen to each other, and don't be shy in saying if you think something could be improved.

Most groups write together, except perhaps for the lyrics which are normally the singer's domain. But you should be able to make minor suggestions about the words. Find out where the boundaries lie.

Via the BBC.

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