Finally! After some six months of recovery from my bicycle crash I’ve felt like grabbing my poor neglected bass for some music making. But where to start after so long of the only musical activity being listening and ear training?
Well, initially I got a bit hung up on which practice strategies and exercises would be best. Which of the various courses or method books could I start on? Discover Double bass scales, Rufus Reid or Simandl? But re-reading the blog post 27 Ways to Get Inspired to Play Music Again from the JazzAdvice team reminded me I’m in this for the music, not the techniques. There’s a lot of fantastic ideas in this post for getting your mojo back!
And then Al Swainger pointed me in the right direction in his response to my Facebook post sharing my predicament:
Think of a piece of music you'd like to play and work backwards from there to see what you should practice 😉
That’s so right! Not only is this “music first”, I’ve found having a project sets you up to succeed. There’s a clear goal and you figure out what you need to learn and how to get the required skills. And only the skills required to nail the piece in the way you want to. You can measure your progress and decide when it’s complete.
By starting with recordings I like I’ll get “ears first” motivation and examples of language and performance. Not “score first” or “technique first” drudgery. And that has to be better as scores and techniques only serve to communicate crudely the musical nuances you can hear in the recordings and want to reproduce or replace with your own.
In addition you get to take control of your own practice trajectory. Self agency rather than just following someone elses method or process.
So, what tune?
Well in a little serendipity, Alexa misunderstood me this morning (“Alexa play some music from Plex”) and played an old favourite Desafinado by Getz and Byrd. A nice gentle Bossa Nova which has a relatively simple bass line to get me back in the groove. A lovely Latin groove. Lots of techniques I need to work on there too. Perfect.
And then Alexa played the wonderful Autumn Leaves by Adderly et al. The very tune I was working on before my crash but seem to have forgotten about (I’m not fully recovered yet)! So that’s the second piece to work on.
I’ll start off with small sections and pizz, learning by ear using my improved ear thanks to Improvise for Real. I’ve also gained from the latest neuroscience based techniques for music skills learning picked up from BrainJo and Musical U (eg desirable difficulty). Hopefully I’ll be building up from there and then adding a bit of arco for melody or drone. It’s probably a good time to use musicpracticetools.net again for accessing youtube, transcriptions, recordings etc but I’ve decided I prefer pen and ink for journaling.
And then hopefully I’ll soon be ready to get back together with my guitar playing jam partner for some music making!
Right, I’m off to the woodshed