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How to practice on an upright bass?

Practicing on your upright bass, should never really be a chore, but truly, a labor of love. Of the many great questions to ask the really great upright bass players, one that seldom gets asked is, "how do you practice?" Even for some of most in demand, busiest upright bass players, they still practice.

As a young player/student, I learned early on that the more 'natural' some players were, (the more they actually practiced!) It's not unusual for some to actually keep a practice log. Sure some of us always know (and you don't have to write it down) that one, we can always play more in tune. 2) play faster 3) need to improve my right hand (in my case more with the bow) etc... But when you start thinking about these aspects of playing, will we ever get it all?! I hope not.....

Keep a practice log. This may seem silly to some, a lot of very successful musicians have regimens and actually write their goals in a log. Ask yourself, what am I practicing for now? What specifically do I need to learn or get better at? AND WHEN is this going to happen? This is the exciting part.

If you were ever given a specific chore, job or mission, you had a problem to solve or even something to work out and finish. To keep it simple, let's say for example...you have to rake leaves today. There is a whole yard of fallen leaves that you must rake up, put in bags (or composts) and then your job is complete. Oh, by the way, you have 2 hours!

Practicing your upright bass this way can be a fun and interesting approach. Ok, now let's put this in musical (practical) terms. Ask yourself, what is the weakest (or most irritating) aspect of your upright bass playing. Is there a piece you really want to learn to play?

As a college student, I would sit down and write out all the improvements (very specific) to what I wanted to get better at or learn. For example, this summer my "summer project" is the Bach Cello Suites. (I love them all!) but this summer, at the top of my list is the 3rd Cello Suite. Rather than jump around and practice the whole suite, I prefer to master just one movement. First, technically speaking, it's so rewarding to learn one movement so very well that you can see and hear the improvement in your playing. Maybe if the work you want to learn is so difficult, you can just tackle one phrase a day, (8 bars!). Learning how to play something really very well, is an addiction! That high level feeling that you get of knowing the music and the technical aspects of that solo, will be embedded into your way of thinking and carry over to the next day and to whatever it is you play next.

Repetition. Anyone who's played any sport can attest that repeating a movement that requires concentration, (high level of skill, and exactness) that slow repetition is a key in learning the movement. (I know some very famous concert musicians that practice in front of the TV! (Steve's reasoning here: Hey, if I am going to watch TV, I am even happier if I also have my bass with me, though this mostly works if you're alone and not when your spouse or family member is there with you!)

This is just a little tidbit of how some of us practice on the upright bass. (Give me some more good ideas please and I will post it.) Ask what yourself what it IS exactly that you want to accomplish and go for it!