As I begin every year (and periodically throughout the year) I take a look at my practice routine and change what I’m doing. I really haven’t been happy with my routine for about the last six months and haven’t found a way to unstick, so I’ll be looking at what’s working, and what’s not working. One of the things that’s not working is the space in which I’m currently practising. We gave up our rehearsal space last year as we had moved across town, and while I’m no stranger to practising at home, I somehow haven’t been able to set up a suitable sacred space in my current apartment. To that end my place is total chaos at the moment as I move everything around, but I’ll post a picture of whatever I end up with.
Thanks to planned obsolescence, I had a lot of trouble with computers last year, which was problematic as much of my routine uses software tools (of which I plan to speak more of in future posts). Here’s hoping the old used ThinkPad I’m now using will take care of those problems.
The final physical issue I had last year was that somehow my shred diary got re-purposed as my general notebook, which meant it was never around when I needed it, and when it was around, it was difficult to find where I’d left off. Fortunately, while rearranging my house, I found a box of pristine unused notebooks, too nice to ever put in the vortex that is my purse, so I’ll grab one of those.
That’s it for the exterior barriers, what about my routine itself? I’ve generally had very specific practice plans, but I’ve been struggling lately. Part of it is not having new repertoire to work on. Molt has been writing, no complete songs yet, but I could work some snippets into my routine. The problem with that is the tendency to get ideas, and then my guitar practice session turns into a music writing session, which may sound fine, but it’s not. Oh, I’ll tack that on to the end of my session then it won’t matter if I get distracted!
Now I need some new shred exercises. I do use snippets from existing Molt songs, and I write exercises, and I have some books, but it’s time to learn some new exercises. Hmm, I’ve worked in a regular morning writing session, perhaps I can finish that by writing a new pattern. I’ll be making a list of what needs working on, so I can take a look at that and always be writing something new. I think I’d best put an expiry date on everything as well.
In this article on the latest neurological studies on musicians and practising, they recommend random practice rather than blocks of one focus, so I’ll organize my plan to use short bursts of different things. They have some horrifying things to say about metronomes, which are vital to what I do. I’ll book a certain amount of time to trying to practice off the beat, or with less and random beats, but I’m not sold on upping the difficulty of practising Molt. What I am sold on is making sure to practice everything with dynamics and feeling to keep my playing musical. There is definitely a tendancy in shred to sacrifice emotion for speed, (say the non-shredders, pfft) so I’ll put more thought into the musical elements of my technical exercises this year.
The next piece of the puzzle is my warm-up. I’ve been doing the same set of warm-ups for years and I think it’s time to do something different. My body has gotten so used to the set of Steve Vai warm-up patterns that I learned a bazillion years ago that I think they’ve stopped warming me up, or have at least put my brain into shut down, rather than present mode. I’ll go through some other technique books I have, and dedicate my next writing session to developing a new set of warm-up exercises. Again, I’ll give them an expiry date, and start rotating my routines more.
I’ve ended up with a To Do list.
- Set-up sacred space.
- Start new shred diary.
- Play unfinished Molt material at the end of sessions to avoid writing distractions.
- Write one new tech exercise at the end of each morning writing session.
- Fit a bunch of random things into each session. (Planned Randomness)
- Shake up my metronome. (eek!)
- Change up my warm-up routine, then change it up again.
- In all things, practice musically.