My practice routine
My routine, if you can call it that, is to work on whatever moves me at the moment, with the expressed intent of improving some aspect of my technique or knowledge, or of composing some music, or of breaking out of some kind of rut.
Once in a while I have a compositional notion already running through my head when I pick up the guitar. Believe it or not, I get quite a few inspirations from incidental music on TV dramas.
Whatever my mind set, I generally start by playing something and listening.
When something catches my ear (which usually happens within a few minutes), I'll use that as a point of departure. Sometimes I'll just follow an idea and see how far I can go.
Sometimes I'll stop and drill on a particular phrase or motif. When I'm working out a new motif I try to remember to fire up the recorder to capture the idea. (I don't record nearly often enough. I sometimes joke that I've forgotten far more musical motifs than I can remember. I need to get into the habit of arming the recorder before I pick up the guitar.)
Other times I'll observe that certain things I play feel a bit predictable. I'll try to mutate a motif rhythmically or harmonically, or play on a different part of the neck, or build a new motif using the old one as a kernel, or just grab a few notes "at random" and try to build something from that starting point.
I'm trying to consistently move my thinking beyond motifs to compositions. This is a longer-term goal that frequently gets sidetracked. The "micro" overwhelms the "macro" because the "micro" is not yet fully ingrained.
When something feels awkward to play I'll work on fingerings and voicings.
Occasionally I'll flip through one of my books to look for inspiration.
On rare occasions I'll have an "aha!" moment where something suddenly fits together at an intellectual level; I tend to stop and write about these moments. I find that writing helps to clarify and solidify my thoughts; this helps my memory.
I can't recall the last time I played along with a recording - mine or anyone else's. Effectively: I don't.
When I listen to music, I tend to favor one artist for an extended period. The artist's motifs and phrasing tend to creep into my subconscious and influence my own playing and composition.
I always play plugged in, but I play fairly quietly. (My SPL meter peaks at around 80 dB.)
If I'm working on something for the trio I'll plug in the looper in order to experiment with playing one part against another.
I try to practice every day. Some days I'll only do a twenty-minute session. Other days - especially on weekend days - I might log a total of several hours spread throughout the day. I estimate that I practice an average of an hour a day.
Dos and don'ts? For me:
- Do try to play every day, even if you don't feel it. You never know when inspiration might strike.
- Know when enough is enough. It's better to improve one aspect of your playing than to get frustrated trying fix every problem at once.
- Minimize use of the toys. There's more useful variation in technique than in knobs. Musicians, not gear, make music.
- Be true to yourself. As much as I admire those who are versatile musicians, I know that's not my place. I'd rather follow my muse.