3 Uncommon Practicing Ideas That Get Results Quickly!

Every musician has to do it and while some dread it many others do it religiously. That's right I'm talking about Practicing.

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Every musician has to do it and while some dread it many others do it religiously. That's right I'm talking about Practicing.

No matter if you're a violinist, guitarist, or flutist, you have to practice to get better at your craft. The majority of us just practice whenever we feel like it and normally don't have a strict practicing plan in place. While this usually keeps our interest high, the results are usually quite low. Then of course there are the people who create daily practicing schedules and achieve great results, but often end up thinking of their practicing time as work. I think we can all agree that we didn't get into music to work (at least not in the traditional sense).

So, we can obviously see the potential benefits and downsides of each method, but how do we both stay interested in practicing and achieve great results quickly!? Simple we get creative and challenge ourselves in uncommon ways as often as possible. These 3 Uncommon Practicing Ideas are but a few that I use whenever I want to get great at something quickly without becoming fatigued by normal or stereotypical practicing methods.

I. Sing Along

Have you ever practiced one lick or musical passage so much that your fingers start to cramp and your eyes begin to roll into the back of your head from boredom? I know I have. So, if I absolutely HAVE to get this one lick or passage down quickly, I sing along with the line.

Not only will this help you better memorize the line (and how it sounds!), but you'll be training your ear as well. There is a reason that great guitarists like George Benson sing with their guitar while they solo. It's because he is such a master of the guitar that he's able to hear the lines in his head and knows exactly where the notes fall on the guitar neck. Being able to do this is immensely beneficial, because that's when your own unique voice comes to light as a guitarist.

Beyond this, it's also beneficial to sing harmonies above and below the notes you're playing. This will of course help train your ear, but also may give you great ideas for a new song.

Now, for those of you who play a woodwind or brass instrument you may be saying, Well this Tip obviously doesn't apply to me. However, I beg to differ. Singing the line while you play (or harmonies of that line *multiphonics) into your instrument is still valid and often used by composers. So practicing this will not only help you memorize the line better and train your ear, but potentially increase your chance for getting work because you developed a unique skill!

For those instrumentalists who can't sing while they play, I recommend singing the line/passage before and after you play it on your instrument. I also recommend Singers do the opposite and play their melody on an instrument of some kind before, during, and after.

**Additional Tip: Recording yourself while doing this can help you improve tremendously!

II. Create a Game

The words practicing and playing are clearly separated from one another by many music instructors, but I don't necessarily think that means one is work and the other is fun. While we are practicing to improve, this doesn't necessarily mean we can't make our practice time fun and intriguing. What I recommend doing, is creating a game or challenge of some sort for your self.

This idea can be expanded upon and the available games/challenges you can create are only limited by your creativity. So, lets examine a few simple games and challenges that I use in my practice sessions.

1. Half-Time/Double Time. In this game, you challenge yourself to take a single line (usually a melody or lick) and play along to a metronome. At random you will then adjust your lick (and your perception of the clicks from the metronome) to either Half or Double Time. If you mess up, then you have to start back at the beginning.

2. Transpose It. Lets say you're a fairly decent player and learning a new chord progression maybe even a Jazz standard. In this game, you will challenge yourself to transpose the chord progression in multiple keys. How/when you do this is completely up to you and (for the advanced players) try doing it to a click. If your instrument is unable to play harmonies, then I recommend doing the same with a Melody or an improvised solo (try to outline the harmonies).

3. Bend it. Ever play a lick that everyone else does (because it sounds cool), but it never feels unique? Try bending into certain notes or maybe even sliding. Alter it slightly (or immensely) with all the different articulations available in your arsenal. Who knows, if you're a guitarist and maybe one of your other strengths is tapping; a Blues Lick with a tap on a bend could be your signature lick!

III. Make It Into A Song

Like many of you reading this, I'm a creative guy and thus love to Compose music. However, for some reason there exists an idea in many beginning Composer's minds that Composition is sacred and once the note hits the paper it's final. Professional and experienced Composers understand that's actually when the real work begins. So, why don't we knock that perception of Composition off of its pedestal and integrate it into our regular practice sessions? I recommend the following

Integrate notating and hearing/transposing new musical ideas from your mind as a part of your everyday practice routine. This will not only increase your creativity, but your ear-training, communication (through notation) skills, and help you better understand what looks and sounds best on the instrument you're writing for. I always recommend that my Composition students carry a composition book of some kind with them (and a reliable pen) at all times. You never know when you'll have a few extra minutes between classes/errands to practice or when inspiration for a new song idea will strike.

Beyond this, I recommend creating a song that focuses on a new musical technique you want to learn. So, if you happened to be practicing sweep picking and not only want to increase your technical ability, but your interest in learning the technique, than you'd compose a song using this technique. (Ex: Find a chord progression you like and sweep it in unique ways instead of normal strumming.) I've found this to be very useful when I was learning certain slap acoustic techniques on guitar. Specifically, I created this SONG so I would practice the technique more often as I easily become bored with repeating exercises.

I've found these 3 Uncommon Practicing Techniques to be immensely beneficial for my students. However, if you'd like to read about more beneficial Uncommon Practicing Ideas, then you can read Pt. 2 of the article HERE. It's absolutely FREE; I just need to know where to send it. Furthermore, if you'd like to take a huge leap forward in your Guitar or Composing skills, I'm now offering Custom Online Lessons via webcam. To find out more and take the next step in achieving your musical goals, visit this LINK.

Best of luck to all of you and I hope these 3 Uncommon Practicing Ideas benefit you greatly!

Kole is a Composer for Media, Guitarist, and Instructor living in Los Angeles, CA. To find out more you can visit his main site here: www.KoleMusician.com

20 comments sorted by best / new / date

    korn_dawg
    Being able to sing the rhythm and/or melodies that you play isn't an uncommon practice at all. It's probably the most effective practice on this list though, because it helps you better and more quickly internalize what you're playing.
    stunt_metal
    It seems counterintuitive, since cannabis is supposed to impair learning or something, but I highly recommend occasionally practising whilst stoned. I often smoke and immediately get the urge to pick up my guitar. I will then practice and "trip out" on what I'm playing. It's almost like I enter a meditation state where I play a riff or a lick hundreds of times as if it's a mantra, paying great attention to the details of timing and articulation.
    thegloaming
    i dont imagine anybody will read this, but a good one to add would have been practicing scales/arpeggios using swung and straight 8th notes, and starting on the offbeat on the metronome as well
    mrddrm
    Now I know why I'm paying tution to go to music school hahaha... I kid, I want to be a music educator, so it makes sense for me to learn these things. The other thing you need is confidence that you can do whatever it is you are practising or performing. You will play louder and more likely better. Again, a weird thing our brain does. And can you imagine, I joined just to post that comment, haha... Again, good article to be pushing the singing.
    g0dd4rd
    mrddrm wrote: The first one is not an "uncommon" practice technique. I've been repeatedly told while at University to do this by all my music teachers. The same was with high school and middle school. Sing, sing, sing. It's all in the brain. You practice singing and essentially you will know what it will sound like, ergo, you will be able to hit the notes better. It sounds unreal, but that is how our brains work... it's called effective practicing. Like for example, you should practice something thinking about the theory, and then practice it without playing your instrument. You are practicing it without any damage of repetitive movement. But good article to push this. Signing has helped me innumerably for school, and will continue to do so.
    This is the most correct answer on why to "sing" along. You can just pronounce the syllables like "pa--pa-pa-pa-paa". It helps you play the right notes even you don't know them, it helps you with tempo and correct phrasing. Watch this
    to fully understand why this particular method works.
    LJHarris
    There doesn't need to be an article on practieing.... I say practice whenever possible, minimum two hours a day, make sure that the exercises you are doing are gonna work. I carry a pro hands grip master and use it all the time an absolute life saver!!
    Kole*
    Thanks for the read and I'm glad you're all enjoying this article. Just to clear a few things up... When I say "sing" it (as some of you have mentioned) I mean to sing the pitches you're playing on the guitar. Preferably in unison, but octaves work as well if you're going to play something very high or very low. The Half/Double Time game works like so. If you have a metronome clicking quarter note = 100, then you'll change your perception of that click accordingly. (No need to reset the click) Half Time means that each click = an eighth note. Double Time means each click = a half note. Switching between these can be quite challenging! -Kole
    illyria
    nice article, seems quite helpfull. just don't understand what the half and double time mean. and the sing with it part is in my opinion vague. what do you sing? do you sing at the tones that you play?
    jdenicholls
    Don't know about anyone else but I found I do all of these things anyway, to me they seemed pretty obvious. Nice to know I'm not the only musician who dislikes practising - I just want to rock out dammit!
    mrddrm
    The first one is not an "uncommon" practice technique. I've been repeatedly told while at University to do this by all my music teachers. The same was with high school and middle school. Sing, sing, sing. It's all in the brain. You practice singing and essentially you will know what it will sound like, ergo, you will be able to hit the notes better. It sounds unreal, but that is how our brains work... it's called effective practicing. Like for example, you should practice something thinking about the theory, and then practice it without playing your instrument. You are practicing it without any damage of repetitive movement. But good article to push this. Signing has helped me innumerably for school, and will continue to do so.
    rickyj
    illyria wrote: nice article, seems quite helpfull. just don't understand what the half and double time mean. and the sing with it part is in my opinion vague. what do you sing? do you sing at the tones that you play?
    half time or double time means play it half speed or double speed respectively. he means sing the notes you are playing, not necessarily with words
    dougl126
    Singing is especially good if you cant get the rhythm down. My band teacher in HS would always make us sing (the entire band class) and especially focus on changes in time and volume and exaggerate some things. But if you cant get a part down with difficult timing or its a lot of fast notes and stuff then slow it down and sing it it works.
    leftyace
    In the Guitar.com interview with Gorguts, Luc Lemay was very passionate about singing or humming your song. If such a technique could help you play like that man, then it's definitely something you should try.
    loaded_
    this is one of the better articles i've read lately. the only thing i would change is the part about singing along because it's a little confusing at first. other than that, it's a great and interesting article.
    Caressing Death
    Nice article. I've done some of these before (especially singing along) but I'm gonna make this a fundamental part of my practicing. For illyria Half time = half the speed, double time = double the speed. Like half time of 8th notes would be quarter notes, etc... As for the singing, I usually hum the name of the note I'm playing in the correct pitch.