Tag Archives: practise

Practise Schedules – February Blog 2016

Practise Schedules – February Blog 2016.

I realise that practise is a topic that I write about a lot in my blogs and I don’t in anyway mean to come across like a broken record by constantly repeating myself on the subject, but the bottom line is this: If you want to be great, you have to practise! 

Unfortunately there is no quick way to suddenly become an amazing musician (or amazing anything for that matter). It takes years of hard work, time, and of course, good quality practise. The great news however, is that ‘genius like status’ can be achieved. It just takes the right mixture of determination, self-discipline and motivation.

With each year that passes (and as I get older and take on more responsibilities), the more apparent it becomes that I no longer have the luxury or messing about on my instrument for hours on end while my parents take care of all the household and bill duties. (Ah, those were the days, ha ha).

Having a well worked out practise schedule still allows me to get a sufficient amount of time to practise and learn new ideas on my instrument and I firmly believe that putting together a schedule (as disciplined as it may sound) will really help you on your journey to becoming the best musician you can be. 

So with that in mind, here’s my recommendation on how you can alter your daily lifestyle to include your ‘creative needs’ and become a better musician at a realistic pace, whether it’s daily/weekly/monthly or yearly, and whether you’re a part or full time musician. 

Rather than sharing my personal schedule with you, I’ve worked these out based on stereotypical assumptions, and highlighted potential practise times in red. They can of course be applied however you like in order to suit your own personal needs.

Let’s start with the part time musician. Your day might look something like this: 

6am   – Potential practise for an hour
7am   – Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast etc.
8am   – Leave for work
9am   – 5pm – Work
5pm   – Leave Work
6pm   – Eat dinner, relax with family etc.
10pm – Potential practise for an hour
11pm – Sleep

Now for the full time musician. Your day (provided you’re not touring heavily) might look something like this

9am   – Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast etc.
10am – 2pm – Potential practise for 4 hours
3pm  – Eat lunch and load gear for tonight’s gig.
4pm – Potential rest/nap (if required), otherwise plan gig logistics (set lists, merch etc).
5pm – Leave for gig
6pm – Sound-check. Socialise, eat dinner, warm ups
9pm -12am – Actual performance
12am – Load gear and leave gig
1am – Sleep

In each scenario there are good times for potential practise sessions and it varies for everyone. Some people might find practising for 1 hour is too little, whilst others might feel that 4 hours is too much (especially given that the average human can only process new information for short periods of 45minutes at a time before the brain needs a break). Needless to say, the above examples are simply a guideline in case you don’t know where to start. 

One of my guitar teachers (a wonderful man named Luke Van Der Merwe), helped me work out my first ever practise schedule and it completely changed how I approached my time at my instrument. So, while I wish I could take credit for the above way of thinking, I have to mention him. If you ever get the chance to watch him play, you totally should. 

Anyway, until next time, work hard, play hard and practise – diligently. 

Travis Marc.

P.S – Don’t forget to follow my personal account on Twitter – @TravisMarc

Be Prepared – October Blog 2015

Be prepared – October Blog 2015.

There’s an old quote that says ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. It’s a saying that can be applied to most aspects of life, but can be particularly true for musicians, whether they’re hoping to be viewed as sidemen in other people’s projects or as musical artists themselves.

If you’re a regular reader of these blogs you’d know that practise is a topic that I’ve written about many times over the last year. It’s a subject that I’m extremely passionate about because simply put, I really enjoy the way that practising and working on ‘myself’ makes me feel. The reality though, is that while some people do spend time on trying to make their craft better, there are many musicians who find the process boring and mundane.

While that’s perfectly ok, (each to their own at the end of the day), I often wonder how prepared these types of musicians might be if they were to suddenly have the opportunity to play in a musical situation away from their usual musical comfort zones.

Hypothetically (and purely for example purposes) lets’ say that you are a hard rock drummer.Your band just finished touring and you’re going through a bit of a quiet period. Money is running a little low and you’re super close to taking a part time labouring kind of job before next year’s tour begins, when suddenly you get a call to tour as the drummer for a new emerging reggae type act. Would you be ready?

If the answer is yes, then my friend you have done your homework. You’ve put in the time and should feel confident that you can take on some work out of your usual comfort zones and do a good job while doing so. If the answer is no, well then you should get back in that practise room because you have unfortunately done no preparation and will end up ‘winging’ the gig should you accept to take it. In which case you make yourself and the musicians who hired you look extremely amateur, which isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is once the gig (or tour, or whatever they were hoping you could do) is over, they will never call again because there will be someone out there who is simply better prepared and suited for their situation. You’ll then feel terrible about yourself and probably go take that part time job you were dreading having to take while your own band was taking some down time, because mentally you might convince yourself that music simply isn’t meant for you.

So what can we do to try and be as prepared as possible, should that random call (or email) come one day?

I’m not going to preach about this one, if you don’t know what it is, go check out the previous blogs.

Broaden Your Horizons.
Stop playing or practicing that John Bonham chop that you’re so great at and start focusing on things that you’re perhaps not too good at. If you’re a punk drummer and struggle to play slow, try playing along to some ballads. Likewise if you’re a jazzer, listen to and start trying to play along to some Megadeth etc, etc. It’s all going to make you better and a more rounded player, which will ultimately make you more prepared for gigs out of your comfort zone.

Focus On Your Weaknesses.
But don’t beat yourself up about them. Make notes about the aspects of your playing that really need work and well, work on them. Eventually, you’ll find that the mistakes you frequently make are no longer mistakes and you’ll feel pretty good for it. Don’t get too cocky though, because there is always room for improvement.

Find Your Own Voice.
It’s tough out there, and many drummers are after the same gigs. While it’s great to be after the sideman job as drummer for the latest popstar, there might already be someone who gets those calls before you do. Instead focus on a few aspects of your playing that give you your own voice that people will want to call you for. But while developing this voice, make sure you continue to broaden your horizons in case that random gig does come about.

Only Be A Yes Man If You Can Really Do The Job.
While we all want to believe that we’re drummers of all styles, if you do get a call to do a gig that you don’t feel you can truly do justice, please don’t do it ! You’re going to embarrass yourself and tarnish what might be an already established reputation. Rather recommend the gig to someone who you know, could do the job. Trust me, people will remember this type of honesty and start to trust your judgement should your recommendation check out. Plus (more often than not) if the person you recommended got the gig ever gets a call for a gig they can’t do the favour might be returned.

Good luck, and I’ll chat to you all next month. Keep rocking.

Travis Marc.

Effective practice – February Blog 2015

Effective practice – February Blog 2015.

Practice is a subject I find myself talking about almost daily among fellow musicians or students. Thankfully, its a subject that I never really get bored having conversations about and luckily from a practical stand point, it’s an activity that I actually really enjoy doing, because I know that even a short amount of practice every day can show really amazing results.

Being able to play (or learn) a musical instrument can be extremely rewarding and I consider it a blessing that I realised at a young age that playing music was/is what I wanted/want to do with my life. I consider my musicality a blessing and have therefore always tried my best to be very diligent about learning my craft and therefore my practice schedule.

When sitting down to spend some time on your instrument it is important to make sure that you are practicing effectively though, and not simply playing the things that you’re already good at or the same things you’ve been playing everyday for years. Playing is fine (and fun) but if you really want to improve you need to put a plan together, knuckle down and work at it.

Here are some things that I feel have really helped me over the years, perhaps some of these tips will help you too…

Try and forget about all the other day to day stuff you’ve still got to do or anything else that might be weighing you down. A clear head helps you concentrate and focus on what the task in front of you is. Play through your favourite things, like grooves or fills that you’re already good at and get them out the way, this allows you to feel good about why you’re about to practice and let’s you clear your head to work on newer concepts and ideas.

Set yourself some goals in relation to your instrument. These can be small things like trying to learn a new fill or bigger things, like wanting to prepare for your first clinic. Regardless, goals are important so that we can strive for new heights.

Monitor your practice schedule in a diary or journal. Mark down tempos and your progress with whatever you’re trying to do, heck even give yourself little compliments if you think you did well for the day. This gives you a clear and precise indication of just how much you’re practicing, what you’re practicing, and how it’s going. At the end of each week or month go through your diary entries and assess how you’ve done. This is a great confidence builder and can really make you feel good about all the work you’re putting in.

It’s much easier to be inspired to practice if you’re trying to emulate your favourite players and it’s important to try and imitate and copy your heroes in the beginning stages of your musical journey, (as long as you don’t become cheap carbon copies of them). Having someone, or someone’s skill set to aspire to is a great motivator so check out some of players from the music you like. If you don’t know where to start, simply pick up a music magazine and start with someone you like the look of, alternately you can scroll around on a streaming site like YouTube or Spotify for a while – you’ll soon find something or someone that you might want to listen to.

When you’ve worked on whatever it is you’re working on for a while. Reward yourself by playing to some of your favourite songs or exercises. It’s kind of like stretching after a good gym session, and can convince the fun part of your brain that you’ve just been playing/having a good time (the whole time), which makes things fun and satisfying, kind of like eating a dessert after a savoury meal.

Lastly, if any of the above ideas still aren’t helping you and you find yourself getting frustrated or negative towards your progress or music you’re trying to make, STOP. Take a break, go watch some tv, take your dogs for a walk or grab a bite to eat. Anything to get your mind off of what you’re doing. Frustration only makes things harder and when things get harder we become more frustrated, which in turn breeds negative thoughts, which in turn breeds more negativity. It’s a vicious cycle that is really best avoided. So chill out, and remember it’s supposed to be fun.

That’s it for this month. Be safe, be good to each other and practice hard.
Travis Marc.