Practice Modes- the long version

Use SEPARATE bows when you first read a piece to:
     establish a concept of the notes and rhythms
     establish a concept of the dynamics and phrasing
Use “MAPPING” (writing in all fingerings and bowings) to:
    explore which fingering patterns will be musical, facile and in tune for you at your stage of development
    determine the best bow usage for musical impact at your level of development
    facilitate other modes of practice. Once the map is determined, be loathe to change it.  Then WRITE IT IN.         
    When you use other modes of practice stick to the bowings and fingerings that you’ve mapped.


STOP/RELAX (stop bow on the string and relax arm weight into string) this eliminates useless bow movement, improves  left-hand/right-hand coordination and helps:
    to establish clean shift points (let the left hand shift only while the bow is in stop/relax mode)
    to establish upbeat/downbeat gestures as an auditory unit (S/R before each upbeat/downbeat unit)
    to work relaxation and focused sound into the “automatic” level of playing (so you articulate by releasing
    relaxed weight instead of by manipulating the bow)
    when moving from a harmonic to a fingered note (S/R after the harmonic while the L hand establishes the fingered note
    when crossing to a third string (S/R, move L hand to 3rd string, then roll relaxed weight of bow to the 3rd string before releasing sound)

SLOW bow/slow tempo to:
    practice relaxed-concentration (relax physically while focusing ahead  – USE YOUR BACK, THINK AHEAD)
    practice bow identification  (is the bow stroke generated from the back, at the right speed, contact and weight for a given note
        is the PITCH centered (both with and without vibrato)
        is the VIBRATO relaxed, controlled (watch out for panic vibrato)
    establish control in all contact quadrants (4TH QUADRANT!)

Use the KEYBOARD to:
    hear/learn difficult passages away from the complications of performing on the bass
    play accompanying lines while singing/hearing the solo part

Use MIDI  or computer set up to
    match pitches and rhythms – play difficult passages into the board and then play with it on playback at various speeds
    learn the score – be able to play through several times with the MIDI accompaniment or recording before using a pianist
    hear harmonically – fit your pitch to the keyboard harmony.  Use a DRONE of tonic and dominant to refine intonation and sense of harmonic movement.

Use the METRONOME (ALL THE TIME), slow to fast to:
    Establish target tempos
    control even development and synthesize awareness (don’t go too fast too soon) (the slower you go the more you can be aware of how you are playing and synthesize what you know into a playing gestalt)
    stay where you are relaxed and controlled
    reinforce internal or external durations (put metronome on smallest subdivisions and progress to one beat per measure if possible – for example – 16ths, then 8ths, then quarters, then halves then whole notes etc.)
    try playing with the metronome on off beats.

COUNT OUT LOUD (speak, don’t sing) from internal to external durations to:
    reinforce evenness and control at subdivision levels (if you can count to 4 and to 6, you have it made)
    recognize and establish “large measure” durations generated by phrase structure
    recognize durational aspects of composition
    create organic rubati  (remembering speeding up and slowing down have to even each other out)

Use your VOICE – beyond counting – to :
    incorporate dynamics into counting (shout or whisper where indicated)
    announce formal sections (themes, recaps, variations, etc.)
    name notes (or use solfege) – identify chord structures –  announce/evoke mood
    SING it  – for pitch and to clarify your musical idea

Consult your BRAIN:
    sing it inside to see how you really conceive the musical idea
    use your IMAGINATION – be an artist

    establish simplified usage of bow movement (usually we over-bow)
    establish the amount and apportioning of the bow to fit the phrase (mid bow ? tip? little? lots?)
    establish dynamics, articulation and vibrato usage away from left hand considerations

    enhance left hand accuracy and firm articulation (take a fast passage and try it pizz as fast as possible, then the bow)
    enhance L/R hand coordination away from right hand considerations (very helpful in initial learning stages)

Use REPETITION of a given gesture, phrase, or section of composition:                            

    3X3 – 3 at 1/2 tempo, 3 times at 3/4 tempo, 3 times at tempo, once without metronome
    ten times in a row to experience the wholeness of the idea (this is a good time to start memorizing)
    ten times in a row directing the expression to different goals each time (pitch, accuracy, expression, etc.)
    three times in a row at performance level (everything is “right”)
    ten times in a row at performance level 

    “round-robin”  take a problem segment and repeat it without a rhythmic break or with rest = to one pulse

    “round-robin” in circle of fifths  (a problem segment can become an etude – like bass class circle of fifths)
    play in reverse – learn a difficult gesture or section backwards

Use NOTE GAMES on problem passages:
    “add a note”  repeat a passage adding one note at a time keeping it at performance level- 1 then 1,2 then 1,2,3  etc.
    “5 at a time” or “3 at a time”  for example in a passage of 20 notes – play 1,2,3,4 & 5 ‘ til facile, then 2,3,4,5 & 6 etc.
    “pairing”  in a run of 16ths for example play 1,2 stop 3,4 stop 1,2 stop 3,4.  Then regroup the pattern 1 stop 2,3 stop 4,1 stop 2,3 etc.  Then return to playing it as written  


LISTEN to several recordings (preferably early in the learning process) of a given work to:
    acquaint yourself with an acceptable range of expression (find at least 2 good recordings and one that you don’t like)
    learn the accompaniment (listen while watching the score)
    play along to experience the accompaniment and interpretive possibilities (save this for when you know the piece really well and may need some new ideas)

    practice performance pressure (make it convincing in one pass)
    record your whole program twice before performing it
    enhance critical facility ( listen back as if you were making a CD)

MEMORIZE – because you should:
    have your program completely memorized one month before you perform.  (even if you plan to perform with music)
    have the numerous benefits of being able to use your eyes and attention internally instead of for reading
    and because your eyes tend to go as you get older.  You’ll be glad you can memorize.

Use your EYES consciously because:
   your attention goes where your eyes go –  watch your left hand, your contact point, your bow hand, your elbow and see if you can keep you eyes there.  

    can you feel the floor with your feet?  Do you move from your center (where is that anyway?)  Shoulders down?  Head back?  Back of the neck long?  Bass weight forward?  etc.
Use TOYS such as:
    SPLINTS for fingers to maintain curve
    a wrist WEIGHT to identify with bow arm weight moved by the back
    WIRE NAG or PAPER TUBE in f-hole to reinforce 3rd and 4th quadrant control
    “CUFF” to reinforce arm extension    
    MIRROR to see what your bow  is doing (go on, get dramatic)to look yourself in the eye while your playing a passage
    TV or MAGAZINE – play memorized program while watching TV or reading a magazine out loud