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beginner forum: for novice and developing blues harp players > Daily practice Routine!
Daily practice Routine!
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Richard Wood
10 posts
Mar 05, 2021
6:40 AM
Hi Guys I am very need to harp and am working through an on line (not interactive course).

Is there a trick to splitting up your practice time?

I try put in at least an hour a day (some days I can get in 2 and a bit split across the day)

I currently split my practice up like this
1) Scales
2) Tongue block exercises
3) Practice my current lesson tune - currently about 3/4 way through having it down.
4) This week I started on Bending - trying to do about 15 mins a day on this if my mouth can hold out.
5) Practice on 5 short riff lines - eventually want to string them together.

On 5)I normally only do if I can put in more than an hour.

Am I missing something obvious that will help ?
Is an hour a day enough?
Should I rather split the week up to do each of these things? or is splitting each days session to cover the top 4 the best bet?!

Look forward to hearing what you guys are doing, and did when you 1st started.

379 posts
Mar 05, 2021
12:49 PM
Yours looks better than mine does nowadays.
Usually there is one day a week where I can practice for 2+ hrs. Other days I usually put in about an hr a day. I usually break things down to 20 min segments. Most all my practice is on songs or riffs I am learning.
Some songs need different technique so that forces me to learn various methods of playing anyway.
I find that I often do better during practice by myself and more apt to fall apart when I starting playing with my partner. So playing consistently is a big consideration for me.
6912 posts
Mar 08, 2021
1:28 PM
I've seen a few different ideas. I think I can remember a couple.
Dave Barrett suggests dividing effort between technique, learning a song, and learning to improvise.
I can't recall the time % allocation to each aspect.

Technique would cover a particular technique and this would change after a period. I don't know if he recommends a time for rotating the study but I think you definitely want to feel you've made some progress before you move to something else. The catch is that you can get hung up on trying to really nail something and if it's not happening, that can become a source of frustration. Sometimes skills can't really fully develop in isolation, you have to kind of nudge them up a step and move along then come back and find you can go a bit further now that you have strengthened some other aspect of your playing or understanding. Maybe that's me; some people probably have this down much better than me. I have occasionally seen people appear to make very rapid progress.

There are a bunch of muscles and coordination to develop, many of these things are not used much by people who don't play harp.

The learning a song thing is pretty obvious I think.

Dave B has a particular approach to learning to improvise, which is somewhat formulaic and I suppose "teachable" as a result.
He has analysed many solos and discerned a number of commonly used structures.
He suggests isolating a lick or 2, probably drawn from the song you are learning, and then using these licks to create solo choruses based on these various forms he has identified.
It's all rather structured but I believe it's fairly easy to see how this will simultaneously train the brain to think in terms of coherent form and also form musical habits, learn phrases and how to assemble them, learn to pick out phrases when listening, adapt phrases to fit different grooves etc.

Dennis Gruenling suggested a routine to me which has some similarities.
Dennis suggested one should make a list of things they want to learn and work on those, choosing no more than 2 things to work on at any given time, and continue to work on them while you remain interested. Don't move on too soon, but don't bog down either.
He also suggests learning songs, and copying songs, with a focus on listening well and really trying your best to replicate what you are hearing.
He said to spend an equal amount of time on improvising as you spend on learning a song note for note.
Dennis' approach to improvising (generating ideas, keeping your ideas fresh) is to use tracks and a lot of tracks which hang on one chord. He believes this is the way to really make progress with learning to make your playing interesting. You will consolidate your understanding of which notes work over the chord and how to make what you play sound interesting without relying on a chord change to lift.

So that is basically the idea of allocating time equally between exercises of technique or scales,arpeggios etc, note for note study, and free play using tracks. He also said to keep notes or material available during the free play portion which would help you have ideas to try. This is not simply noodling. It's repetition and variations, finding how to use timing and licks or scalar ideas, rhythm etc. Inspired by your listening and knowledge.

Further to that, he said to allocate at least as much time to listening to music.

The idea I get from both approaches is that they are training the brain to think musically and this is actually at least half the time allocation but doesn't completely involve playing. Listening is very important.

The techniques get a specific focus in exercises but also in studying songs note for note. The more you do of this the easier it becomes. As you study songs, you identify the skills you lack which then help you prioritise the things you need to work on.

I sometimes see people write things like this and finish up with "I hope that helps", which often sounds a little glib to me but no doubt it's usually quite sincere.

I have no idea whether anything I've written here is helpful. It makes sense to me but maybe only helpful to me in trying to sort out what I think teachers have tried to show me over the years.
Richard Wood
11 posts
Mar 08, 2021
10:37 PM
Hi Superbee, thanks for the feedback. - you clearly not only know your thing but are someone who gives a lot of thought to what they say. Thanks.

Anyone ( newbie or oldie) can learn a lot from this and using a structured practice plan. I have done this type of thing with most new things I have tried to learn in my life whether its new instrument, sport or other skill.

The one area I have been struggling with is improvisation - which I know is key in the blues - to help with with this I have started to ONLY listen to any blues music I can find at the moment rather than all the other music styles I have in my collection. It is starting to help. At the moment I feel I am definitely making weekly progress and sometimes even daily.

Thanks again - I find it great to be able to bounce ideas off of people on sites like this- Living in South Africa Harmonica and Blues are not that popular so its hard to find people of like interests, and resources are basically non existent.

cheers for now
6919 posts
Mar 19, 2021
3:23 PM
I'm afraid my daily routine is not as organised as it probably needs to be if I'm to develop the way id like.

I've noticed I'm far more likely to practice well early in the day. After work, although I have time and opportunity I am really low on motivation and energy. Before work I'm short on time and opportunity and access to resource is problematic but I'm far more interested and motivated.

In winter I used to make a 5 minute session first thing, in between switching on the bathroom strip heater and feeling it had made enough difference to the air temperature that I could hit the shower. That worked pretty well. I learned to blow bend with a few weeks of those 5 minute sessions. I think I learned some songs too.
This became more difficult a couple of years ago when a person moved into our home and now occupies a room right next to the bathroom. I could relocate myself for a few minutes but it's not quite the same. Before it was almost an unconscious habit. Switch on the heater and grab the harp.
That's actually the key concept here. A lot of my practice is this unconscious habitual stuff. I'll work on changing that.

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