The Two Minute Practice Method



  • delb0ydelb0y ✭✭
    edited May 2022 Posts: 54

    Ha. It's lots of scraps of papers, post-it notes, pages ripped out of notebooks, and occasional files on the computer. Along with an essay on why I don't sound like a jazz player when I play (I blame my dad's record collection and all the bands I was in for forty years playing rock'n'roll and country music...).

    Step One, I've come, to realise, is that you really need to know a song well before even thinking about improvising over it. I mean, really, well. Which is why I've discovered I struggle with most songs, other than Folsom Prison Blues. I've also been tinkering with the clarinet and I find learning a song on that is very beneficial as I can't fall back on any pre-conceived shapes, like I do on the guitar.

    My method is also based on the theory that one is allowed to be appallingly bad in the privacy of one's practice room. And that's actually serious - giving myself permission to be rubbish has been pretty freeing.


  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,314

    Hey Derek,

    Hope you caught my sarcasm. You were reiterating previous wisdom (good wisdom!) that a player should "write their own method book." When I said "can I get a copy" it was like all those commenters on youtube that say "can I get the tab." The short cut to actually doing the hard work to get it done, which it sounds like you are doing.

    There are only so many paradigms that can be constructed with this material, but differently people learn in different ways. Some things stick with you, others don't. I think where you are in the process matters too. Sometimes I go away from instructional materials because I find it difficult or confusing. When I revisit it after a extensive time, I'm approaching it in a new way with a higher base knowledge level and with the benefit of any intervening experiences. Sometimes it clicks when it didn't before.

    Good luck on your path! Yes, feel free to play poorly in the practice room. To paraphrase Thomas Edison's famous line, you will successfully find 10,000 different lines that DO NOT work over the song's progression. That's not failure, that's learning!

  • Posts: 4,777

    Something I heard Aerosmith used to do, they had practice sessions they called "dare to suck" when they would allow themselves to bring and show the material they privately thought it sucked. They said some of their biggest hits came about from these sessions. Similarly, I heard David Gilmour say they often thought a lot of their lyrics are super cheesy and had to be brave enough to put it out there.

    Those were mini lessons for me in themselves, your opinion about your own music and playing will not be other's experience. Case in point... but let me first say that one of my pet peeves regarding the instruction is when the teacher says "don't just do ..... make it more interesting by doing this .... For a while I followed that advice, the end result of it being that not only did I not improve in coming up with more interesting stuff, I wasn't working on my own "boring" stuff. So I allowed myself to be boring. But then this happened, I was jamming with the friend, excellent mando player who went back to guitar which was his original instrument. He asked me what did I just play after I used one of my plain dom arps. To me, it couldn't get more plain than that, boring stuff. But he said "no man, it sounded really cool". Another aha moment.

    When it comes to instruction books, I may have said in article already, those often reflect a lifetime of someone's learning and studying. So it's easy to get discouraged when you don't see the progress after several months. And thought process is a very individual thing, as pointed already. Maybe best thing to do is what a friend of mine, JP, is doing; he has a huge collection of instructional material but when I asked him"dude, you have so much stuff, you won't get through it in your lifetime", his reply was "I'm not trying to, I just take few bits here and there". Not the cheapest way but it certainly works for him.

    @delb0y what you do sounds perfect.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • billyshakesbillyshakes NoVA✭✭✭ Park Avance - Dupont Nomade - Dupont DM-50E
    Posts: 1,314

    @Buco Regarding that idea of "boring" stuff to you being more interesting to the listener--I see that in my music consumption. Songs that I really loved when I first heard them now become a bit routine/boring. I seek out the deeper cuts that have the spirit of what I originally loved, but that sound fresher to me. For you as a player, that simple dom arp was something you'd played over and over in the practice room and on the gig and it was no longer fresh to you. But, perhaps to the outside listener, because you know it so well, you were able to place it very appropriately and perfectly into a musical context. And that was appreciated by the listener.

    I see the arc of that same discussion with musicians taking their big hits and then altering the feel or arrangement just to make it more interesting to them to play. Sometimes, though, the audience who loves the original and wants to hear it get disappointed when it isn't the way they like it. That's because they don't have to hear it every night throughout a 200+ date tour for 15-20 years in a row! However, many musicians come to find peace with those songs and fully comprehend the joy they bring to others. They accept that love of the song is what allowed them their success and lifestyle in the industry. So, they save it for the encore and let the audience exult in a big sing-a-long.

    Maybe sometimes it is ok to just play that basic thing that we learned right away because we loved it (maybe a dim arp, a minor 9 ascending arp lick, etc.)

  • Posts: 4,777

    Maybe sometimes it is ok to just play that basic thing

    Not only that I think it's ok, that's my first intention. But what I see as basic doesn't mean it will be that to the next person. That's what I was getting at.

    By the way, I played a gig last night. I'd start breathing deeply whenever I thought of it. While all my problems weren't gone, every time I'd do this I felt more relaxed and things would work better. Strangely, if you asked me if I was tense while I play live before all this, I'd probably reply "no, not really". Because I remember my stage fright when I just started playing live as a kid which would totally freeze me. So this is nothing compared to that so I didn't really think much of it at all.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Posts: 4,777

    Plug below...

    An in person version of our forum debates. Will run a workshop at Django in June under the same title. Come by and discuss. Topics covered, as in the article:

    Why two minutes

    Getting better means fixing what doesn't work

    Benefits of an actual timer

    Importance of focus

    How do I get the most from my practice time

    Choosing a tempo

    How to practice to play faster

    Shaping your tone

    Get better regardless of your age or talent

    Practicing to improvise 

    The woodshed

    Which method is the right one for me

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Posts: 4,777

    My lastest musings about progressing with my playing...

    I've heard from highly respected educators that practice has to be mindful and focused for it to stick. But then, I also heard from a lot of the best players that they practiced a lot in front of the TV. To me, these two are complete opposites.

    Or are they?

    So, lately I'm finding out that fingers dexterity isn't my limitation. Even learning to improvise, I found a way to make progress that works for me, which the article is a big part of. What limits my progress is closing the gap between playing during practice and playing under pressure: recording, gigging etc... I know and repeat often that even with the best of the best there a gap between the two as well. For me, I feel, it's too great.

    Simply reminding myself to take deep breaths helps a lot, but it's only a part of the solution. Now I'm thinking a lot about this practicing in front of a TV thing. Seems like there's something important in there. Like, maybe you're training yourself to disconnect your present mind and just let your previous training take over. Essentially, you're simply observing your fingers do the work, or just listening, not even looking. Because when the public performing suffers, it's partly because of nerves but also because of all the distractions around you. Maybe, while practicing to play while distracted, watching TV or something similar, is the way to put your playing on auto pilot which is what you want when performing. Of course you can't do this if you're flubbing a lot while watching TV. First you'd put in the work to make whatever you're working on solid and then switch over to this...hack.

    But, it simply makes sense, doesn't it? That we have to, at some point, disconnect from our conscious playing and just observe. I do just mess around at home, put on a backing track and just play over tunes. But I'm realizing I'm still being very aware of everything. By putting some kind of distraction in front of me, maybe I can bring myself closer to this next step.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    edited September 2022 Posts: 1,857

    I’m in total agreement, Buco.

    For me, anyway, improvisation is about what my subconcious mind and my fingers come up with together, while my conscious mind just listens.

    Sometimes, the fingers and my “other” brain are lazy and they just play the same old shit I’ve played a million times before.

    Mostly based upon the shapes that I learned from the Daniel Givone method.

    Plus a few shapes that I made up myself that have somehow become “me”, though I never actually planned it that way.

    Other times the finger/brain duo will surprise me and come up with something cool that I wish I could remember later.

    But I never do.

    To me, this feels like I am closing in on achieving freedom on my guitar.

    I’ll never be mistaken for any of my guitar heroes but I do enjoy this freedom to play all over the fingerboard and getting lost infrequently.

    I don’t achieve it through diligent practice, but by getting in the habit of just relaxing and fucking around and listening to myself play. Sometimes after having enjoyed a Louis Armstrong cigarette.

    If I don’t enjoy my own playing, who will?

    No, I’ll never be sharing hot licks at Django in June with the 300 bpm gunslingers, but who cares?

    I enjoy playing tennis, even though I’ll never be an Alcaraz. Some days I really suck. Some days I make a few great shots and fool the other guys into thinking that I actually know how to play tennis. But what the hell, we all have fun and maybe lose a few pounds along the way.

    That’s why I operate in such an irresponsible manner and fail to even use Buco’s two minute practice method. I’m seventy now and I’ve sweated enough over the past 50 or 60 years about my playing never quite being good enough.

    It’s time to have some fun down in the meadow instead of worrying about climbing those icy mountains.



    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
  • Posts: 4,777

    Sounds like you might be one of those naturals when it comes to turning off your surroundings and also surrounding yourself to your skills. I asked Steve, (who did that Latin Douce Ambiance cover where I also played) does he ever get any pressure from knowing the audience is looking and listening and he said something like I have no idea they're there. It's a nice thing to be free like that.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Lango-DjangoLango-Django Niagara-On-The-Lake, ONModerator
    Posts: 1,857

    Have you ever tried just playing, without even thinking of the chords of any song?

    Just letting your fingers lead you wherever they want to go?

    It’s fun!

    Paul Cezanne: "I could paint for a thousand years without stopping and I would still feel as though I knew nothing."

    Edgar Degas: "Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.... To draw, you must close your eyes and sing."

    Georges Braque: "In art there is only one thing that counts: the bit that can’t be explained."
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