Photo by Corey Seeman
This is a question I get often from both serious students and amateurs alike. Since the answer depends on a person’s goals, and every person is unique, there is no single answer for everyone. However, I can make some general suggestions.
My suggestions will presuppose a few things:
You practice on a regular basis
- Daily, 6-7 days a week. This is perhaps the most important element.
- If you do nothing more than practice everyday, you will see some success.
- Did I mention you should do it daily?
Your practice time is well spent
- You know exactly what you are going to work on, and for how long.
- You avoid interruptions and disengaged playing, i.e. “going through the motions.”
What you practice is appropriate to your current skill level
- You are realistic about your current skill level and focus on work that is challenging, but not far above (or below) your current skill level.
We do not classify ensemble rehearsals, jamming, etc. as bass practice.
- Rehearsing with a band, performing, etc. is valuable, but aren’t included as practice here.
- Think of this sort of activity “playing.”
- Playing is important, but separate it from “practicing.”
My suggestions also assume that at each practice session you break things up, more or less, like so:
|Warm-up||Approximately 10 minutes|
|Review Material (Repertory and/or technique)||40% of your remaining time (20 minutes for a 1 hour session)|
|New material (Repertory and/or technique)||60% of your remaining time (30 minutes for a 1 hour session)|
Taking into account the above recommendations, I find that for most people:
One hour daily allows for most amateurs and hobbyists to see very satisfying progress.
Two hours daily allows for a more ambitious player to see progress.
Three hours daily is generally appropriate for most serious bassists, college performance majors, etc.
One might think that I would advise more daily practice hours for “the most serious.” There are certainly those who can benefit and thrive under a heavier load. However, this is often unnecessary to see significant progress. Before you consider practicing more than 3 hours a day, make sure you are being as efficient as possible within your 3 hour sessions:
- Is your practice session scheduled ahead of time?
- During the session: Is your mind wandering?
- Do you take needlessly long long breaks?
- Are you sometimes simply “going through the motions?”
Provided you are being as efficient as possible already:
- Practice more the 3 hours daily only if you are still able to be mentally attentive.
- Pay attention to your body. Use intelligence, awareness and discretion if you are considering this amount of practice daily. We don’t want injury.
Sometimes there can be benefit from practicing more than 3 hours a day. However, there is often a better use of your time. For example:
- You could fill that time by jamming with other musicians, preparing for performance by playing your own personal “greatest hits,” playing mock auditions, rehearsing with a band, etc.
- Perhaps studying some theory, listening to a new piece, studying a score, doing some ear training, learning to drum in 11/8, or visiting notreble.com would be a better use of your time.
So, how much should you practice? In my opinion, given all the presuppositions above:
- No less than 6 days a week.
- This is the most important factor determining your progress
- Even 1 hour per day can allow for substantial benefit.
- Provided you are practicing 6-7 days weekly, and are using your time efficiently, 3 hours daily is generally sufficient for significant progress.
How about you? What does your routine look like? Please share in the comments.