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Starting Back Up on Bass After a Long Break

Bass player
Photo by Juan Ignacio Garay

Even those of us who maintain a regular practice routine may find ourselves taking an extended period of time away from our instrument. Vacations, travel, illness, work, incarceration, etc. can keep even the most dedicated musician away from their instrument. With an instrument as physically demanding as the double bass, we would be wise to put forethought into how we might reignite our practice regimen after such occasions. By doing so we can avoid mental fatigue, physical stress, pain and even injury.

After an extended absence we can expect to find our technique slightly eroded. How much will depend largely on how solid we were when we stopped, and how long we were away. Depending on our situation, we may even have some atrophied muscles. Even so, I wouldn’t concern myself overly with any perceived loss of technique at first.

The biggest attrition we are likely to experience is in the areas of physical and mental stamina. So these are the areas where I would focus my comeback strategy. We need to get used to putting in time daily at our instrument again, the technique should improve as we do so.

To get our stamina back, I would plan on daily sessions that gradually and consistently extend. I don’t always suggest “number of hours” as a measure of success, but for the purposes of building stamina, it’s a decent marker.

If you were practicing 3 hours daily before your break, I would suggest something along these lines:

WeekMonTuesWedThursFriSatSun
115 min15 min30 min30 min45 min45 minOff
21 hr1 hr1 hr 15 min1 hr 15 min1 hr 30 min1 hr 30 minOff
31 hr 45 min1 hr 45 min2 hrs2 hrs2 hrs 15 min2 hrs 15 minOff
42 hrs 30 min2 hrs 30 min2 hrs 45 min2 hrs 45 minGoal: 3 hrs3 hrsOff

This is a slow, steady way to get back into a serious practice routine, which isn’t a jolt to our system.

As a final note, I would suggest keeping your practice sessions “light” for at least a week after you hit your goal (3 hours in the example above). By doing this you can further avoid shocking your body, and exhausting your mind, by jumping right in full force.

How about you? What do you do after an extended time away from your bass? Please share in the comments.

Dr. Donovan Stokes is on the faculty of Shenandoah University-Conservatory. Visit him online at www.donovanstokes.com and check out the Bass Coalition at www.basscoalition.com.

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Share your thoughts

Frank Heim

Hi, as you said, you don’t want to suggest hours. I think 2-3 hours are too much some times … especially on a daily basis. A good thing would be between 30 and 90 min … even if I prepare for a tour I don’t practice that much hours. Only when I ran through the set. You also have to get a bit fresh air and water to be fit after an hour … you will loose concentration when you are woodchedding for so long.

Frank

Gurhan Cagin

The main problem is what to study in this 3 hour, finding 3 hour for a working people is tough also, 30-90 max is daily possible routine, and after going from beginner to intermediate, as a self learner, i am lost now, don’t know what to focus. how to plan my study. what to study.