How many hours a day should you practice?

I’ve been taking a sight reading course, and in all honesty, it’s the hardest course I’ve taken since I started playing bass last year. It involves practice drills in which I have to read and play long sheets of music containing random notes that don’t make any sense together: such as jumping from the low F (E1) to the middle C (G5). I have to do this while keeping up with the tempo, eyes locked on the music sheet, and not looking at the neck. The purpose of this is to eventually be able to immediately play any piece of music that’s handed to me, just like the session musicians do.
It’s difficult to make it through an entire page (64 bars) without making mistakes, so I do them over and over again. The goal is to conquer one level, and then move up to the next. I’m determined (obsessed?) to get through each class and complete this course.
Today, I practiced for 5 hours straight with only a few short breaks. I finally got to the point where my brain felt like it was turning to mush, and had to stop. I was no longer making any progress. I quit the sight reading drills and switched to playing some scales and few bass licks that I know, just so I could finish on a positive note. I cracked open a beer, and sank into the recliner. Tomorrow is another day, and I’ll get back to the drills.
That’s when I decided to do some research, asking the question, “How many hours of practice is too much?”. I came across this very interesting article, which I would like to share with everyone here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about your own practice regiments and what you think is the maximum time you should practice each day.

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That was a really good article. The article he linked to for Jazz was also very good.
For myself, when I’m getting ready to play at church I generally practice 2-3 hours a day. Early in the week that time is spent memorizing the songs in the set. Once I have the basic chord progressions and rhythms down I start looking at how I can best serve the song through my note choices.

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That is an excellent article! It triggered many moments of recognition, but it is very useful to be consciously reminded of it.

“Practice with your fingers and you need all day. Practice with your mind and you will do as much in 1 1/2 hours.”
… so much this, it’s almost a mantra. I’m convinced that, whatever the subject matter, if you can understand something rather than make it your own with rote memorisation, it will serve you a lot better.
I still remember that figuring out why the piano keyboard layout is what it was, for me, a breakthrough in understanding the concept of keys (musical keys, not the keys on the keyboard). Understanding bass tuning, and how it relates to scales and patterns, is instrumental in mastering the fretboard.

"Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.”

I figured that out when I discovered how many time I had spent to make my technique as crappy as it was. So many bad habits to unlearn…

“Try using a practice notebook. Keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice sessions.”
This is why I tend to record my practice sessions – not only to listening to my own mistakes, but also because it allows me to, without putting the instrument down, insert ‘spoken notes’, such as “I really need to figure out the muting here. Let me try this…”, or “lift before you shift, sucker!”

And yes, the problem solving model is a universal approach that works in many situations.


When I hit the brick wall that is Billie Jean, I decided to try and come up with a multi-step method to get her to submit.

First was to actually get the notes. Having read over and over that, to learn toplay something, you start out super-slow, that’s what I did.
The next step was to not just get the notes, but also to make them come out right, and not allowing any unwanted side effects to come out.
Then I figured out (from my spoken notes as well as watching myself play in the recorded sessions) that I was compleely sucking on plucking – my index finger was doing all the work, and the middle finger was just watching rather than getting in on the action. So that was the next step.
Only when I had resolved the above three problems did I allow myself to proceed to the tempo dictated by the slow workout… and hey presto, it worked!

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Very instructive article…
Thanks for sharing @PamPurrs.

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Don’t ask Terence Fletcher (from “Whiplash”) that question, @PamPurrs

(unless you want to get a chair thrown at your head :wink: )

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Good one @Jazzbass19 :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

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I just had to :rofl:

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@peterhuppertz that’s cleared a lot of questions for me. I go to BJ tomorrow and your advice is timely. Thanks

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I’ve become obsessed with practicing. I practice 5,6, 8 hours in a day and still feel guilty that I haven’t practiced enough. I can’t relax and watch a movie without the urge to turn the amp back on and practice some more.

(Pam on the couch talking to her shrink)

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I’m not really practicing at all right now, kind of on a practice hiatus.

What I am doing instead is just having fun. Picking up the bass and playing music for a while, figuring out songs, and so on.

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Believe it or not @howard, that is still practice, and an important part of it as well. Learning songs and free playing should be put into your practice schedule according to some teachers I have heard talk about the subject. I wonder what @JoshFossgreen has to say about it.?
Playing new songs, and playing along with backing tracks is very important, something I am lacking in, and need to do more of for sure. I would say, at some point you may want to add some structure back into your day, and not go 100% jam session, but for now, I bet you are progressing doing what you are doing now.

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I have as well, but not just with practicing, but with all things bass, including browsing non stop for good deals (I can’t help myself, I found 2 today that I can’t say no to, but can’t keep, dont know if I really want, but I know I can flip them and easy double what I will pay for them. Aggg stop…)
But seriously, when not playing, I am here on the forum. When everybody is away, I am at @JoshFossgreen . Com, or Low End U, or TalkingBass, or YT. When not there, I am on bass player mag, or Amazon, GC, Reverb, Sam ash, looking up and learning about product for recording, effects, pedals, what they do, what I may like, etc…

I don’t actually play more then between 1 and 3 hours, spread out thru the day (I have stayed up all night working on learning a song, so that was 6-7 hours) but I do spend all day, and night, OBSESSING about bass

I am right there with you @PamPurrs. I got your back. If we need to, we can set up a support group and slap an ANONAMOUS at the end. :wink::wink::joy::joy::sunglasses::sunglasses:

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You may disagree, but I consider that a form of practice :woman_shrugging:

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I have just the opposite problem, @PamPurrs . . . :frowning: Haven’t been motivated to practice at all lately, and am in a real slump over here. But, hopefully, I’ll get over this soon.

So in my case, I also feel guilty that I haven’t been practicing enough! :wink: lol

Cheers, Joe

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Hey Joe @Jazzbass19 , at the risk of sounding like your therapist, may I suggest you need a new objective? Maybe sign up for another course and push yourself to get through it and learn something new or improve on something you already know? Just a thought.

That’ll be $150.00. You can pay on your way out of my office as soon as you get up off of my couch LOL

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Hey thanks for your advice, Dr. Pam @PamPurrs! . . . :slight_smile:

I feel better already . . . do you take Master Card? :laughing:

Seriously though, I think my medical issues are what is slowing me down. The covid-19 lockdown is starting to ease up a bit over here, and hopefully they’ll be addressed very soon.

Cheers, Joe

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Sorry to hear that @Jazzbass19. Anything we can do to help motivate you? Anything we can do to lift your spirits?
Idk the specifics or severity of your issues, and I am not comparing mine to yours, but I have issues too. My legs have been so bad, I can hardly walk when I first stand. I am on medication that makes me retain water in my legs, and it hurts bad. I am slowly tapering off it, I need what little I have of my legs back, but I cant get off it quickly. I have other issues. I can’t address while on disability, lack of insurance, and sometimes things just suck.
I have to really make myself get up to get one of my Basses some times, but I know when I do, I will feel 100% better, and the pain goes away for the time.
Idk if you have tried or not, but maybe make yourself pick up the bass, put on a backing track, and just play a bit. Do it every day for just 15 min, and see if you feel better about it.

Again, idk your situation, this may not be feasible, but if it is, maybe…

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Thanks, @T_dub . . . just hanging out here with you folks helps me . . . :+1:

I have two surgeries that kept getting put off since Christmas . . . and then this Covid-19 hit. It’s painful and sometimes I can hardly walk, but they won’t do anything for me until the lockdown is over.

Know the difference between major and minor surgery? . . . :thinking:

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Mine is Major and everyone else’s is Minor :wink: . . . lol

Cheers and thanks again, Joe

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Of course, anything to heLp, even in the slightest.
Legs don’t fail me now. My daily theme.

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