The magic of practicing for ~5 minutes

Over the years, I’ve often not practiced because I had an all-or-nothing mindset about it. “I need to practice for an hour, but I don’t have time… so I won’t practice at all!”

I’ve gotten a little better at putting in smaller amounts of time, when that’s all I have the time or energy for, and every time I’m amazed by how much can happen in five or ten minutes.

The other week I was looking up the Jaco Pastorius ‘Modern Electric Bass’ instructional video to find a litle clip I referenced in a lesson…

I stumbled on some really tasty licks he was playing at 21:45 (those first few phrases after the double stops), and thought “well, what the hell, why not put a few minutes into learning (read: stealing) those?”

Five minutes later, I had a couple new Jaco licks! And now every time I pick up the bass to solo I can play around with those new ideas.

(Obviously, your mileage will vary, it might take you way way longer to learn something like that, or it may not even be feasible, but you’ve just got to work at whatever level you’re at!)

So I’m really trying to remind myself how much I got out of those five minutes, and follow little inspirations to learn things like that more often. I also feel grateful for all the practice I’ve already put in over the years, that allows me to learn licks like that so quickly, that years ago would have been impossible to figure out even by slowing them down.

Anybody else get some cool stuff done in five minutes of practice?


As a dad of almost 8 years - 5 minutes of practice is about as good a day as I can ask for.
Reading through one piece - one song form transcription - one melody read - anything!
5 minutes.
Exercise - writing - reading - drawing - I’ll take it. It’s a great way to approach any endeavor, I say.


As a grandad I can only concur, it will get a bit easier, but not much! If I have a short amount of time but feel the need for bottom end I try and learn a new song or riff or whatever comes first. Because I have been playing a lot of Primus lately I felt a lot more slide in under my senses and I’m finding notes under my fingers and all of a sudden it seems I can play The Desaturated Seven. Never sat down and tried to learn it, it just became obvious with every passing five minutes! I don’t mean note for note. At least not yet, but that’ll probably come to me if I let it!


I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on practice, Josh! I have been terrible with practice (or the lack of it) since going through the course earlier this year. I am a college English teacher and a father and my time is very limited. This fall semester was particularly tough. I am now starting to play again, but I find myself having to go back and review a lot of lessons. That five minutes a day would’ve helped me maintain music knowledge and muscle memory. It’s New Year’s Eve and a minimum of 10 minutes a day has been added to my list of resolutions.
Thanks again! Well timed. I needed to read this today.


Hope it helps! I’m trying to take the same approach to learning Spanish, just downloaded the Duolingo app and I’m just putting it a few minutes at a time, which is extremely better than nothing. :slight_smile:


Okay, I’m chiming in… Got a new job just over a year ago, have a 16-state territory (travel a lot), learning the new routine, new customers, etc… Then bought a new house 6 months ago (still own previous home, trying to sell, so maintaining two homes while moving in to new one)… I have only recently picked up my bass for 15-20 minutes at a time for the last week, otherwise it’s not seen the light of day for months.

I can relate! I sang bass in a church choir for 25 years and without regular rehearsals and practice (and performance), my singing skills suffered, same with any instrument. I will do my best in 2019 to get back into daily practice, even if only 15-20 minutes. It’s quality of practice, not quantity for anyone doing this part time. Full time musicians need not comment, think I know your answer… :slight_smile:


I’d read somewhere that practicing for 5 minutes each day was better than 1 solid hour once a week. I bought into the philosophy (before starting B2B) and found that most times I started with the intention of getting 5-10 minutes practice but ended up half an hour later having lost track of time.

I’m just not very good at sticking to a routine so have to practice whenever the mood takes me for as long as I stay focussed.

In truth, while I’m doing the course I’ve not been practicing at all - just lesson time. Perhaps that “5 minute rule” should be reapplied.


I’m certainly no expert on this subject, but I do concur that 5 minutes a day can be better than one hour per week. I do practice in small spurts throughout each day, sometimes just a few minutes at a time, but it all adds up to hours of practice.
I read somewhere that if you study and/or practice for five minutes right before you go to bed, your brain will absorb what you just learned as you go to sleep, and will retain it much better. I’ve been doing this, and it seems to be helping me.


I’ve taken to watching the next lesson video on my iPad in bed (sometimes even falling asleep to it) and when I get to the lesson the following day I realise that half of the info has stuck with me. Maybe I should try taking the bass to bed.


Going in to practice just thinking “it’s cool, I’ll just do this for five minutes or so, I have time for that” is like magic with me. My bass mind-tricks me into thinking it will only be five minutes.


I have to agree with this philosophy, and it can apply to pretty much anything. If something is done daily, I’ve read after about 40 days or so, it then becomes a habit. Enough to where it will seem weird to not do it after that time has elapsed. The hardest part is getting that first month or two started. And it has to be something you really want, or some improvement you really want to make to your life.

And definitely, with bass, my few minutes just gets extended naturally :wink: I think taking lessons counts as practice too, so does reading theory books, learning from forums, etc., but the best, of course, is picking up the bass and doing something!


Take it to dinner first.


I have fallen asleep holding a bass. Multiple times…


This is true but try at least 15 minutes per day.

I know a few of the great virtuosi of the violin, cello and piano.

One consistent thing they do is practice in 50 minute hours.

In other words, practice 3 hours and rest 10 minutes out each hour.


I don’t look at my time with any of my instruments as ‘practice’ - I just play them every day for however long I wanna play any of them, and have fun with them. Sometimes it’s playing scales to my drum machine, sometimes its playing songs to a recording, sometimes it’s laying down a track, and sometimes it’s just playing around to learn something new. I just wanna have fun and make music my way…

To me, when the “Fun Factor” is removed from anything I do now a days, it then becomes “Work”… And “Work” is something that was crossed off my ‘bucket list’ several years ago when I retired…:smiley::smiley: I’m just in it to have FUN!!


Infinitely better (5 / 0 = infinity)


My sentiments exactly, @Lanny :slight_smile:

So far, I’ve really been enjoying getting back into playing bass, and I usually practice daily (although I always do something music-related every day). Sometimes I intend to practice for only ~5 minutes, but generally end up getting carried away. lol

When something gets to be a PITA, then it’s no longer fun. :frowning:

I don’t want this to happen with playing bass, so I mix up my practice to keep it interesting and enjoyable, and focus on “fun” rather than a pre-conceived idea of what I “should” be working on.

All best, Joe


That makes two of us @Jazzbass19! Although I love playing my bass, I still practice on my acoustic and electric guitars since I still love making music with all of them. I’ve gotten a little rusty on my banjo though. Maybe I need to drag it out and make some noise!!:grin: My banjo was a hand made gift given to me by one of the vets I served with. A real work of art… And it plays really good!!


Practicing with a purpose is fun. The excitement of achieving a goal, and doing something that you previously thought was beyond your grasp is exhilarating. Finally doing something that you had once seen someone do on a video and thought you could never do, is orgasmic. These are the things that make practicing fun.
Practicing without purpose leads to doldrums, and is the reason so many musical instruments end up in a second hand music store.


It’s a week later and I’m still giggling at that one…:rofl: