Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mark up your Music for Efficient Practice

Don't you hate it when you spend a significant amount of time on a piece of music but when you come back to it in a day or two you've forgotten how you played it? If you're reading from a sheet of music don't be afraid to mark up the page in a way that is helpful to you.

There are so many decisions to be made as we learn a new tune and lots of interesting things to notice. Once you've spent time working it all out, you really don't want to do it again the next time you practice. But how to remember it all? Develop your own personal method of short-hand ... whatever it takes to help you remember all that stuff, including such things as:

  • preferred hammer patterns
  • valley or bridge crossings
  • duplicate note placement
  • repeated phrases
  • recognizable scale and arpeggio patterns
  • chord progressions and bass lines
  • accented notes and specific phrasing ideas
  • tricky spots
  • personal reminders, such as, "don't rush" or "lighten up on the drone"

You will likely think of other things you'd like to write down. Feel free to add anything. This is for you and for your practice. Don't worry if it's "correct" or that it seems "too simple" to have to write out. There is no such thing. If it makes sense and is helpful to you, do it!

Maybe this seems like a great idea, but you don't want to mess up your music. That's OK. Make a copy or two, then mark away, keeping books and original sheets of music nice and clean. Keep the working copies in a practice folder. Eventually, you won't need to refer to the notes anymore. But if you do, you've got it!

Here's a snippet from a piece of music that I've been working on. Notice the cryptic marks:

Here's what it all means:
  • Preferred hammer pattern  LLRLRLLRLRL ...
  • Where notes will be played on the instrument: /E=right treble bridge; B/=left treble bridge; no mark(or circled)=bass bridge (Note: I'm showing this system two ways: marking actual notes on the staff as well as writing names of the notes with bridge markings below the music.) Some people like to specify the octave in which to find the note ... low, mid, high. Typically, if I'm crossing the bridge or valley in a simple run of notes I just make a slash across the staff at the point at which I'm going to cross.
  • Chord names
  • This bit comes at the end of a sequence. I've circled where the sequence ends to bring my attention to it.
  • This is a phrase that repeats. I've put brackets around it and named it repeating phrase #2.
How many of you routinely mark up your music? Tell us some of your most common markings. 

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