You hear it all the time – practice makes perfect. We’ve said it, other people say it, it’s pretty much common knowledge.
But what isn’t common knowledge is exactly how to practice and be productive while you’re doing it!
So today we’re going to take a look at the best way to practice. Musical Doodling.
Let’s pretend you’re trying to be a visual artist. I’m assuming you would start with what you have – maybe a pencil and a sheet of paper. You’ll draw something, either from memory or that is right in front of you. As you progress, you’ll work with larger and larger sheets of paper, more color choices, and even better subject matter.
But the key is that you start by “doodling” – not with a full 10′ x 8′ oil on canvas.
So why is it that we expect to just jump right in with recording music? We should be doodling – musically doodling, that is. Here’s the advantages:
1. Starting small allows you to focus on the details that matter. If you start on an entire track, you’ll probably not realize, gloss over, or just be ignorant to a lot of important material.
2. By starting small, you can get more and more repetitions in the same amount of time, allowing you grow much faster. Countless studies have shown the importance of repetition in practice, and this is a great way to get a ton of reps much faster.
3. You’ll “finish” something you can be proud of, rather than ending up with a great full song and a sub-par recording. And when it’s time to record your first full song, you’ll be ready to make it really great.
So now that you see the advantages, it’s time to look at exactly how to do it.
Musical doodles are broken up into sections. Here’s how I like to categorize them:
Bass and Drums, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals.
So now that you have your categories, you write a simple 1-minute long “doodle” – it can literally be as goofy as Spongebob’s favorite song. We’re not focused on content here – just practicing.
After you’ve written your 1-minute doodle, record only the drums and bass. Make them perfect. Don’t stop until they are perfect. Once they’re perfect, you’ve succeeded with your doodle – congratulations!
Now it’s time to write another doodle – this time you’re going to record just the acoustic guitars. Try some different mics/methods, see what works and what doesn’t. When you’ve got them perfect, you win.
Do this for every set of instruments until you’ve got each of them perfect – you should end up with five doodles of seemingly unfinished material. But you know better – this is just the practice reps!
I can guarantee that, if you use this method and do all five doodles (making each one perfect), you’ll be amazed at how your next real project will turn out. Try it out and be a better producer, engineer, or mixer way faster than you even thought possible!