On exercises, practicing, and rehearsing

Hey, don’t worry yourself too much about it. I hope I didn’t sound pedantic! I honestly enjoy terminology and etymology, as well as word origin and history (language doesn’t care much about rules, regulations, or purity, it’s so organic and lively and gives its own history of things) and I appreciate when someone corrects mistakes I make on etymology. I happen to be somewhat proficient in Greek, or at least aspire to be, so I felt like providing some extra info on the word.

It’s actually funny if you think how a late 20th century term like cybernetics, highly connected with technology (which is also a Greek term), originates from a word that old. It baffles me when I think about these things!

Back on topic :slight_smile:

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Really enjoyed reading this thread. I’m rather new to modular (about 6 months in now), but have been playing drums for a long long time. Currently I’m having a hard time balancing all three of these topics in the title. I’m unsure if my issue is discipline or maybe my ambitions are just too high? I already played a live show a month back, so I spent a good amount writing/rehearsing/planning that, trying to put out a record later this summer while also studying modular & experimenting with my new instrument. I’m finding that my creative output exponentially increased quickly, but now has plateaued a bit currently which is probably due to my inexperience with the instrument.

Are there any specific things anyone does here to “study” modular in a more disciplined way, while still keeping some creativity in the mix? I’ve thought of doing some “3 module challenges” to force my brain into trying new patches, but is there anything that you’ve found has worked well?

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I haven’t given it a lot of time lately, but my current practicing with my modular has revolved around exploring outgrowths of a two-oscillator monosynth patch, with the goals of mapping out the sonic territory available there, and to learn to play with a sequencer (Kria, with assistance from Teletype). I kept the exact same patch for months, until recently I had something of a breakthrough with Kria—which caused me to want to go back to the bones of the patch and build some of the superstructure with what I learned in mind.

Actually this process involved a LOT of patience and frustration for me. Playing with sequencers is still fairly foreign to me as someone with a piano background. I guess the main thing I’ve learned in life lately (I’m working on a PhD) is that if I stick with a problem without beating my head against it, I will eventually make progress. So in fact most of my “process” lately in music but also life is about gently holding my nose to the grindstone.

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I think the three module concept is great. The limitations really opens up possibilities and moves you forward. Too many modules can bog you down with all of the possibilities.

Once you’re comfortable set a challenge like recreating specific sound or creating a second part.

Too often I find myself trying to recreate synth sounds I’ve heard. While this isn’t bad I don’t find it as satisfying creatively. Though it can be good for learning.

When you’re out of ideas try reading the manual or swap one module for another.

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As I’ve been using mostly using Kria in my own sequenced explorations, I’d be interested in hearing more about your breakthrough and how it’s affecting your process / practice methods :slightly_smiling_face:

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I posted this in another thread recently, but “patching backwards” can be fun - start with a cable plugged into your output jack and work from there. Any time you want to make a new connection start with the destination jack and then decide where to source voltage from for that jack. Imagine constructing the entire patch diagram from the output and moving upstream, rather than starting from the original CV/signal generators and moving downstream.

Another useful exercise: give yourself a short time limit to build a patch and play with it. Don’t record anything you do! Focus purely on exploration without the pressure of recording/“creating” something good. Tear it down immediately when you are done, to emphasize the ephemeral nature of the exercise. Or hey, if you really love it, then keep working on it! Maybe see what the craziest noisiest thing you can get going in 10 minutes is, play with it for 10 minutes, and then totally deconstruct it and re-initialize everything. Maybe you have a more specific goal: set up a basic rhythm, lead, and atmosphere voices in 10 minutes. Jam with it for 10, and then deconstruct and start over. The general idea is to give yourself small challenges or goals and to work in a manner where you are not necessarily interested in the final output, and giving yourself freedom to explore in a controlled/educational fashion in a non-judgmental way.

Another exercise: pick a module that you normally use in one manner, and try building a patch around it that is totally different to how you normally like to use it. For instance, use your clock divider for generating subharmonics rather than clock divisions. Use your Slew Limiter as an envelope generator rather than for portamento. Use a s+h for sample rate reduction instead of CV sampling. Etc.

This thread has some really good ideas - there are others like it on lines and elsewhere too!

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It’s really a small idea and one that’s actually written in the docs somewhat, but I hadn’t internalized it: phasing and alt notes are really more core to Kria than I was thinking. Even playing with this simple configuration has really taught me a lot:

play Awake on Kria

turn on each step for track 1 in the trigger page, write a simple 8-step melody, doesn’t need to be fancy on the notes page (make sure to set the note page loop length to 8!), and then press the note button again to get to the alt-note page. Set the loop length to 7, but write something relatively spare—two or three notes different from the root is plenty. Now you’ve just written 7 bars of music, with the added benefit of the feeling of musical progression coming from the phasing of the alt-note sequence against the main melody. And then of course there’s plenty to explore from there, but having that as a baseline is very exciting to me.

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@alanza, @voidstar and @soggybag: this is all super helpful! Can’t wait to go home and try out some stuff after work tonight.

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This is fun…

https://www.tips.modularparts.net/book-bad-ideas-v2-pdf/

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reading through the exchange and perspectives was very interesting @soggybag @emenel. It made me remember a feeling during a performance I had yesterday that I hadn’t felt in quite a while. Kind of tangential to the conversation here, but just popped into my mind when reading.

Some context, for the past year or so, I have done maybe 10 or 15 performances focused around the modular, kind of all over the place in the way I’ve set things up (sometimes partially performative with a keyboard-like interface, sometimes generative with control over various parameters, lots of times mixing voices in and out).

I broke out the guitar for yesterday’s performance and there was a moment where I was playing a sort of complicated (to me, probably not really to someone well-practiced hah) melody, and I knew that I needed to move to something else, but I felt like I couldn’t focus on figuring out what that move was (because I would mess up the thing I was currently doing if I took a second to “stop” and try to remember).

I hadn’t felt that same brand of “pressure” in any of my modular performances (though I’ve definitely had to do some troubleshooting while playing). That isn’t to say, it’s not possible to set up a single-voice patch that was very much “performed” (as in the sound stops when you stop), but I’ve never been drawn to build something that doesn’t have a few things going on that I can let take up the space for a second while I gather a “plan”.

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When I talk about modular, either in discussions, presentations or in a casual conversation with other modular users, what I always point out is that the major difference between acoustic and electronic performance is that in the latter, more often than not, you can take a breather.

Being able to take a step back and listen to your performance makes all the difference in the world. And it’s far from an easy task to do. It might sound easy, but it’s not, and as such it takes practice.

I used to let the thing play (either when using a looper, a sequencer, etc) and step down, and listen with the audience for a few seconds. It seemed like a gimmick, a gesture of sorts, but it was mostly to put myself in the right position, that of the audience. This was and is important for me in many different levels (soundwise, performance-wise, psychology-wise). One of my biggest gripes with modular performances (I don’t exclude myself from this) is that they can end up being of more interest for the performer than they are for the audience; I mean, let’s face it, it can be really fun to play with a modular system, it’s one of the best aspects of it as an instrument.

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Thanks for these ideas! I think that finding ways to short circuit judgment is one of the biggest challenges for people of all skill levels. Starting out it’s hard to explore without worrying about sounding “bad” and I think for established musicians it’s a challenge too (since they have an idea of how they “should” sound), even though the most growth can come from exploring without worrying about the result.

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Nahre Sol made a good video describing some of her process practicing challenging piano compositions. It’s nice to see someone with a high pedigree going through the same process as the rest of us. I especially like the part where she listens to a recording of a different person’s performance, gets discouraged then immediately tries to practice as fast as the recording…and fails miserably. I do this a lot, especially after watching youtube videos of world class performers and think something like “I could do that if only I had more time to practice.” Though sometimes it’s about spreading that small amount of time over many days rather than brute forcing all at once.

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extremely helpful insights thank you

I wish this thread to be revived! This theme is attracting me nowadays, I begin to feel it is one of the most important aspects in music.

In the past I deeply resisted to practice, believing only in the free flow. To me practice was attached to the “boring piano teacher” concept: it was the mindless repetition of a scale, or the endless conditioning of the hands and fingers.

This proved to be a shallow preconception on my part.

Upon getting in touch with the ideas in Kenny Werner’s Effortless Mastery I could grasp my misunderstanding a little better. He also believes in a “flow state”, that being the absence of rationalization (and of the mind itself) when playing music. The musician should be launched into a state of radical acceptance, where the body commands the performance and everything else just accepts and appreciates it. That he calls the “space”. Then he realizes this makes practice mandatory!

You see, because in the “space” it is the body that conjures the music, the more important is to have the body itself trained and atoned to it. The practice session becomes the building of the body as an instrument.

You can be in flow state without practice, but then one finds that the body is unable to deliver more than what is already built into it. It is as if the body — as an instrument — wanted to conjure a certain melody, but simply doesn’t have the strings or the frets. It is physically unable to grasp it.

This is flow state thrown into the void.

Something I always felt when a wholehearted performance could never present itself cohesively enough. Flow without practice becomes a song without an instrument. Practice without flow becomes an instrument without a song.


This makes me feel great to be learning a new instrument (the bass guitar) “the proper way”.

I’ve elected pretty much the traditional practice schedule. I learn a technique or a theory, then I apply it to exercises, and repeat those until I’m comfortable. Somedays I get angry at exercises, but the improvements are very audible. Yesterday I had a small jam, and it felt like I should have recorded it, because it was cohesive. To me that is proof enough!

I’m very interested in exploring methods. How do you practice odd tempos, how do you practice critical listening, how do you practice composition? How do you organize yourself, how do you track your progress?

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I’ve been practising acoustic guitar seriously since 2016, I average 3-4 hours a day, five days a week. 75% of that time is a regimented practise regime (although its content is constantly changing and evolving), 25% is playing later in the evening for fun. The practise regime currently covers warm ups, technique, knowledge, repertoire, improvisation and transcribing/ear training, with each of those sections subdivided into individual exercises.

I found as a mental exercise, that setting short term, medium term and long term goals was very effective in keeping motivated. At first my practise was much more technique based, but now it’s more well rounded. I think as a beginner on any acoustic instrument you need to do a certain amount of grunt work for a few years to get the muscle memory down so that you can express yourself and move on a bit. Unfortunately many people give up at that stage.

The last two years I’ve got really into music theory. I always found it boring before, but being able to relate it to practical use on the instrument has been a revelation.

Milestones come often early on, which really helps motivation, but less frequently the more you study/practise past the beginner and into intermediate stages. However there is so much more to learn, and so many more avenues to explore, that I haven’t found it demotivating. My latest big revelation was, after a year of studying theory and modes and applying it to the instrument, being able to solo in any key, in any mode, anywhere on the guitar neck. Something I never thought I’d be able to do, and always wondered how people did it. My improvisation still sounds pretty crap, but at least I can do it without hitting too many wrong notes! :laughing:

I’ve seen massive improvement, but still feel very much a beginner. It’s the journey, not the goal… :wink:

And I totally agree with your idea that to get into “the zone”, you need to practise getting into the zone! Obvious but true.

Not sure what you mean by odd tempos, but I’ll post a vid link below that really opened up metronome practise for me.

Critical listening is easy for me as a mastering engineer cos it’s all I do most days, but the best way on an instrument, I feel, is transcription. Don’t pick things that are too hard/past your ability, but work out the chords, work out the key, work out the strumming pattern/rhythms, work out the vocal melody line, work out the solo, write it down, and apply it to your instrument. Many people learned instruments extremely successfully ONLY by listening and, in essence, “copying” what they heard. This was much more common in the days of vinyl only than it is with a million crappy tabs for every song ever recorded, only a mouse click away…

Composition is usually just happenstance for me, I need to try and practise it more. An idea, usually a chord sequence, seems to come from nowhere, sounds amazing, and leads me to develop a song/track around it.

Organizing is easy, I just have a practise/todo list that I follow every day. Don’t leave certain things on your practise schedule forever, it soon gets boring (although I think some technique exercises can be effectively studied for years). It should be constantly changing, updated and evolving. I try to switch things around/change them up every Monday. Have a goal for an exercise, say a certain BPM, and then after a few weeks or months, when you can do it, rip it out and add a new exercise. As Justin Sandercoe from JustinGuitar says, ‘Practise what you can’t do, not what you can’.

Progress is tracked easily, if you practise regularly, it’s very easy to see what is improving, what needs improving, and also how much you lose if you decide to take a week off, haha.

Don’t forget why you started playing the instrument. It should be something you enjoy, and fun, and even when you need to do grunt work for technique you should be telling yourself why you are doing it. Again, back to effective goal setting.

And for guitar specifically, I want to mention JustinGuitar again. I spent a year doing his Beginner’s Course (all free), and another year on his Intermediate Method (mostly free then, I think the new version is all free with donations), and it was a near perfect way for me to get the basics down by myself, at home.

Victor Wooten - proSession @ KORG - YouTube

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I can’t find it now, but on my Instagram I came across a producer who said he ran “drills.” So, in an hour long session, he would give himself ten minutes to make a trap beat. Then restart from 0 and make another trap beat. etc etc. I’ve never done it, but I think it would transfer fairly well to modular.

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Thanks for the answers!

@Gregg, now that you’re deeper into music theory, do you transcribe music using music notation or tabs? Do you think either one makes a difference on how you’re able to perceive the music later on?

Do you use anything digital to organize yourself, or just a notebook? I’ve been struggling with this because as a beginner there is so much to practice, and often I’m wishing to use a computer screen to organize myself. However for now I’m using a simple notebook to avoid distractions.

Thanks a lot for the insight on your practice, I’d love any other details you might have omitted to be objective too!

Also, @ntrier I’ve never thought about it from the production standpoint, I suppose that might be helpful to learn a particular mindset of getting things done. Thanks!

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Just tabs, on blank tab paper. My note reading/writing has always been pretty bad, I can do it but very slowly.

Yeah just a tab in Notepad++ that is easy to update. Current routine below. Some of the headings lead to other Notepad++ documents, Strumming and Fingerstyle practise, some of the theory stuff etc.

I always practise with the Neumann/Sennheiser DrumMicA Kontakt instrument for drums, so that’s always open too, I have a favourites folder of different styles and time signatures etc. Much nicer than a metronome.

If I think of anything else to add, I will. Thanks for reviving the thread!

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That’s great. I’ve learned programming in 2020 and now I wanted to build a whole app using electron just to organize my practice. The only thing stopping me was the fact that if I pulled the trigger probably I wouldn’t have well… time to practice. Master procrastinator.

Notepad++ should work great, I’ll give it a try and then come back here with my organization method/setup for practice/any insights.

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