On exercises, practicing, and rehearsing



@jasonw22 yes, those OP-1’s look really cool! and they sound really powerful…
in checking the fourms, it’s clear that you are very helpful to many, many people in the monome community. thank you, you inspire me to share my perspective.
I like the idea that practice can be the same as doing/making something that you can use in your art/music.
I’ve found this app Beatmaker2 (http://intua.net/) to be practical on an iphone or ipad. I’ve made beats with it while in the crowd, and then 'played them back (while holding a plastic cup to the iphone speaker) while 'on stage/ and also made sequences on it, that were put into Ableton (for the vocals) and made it to Vimeo…
it seems to me, that gear comes and goes in every 'studio, at every level/ in my humble opinion, if you can use what you get/got to make something you’re proud of, then I think we can say it was worth it…
peace from california, -evan


I’ll give Beatmaker another try.

Train music: music made on trains, music training…


In my usual “catching up” with all the threads that I missed before I discovered lines, I came across this one and was disappointed that there wasn’t more to read… @jasonw22 how has practicing been for you since this thread?

I love talking about practicing music, because for me at least, that also implies “practicing creativity”. I have always been interested in the classically or theoretically trained musicians who say “I wish I never learned theory” because while it’s a valuable tool and a powerful language, it hinders the creative mind to stumble freely and discover new, more unconventional things.

I personally have an extremely limited formal education on music. Can’t read music, can’t quickly recall all the notes in an Eminor scale, etc… But I feel like over the years I have found my voice as songwriter, and now I feel like I’m finding my voice as a synthesist. So practicing for me has become divided into two (sometimes three) totally different activities. The first kind of practicing is just “noodling”, be it on guitar or at the modular. Songwriting or just finding new weird sounds that I’ve never made before. All of this is practice, even if it feels aimless, because the next time I sit down to make something, I’m that much closer to growth.

The second type of practicing is the more technical and theoretical kind. I’m going to play scales on my guitar for an hour or jam along with a record and try to find the chords; I’m going to patch Cold Mac for 3 hours and then incorporate it into a patch. I find it the most productive not to force this kind of practicing to take priority over the former, especially if you have limited time. For me at least, I know when I start to get that “I don’t know enough about what I’m doing” feeling, I need to do some more traditional practicing. In a perfect world we would spend half the day practicing theory and techniques and the rest of the day making compositions. Or maybe the other way around.

The (third) type of practicing would be more of what jasonw22 was talking about while being on the train. When you don’t really have the tools in front of you, just thinking about the thing you want to be practicing, giving it more brain time, cycling through different ideas in your head about how to do something new, what you want to learn more of, how you can apply what you already know to what you haven’t already done, etc… Mental organization as a form of practice away from the thing your practicing?

Ok long unearthing reply done now… I just had to chime in on this one :slight_smile:


I do think about this stuff, though I have different practical applications of the ideas these days/years.

I grew up as an instrumentalist, putting 10k hours on both piano/guitar, and creeping up to that on drums/percussion. So in a previous (previous (previous)) life, I would spend hours a day working on the specific (generally technical) requirements of a given instruments. So running through scales/arpeggios on piano, then sight reading, repertoire, improv, etc… I would have whole routines worked out, and would just hack away at it, day in day out. At the time, unfortunately, I didn’t build in too much ‘exploratory’ time, though that would find its way in here and there. I do think this is incredibly important, in that vanilla ‘rote’ practice, does very little for you. If you’re not mentally engaged, it’s not as efficient as it would be otherwise. So 1h of more engaged (mentally) practice > 3h rote “doing stuff”.

At some point I made a conscious decision (a more accurate representation would be that an unconscious decision happened to me) that I was no longer a pianist. For a long time I still thought about music through the lens of being an instrumentalist. That was (and is) no longer the case. The music that I make, and want to make, doesn’t jibe well with those 88 buttons, or 24 frets (or 128 values).

So what it is to music these days is very different for me. I still do woodshed work, although not it is typically on practice pad (and drumset before I moved), as I feel(/know) that my hands aren’t where my brain is, with regards to physical technique on drums/percussion. So I do vanilla-ass work there, to improve my “chops”. Besides that, I spend a ton of time on my laptop, programming, and thinking about ideas for videos/things/pieces/instruments/etc… I spend a lot of time talking to @Angela about creative stuff, and planning future instruments (getting excited about finally getting into modular etc…). I view this stuff as practice, but even that sells the term short. I view that stuff AS art, as living through it. It’s not the preparation for it.

On a more improv note, I have spend periods of my life drilling things, like improvising, recording, listening, adjusting, and doing it all again. I did that mainly when coming up with a series of pieces for snare+feedback.

Although this is not something I do, I imagine that just ‘practicing’ modular stuff, or rather, working through conceptual models of exploration and routing, is invaluable, and worth doing, methodically or otherwise.


Much easier lately! I changed teams at work, which reduced my commute from 2 hours to 30 minutes. Turns out there are only so many hours in the day, whodathunkit?

And practicing on the modular is now something I think I have some understanding of.

It’s really just like practicing any musical instrument. It just didn’t seem that way at first due to the chance operations, nonlinear feedback, and complex ergonomics, which all contribute to a feeling of non-repeatability. This makes it seem like you can’t do what you would normally do while practicing a musical instrument, which is to choose a piece of music and go over and over a difficult part until you get it right. How do you do this if it sounds different every time you patch? I think I found my answer. I’m finding that timbre (akin to embouchure on a wind instrument, intonation on a string instrument…) is really pretty repeatable stuff. I don’t really have trouble dialing in sounds the way I want them to sound (just took practice!) And with regard to the chance operations, I was assisted by experience playing In C. I realized I really appreciate the experience of chance at a macro-level in a composition, whereas smaller cells are carefully composed and practiced and performed in a more or less typical manner. The cells are practiced to perfection. I think of them as atoms. The molecules can take advantage of chance to make every performance unique.

When I was getting started with modular, it all seemed so chaotic, I was having difficulty understanding how anything could be practiced in the sense of having goals and achieving them. It was even hard for me to discern goals of any kind at first. That’s all behind me now, and I am finding it possible to do all three types of practicing that @stripes mentions.

I still could use to spend more time on it all, but at least I have a method now, when I do get around to it.


I haven’t read through this whole thread yet, but that’s a really great description of how practicing modular should work, I think. I’m very new to modular, and so far my practicing is mainly, “I’m going to use all of these things,” but there’s a distinct difference between using all of the things and using them well. Practicing the elements and combining them in different ways sounds like a really good way to get a handle on things, such that I won’t feel ‘stuck’ trying to carefully re-arrange a certain element.



Lately I’ve had some different practices on my to do list, and I find it helpful to prioritize and order them accordingly. I have a solo show of playing a set from my songwriting project this evening, a new teletype, a couple of potential future modular performances, and an impending scramble to get everything together for a 5 week tour in september.

My practicing days have been first practicing my acoustic set all the way through once or twice since that has been the most immediate need, then sitting down and doing housekeeping things for the long florist tour, then when I have a bit less anxiety about all that I go to my modular and I start studying which leads (usually) to patching. But I think even if your life isn’t like mine and you don’t have all the other things to practice for, making a list and following it top to bottom seems like a productive way to feel like you’re actively practicing and that feels pretty good!

I’m wondering if anyone could recommend some desk-side theory books that are not too dense but would be a good tool to keep near the music area to read through and reference when wanting a refresh on something. I have the Allen Strange textbook and often read that for pleasure but also if I am unsure of some synthesis thing. I would love to have the same for scales and modes and things.


Beyond Slonimsky is my favorite at the moment. Takes Slonimsky and puts it in a tonal context and focuses on guitar. I find it’s also quite handy for earthsea given the guitar like fourths layout.


Some of the other theory and practice books on my desk (many of which I discovered thanks to this forum!)

A Geometry of Music
The Jazz Piano Book, Levine
Thesaurus of Scales and Patterns, Slonimsky
Repository of Scales and Patterns, Lateef


I’d like to do a bit of ear training while I drive to work. I’m interested in getting better at identifying intervals and chords, so relative rather than perfect pitch.

Anyone have any recommendations for podcasts, recordings, soundcloud links etc. that I could listen to hands-free and train up my ears some?


I use an ipad app that i wrote in PD and that runs on mobmuplat. it gives me visual pitch tracking and I use it for vocal training since years. It helped me go from near tone-deafness to becoming a pretty confident performer.

But since you need your eyes it’s not really ideal for driving. I admit that I have used it while driving but I am not proud of it and I wouldn’t recommend doing it. :slight_smile:


Any chance you’d be interested to share the patch? This seems like something I’d be keen to try out :slight_smile:


An op-z or op-1 (depending on your interests) would be ideal for your commute. I keep my op-z in my bag for whenever I catch a break (not often) during the day.


Sure, here’s a link:

There’s three files. One is the regular PD desktop patch. The two other that have iOS in the name must both be dropped into the Mobmuplat app over iTunes. One is the PD patch, the other one is the graphical interface for it.
I have to say I haven’t updated my PD in forever and I don’t even know if Mobmuplat is still developed and supported, but it works great on my old iPad.
You can set the range to a degree, but I can’t promise how well it works for female singers with a really big range. It can be edited though.