You’ve heard the phrase: ‘Practice makes perfect’ a million times.
And it’s variation: ‘Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.’
I bet you’ve never heard this variation: ‘Noodling makes perfect.”
What is noodling?
Noodling is when your fingers fire off a phrase on your bass. There’s no conscious thought behind it.
You just play something. Often a figure or a phrase that your fingers are comfortable playing.
Or a slap lick. Or something.
Why is noodling bad?
In and of itself noodling is neither good nor bad. It’s just…noodling.
Where the problem occurs is when a bassist decides: ‘Hey I’m going to practice for an hour now.’
And maybe they warm up with a scale or two. Throw in some arpeggios. Maybe some double stops. And then…
You guessed it. Some noodling.
When does noodling occur?
Noodling occurs when the brain has nothing to focus on. There’s no plan, no structure and so after a scale or two the brain throws in something random.
Either a pre-learnt lick. Or a phrase that conforms to pre-learnt patterns. Or some random notes strung together.
In short: A noodle.
How to avoid the dreaded noodle?
Avoiding the dreaded noodle is easy.
Every time you go to practice your bass, pull out your practice schedule (if it’s a tangible, physical thing), or load it on your computer if it’s a spreadsheet (or any other kind of computer document), enter today’s date and write down exactly what you are going to practice.
In exact and precise detail.
Write down each exercise. And how long you are going to practice it for.
Then get your digital timer out, set it running and start on exercise 1.
When you’ve finished exercise 1 make the appropriate notation on your schedule, reset the digital timer and crack on with exercise 2.
Do that until you’ve finished your practice session and you’ll have made good and efficient use of your time.
And you won’t have joined the ranks of bassists who spend 45 minutes noodling every day and claim they practice for an hour.
When you practice you should play through a pre-planned series of exercises and time each exercise.
When you want to goof off just let that your fingers do their own thing and your mind wander…you’ll be noodling in no time! (just don’t kid yourself and say you were practicing).