Being a busy father with a full-time job makes being an active musician a challenge but not impossible. (Having an understanding wife is key here.) Free time is short so it’s important to be efficient and resourceful when practicing.
For me, most weekday mornings (and some weekends) I wake up early before the rest of my family (5:30 AM), make coffee and sit down in the kitchen with my lap steel and a laptop computer. Garageband (we’re Apple dorks) comes native so I use that to record myself for a few simple practice tasks:
- Keeping a goal
Setting up a recording session forces me to consider what it is I’m working toward – a particular song or even something technical like modes and scales.
- Listening to myself
For me this is the most important of the list. Listening to myself on playback is so different than listening to myself live or in the moment. It helps keep me objective. As in, “Wow, I’m surprised how that was sorta sucky. I’ll try it again.”
- Staying in time
I record with a click track to help me listen for the rhythm – a skill super important to playing live. By myself I’m not on beat even if I think I am (revealed by the last point). A click or a metronome is perfect even for running single-note or chordal scales when it’s just me with no other accompaniment.
- Staying on task
Recording every day helps me stay focused on my goal (my first point). With the recording interface in front of me on screen, I stay on task better. I can hear and see what I’m doing. And I’m more efficient with my short amount of practice time. Without it, my mind tends to wander and I’m off practicing something else off schedule. And, I know exactly where I left off last session. I record almost everything even if I’m not saving anything. I just rerecord over the same track until maybe I eventually do have something to save and show others. This preserves a continuity of my thought process even if I’m practicing in short bursts.
I’m sure Garageband isn’t the only or perhaps even the best product for this task but it’s what I have. And I try to be resourceful with what I happen to have.
Image caption: My current project: Executing Mike Neer’s tetrachords in the context of Sweet Georgia Brown with the ultimate goal of improvising solos better. Garageband is pretty simple to use for basic tracking, importing tracks and songs, and amp sounds. Perfect for my daily practice routine.