I'm Learning That Noodling is not Practicing

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Greg70, Oct 17, 2021.

  1. Greg70

    Greg70 Tele-Holic

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    I haven't been in a band for about 25 years and haven't jammed with anyone in 6 years. I did some home recordings with a drum machine and a multitrack back in my band days and considered myself to be an okay hard rock guitarist. But since that time I've just played by myself in my spare bedroom all this time.

    I've been getting the recording bug lately and dusted off the old Alesis HR-16 and tried playing along. My timing is awful! I can do rhythm parts in time okay but any sort of lead/improvising sounds like garbage. I guess my ears got so used to hearing what I was playing that I never realized how out of sync I had become. I put up a thread here a few months ago about learning a song and a few of you guys mentioned that noodling is not practicing. I can really see it now. I'm going to start having a little more focus when I pick up the guitar now. I've already started using the drum machine as a metronome and making sure I'm tapping my foot so that whatever I'm playing has an actual tempo to it. I'll work up and down scales at different speeds. The way I'm playing right now I couldn't do a home recording if I tried and I'd probably embarrass myself in a band situation. Or I can just stick to building amps LOL
     
  2. Peegoo

    Peegoo Doctor of Teleocity

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    Noodling is a waste of time because the brain and fingers are on automatic pilot. It's not useful, even as a warm-up exercise. Mindless noodling also reinforces bad habits--rather than develop good ones. Practice is work.

    It's also completely unprofessional. Very few things make me crazy, but a musician that noodles onstage is simply wanking away. I know a few guitarists and bass players that will run through every Famous Guitar Riff they know between songs. This isn't Guitar Center. It's a paid gig, ya goober!
     
  3. drewg

    drewg Tele-Holic

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    I’m sure you’re right if you’re talking about becoming a better guitar player. I know I would benefit from more focused practicing, and I have started playing with the metronome after following the thread I think the OP is referring to (great thread!).

    I will defend ‘noodling’ as a process for songwriting, though, and finding the undertones of a song in development. You’ve got to noodle to work out those songs in your head.
     
  4. Peegoo

    Peegoo Doctor of Teleocity

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    Good onya for using a metronome. It will make you a better player, faster, because it helps 'fix' one's timing. I've used one for years and I still use it when working on tough runs. It helps with muscle memory.

    I agree with you on this; you do have to let your mind and fingers wander as part of the creative process. But actual practice (to improve one's skills) needs to be deliberate and repeatable, with a goal in mind, to be of the most benefit.

    There are good ways and bad ways to practice. Sitting and watching TV while noodling is not helpful. Sitting and watching TV while repeatedly playing a difficult riff to increase your speed is very helpful.
     
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  5. archtop_fjk

    archtop_fjk Tele-Holic

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    I use “noodling” to warm up my fingers but for sure it is no substitute for actual practicing.

    For band activities, I spend all my time practicing songs, especially solos and riffs. I find the more I can develop a pre-defined solo part (rather than improvise) I feel much more confident with the song and I can add snippets of improvised licks here and there to make it more interesting.
     
  6. ChicknPickn

    ChicknPickn Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Am I playing the same licks endlessly, making slight changes occasionally so that I can call it “progress”?

    Yes?

    Then I am noodling.
     
  7. Lone_Poor_Boy

    Lone_Poor_Boy Tele-Holic

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    You are correct. I noodle a ton these days, across many guitars and amps. Hell I think I've played 4 guitars and 4 amps in 4 nights while also working on a better harp sound.

    I just have the most fun experiementing any more, rather than regimented practice. But I also know it's not the same as dedicated practice, going through full songs, start to finish. And knowing I am playing a gig in four weeks, I have to set aside noodling for some dedicated practice. Grrrr....
     
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  8. Tele Slacker

    Tele Slacker Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    I’m convinced my metronome can’t keep time.





    ;)
     
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  9. kafka

    kafka Friend of Leo's

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    Noodling is not. If you're practicing licks, how good are you going to get at them? How good do you need to be? How good can that lick possibly be? Whatever it is, it's probably not as good as you think.

    I have a ton of lesson books and songbooks. I mostly work through those - particularly those that focus on harmony. It's just more productive and interesting.

    It doesn't mean that I'm practicing etudes. A lot is about harmonic ear training, which is endless. If you limit yourself to use, say, a few dozen extended chords in various voicings and registers, what do they sound like when you move through them? Building up that second nature just takes lots of time and exposure. You can't be thinking about each finger and string. They just need to know where to go. Then when you have them down, you do it all over again. Some stuff will stand out. Others will fall aside.
     
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  10. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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  11. sax4blues

    sax4blues Poster Extraordinaire

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    I just don’t enjoy noodling. I enjoy working on specific things, songs/chords/phrases/licks/solos/……
     
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  12. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

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    There's noodling, but there's also legitimate improvisation and exploration. They can morph together, but if you find yourself running robotically up and down the fretboard and repeating habits rather than exploring sound, that's noodling.
     
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  13. Axegrinder77

    Axegrinder77 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I'm gonna respectively disagree with this a little.

    Noodling is where I find my creativity and style. I think a balance is probably a reasonable approach.

    Guys that just shred scales and arpeggios are often very non musical players.

    Not that that's what you're suggesting, but you get my idea.
     
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  14. Chiogtr4x

    Chiogtr4x Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    In my middle-aged state,

    except for actively learning the chords/lyrics /guitar part for a new song addition for one of my groups
    I don't spend my home play time working on much new

    It's more:

    - bringing something back to the surface I used to play years ago ( and forgot)
    - working on songs I love to play for kicks at home, but not at gigs

    -or playing blues and bluegrass ( it doesn't matter if on acoustic or electric) as I love the universe of guitar playing that exists within these styles

    So my noodling is a great way to stay in shape, keeping brain, fingers, hands moving
    So I think I've plateaued on my 'guitar craft' years ago, but I know how to do a lot of 'stuff' too to constantly work on
     
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  15. RodeoTex

    RodeoTex Doctor of Teleocity

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    I noodled some this morning.
    There truly is no substitute for real practice.
    IMG_20211017_131445046.jpg
     
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  16. JL_LI

    JL_LI Poster Extraordinaire

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    Even playing by yourself, practice has a goal. Learn scales. Learn inversions up and down the neck. Learn a solo. Noodling works as a warmup but scales work better. Practice and soon enough you’ll notice you’re getting better snd you need to start practicing something you never would have attempted before. Keep noodling and all you’ll do is keep noodling.
     
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  17. 421JAM

    421JAM Tele-Holic

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    Noodling can be problematic, but it certainly isn’t worthless. Lots of times if I’m watching tv and noodling around with guitar I’ll play something without even thinking that sounds pretty good, and then I’ll work on it and turn it into part of a song, or just keep it in my bag of tricks. This happens all the time, and it’s never stuff I would have come up with if I had been trying to make up some music.

    Or I’ll try to learn a song I hear on the tv. This is a pretty good ear training and fingerboard exercise that would not have happened if I had sat down in a quiet room to do some legit practicing. I just learned the Frasier theme song last week, and doing that has added to my jazz vocabulary.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2021
  18. 24 track

    24 track Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

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    when you are learning your options are many
    when you have learned your options are few

    noodling is fun but you tend to lose your edge over a prolonged time, and have to crawl back to a new beginning , hopefully retaining some of what you once learned through hard practice.
     
  19. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Yeah. What really hits home like playing with people. No stops, no restarts, mid song, must be in the pocket and on time.
    Plus, the pressure is on to not look like a klutz!
     
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  20. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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