Monday, May 31, 2010

How to Apply Your Music Theory

When learning theory, most programs take a general approach at the beginning. You learn about scales, intervals, chords and so on. Eventually you'll get to point where what you're learning about in the classroom starts to apply to what you're doing on your instrument. When I teach, I try to apply the theory as soon as I can.

One of the things that I ask a student when they first start is what kind of music they listen to and what they want to accomplish on their instrument. You should ask yourself the same questions. Most students start out with the same basic exercises and theory and get into specifics later. Most students just want to learn songs but I encourage them to learn theory along with some improvisation and writing skills.  It helps with their playing, ear training, and takes away some of the mystery away from how music is created.

But Why?

Once you see how songs are created and some of the theory behind them, playing your instrument and learning songs becomes a lot easier. For instance, once you learn about the different forms in music, it becomes easier to a) figure out what you're listening to b) identify where you are in the song, c) memorize the separate parts. Once you learn about some basic chord progressions, it becomes easier a) to play them (since you've gone over them so many times), b) to recognize them (guitar players can usually tell when a D or G chord is being played), and c) easier to improvise or write your own songs (since you know the progressions in advance). Once you learn the theory behind playing solos, it becomes easier to a) learn solos off of CD's, b) extend or improvise on a given solo, and of course c) make up you own solos.

What Are Ya Into?

Beyond just learning theory, you must try and learn things that apply to your genre of music. Learning music isn't hard but it takes time, You want to use that time learning about what applies to your style of music first. After you've been playing a while, you may want to get into different styles. For example, after a while some players get into learning more complicated chords and scales. If you're into country or rock, learning 13th chords won't be of much use to you. Learning these chords are great if you've been playing a while and are starting to get into more complicated stuff. But if you're struggling to get the basic chords together, learning these chords won't be of any use to you at all. The truth of the matter is that there is a world of learning with the basic chords and if you don't know how to use these properly, the more difficult chords aren't going to help.


If you're into country for example and want to learn how to pick like they do, you should spent most of your time on the basic major, minor and pentatonic theory. Also, except for some country swing, most country doesn't go beyond the basic triads (it does use 7ths on occasion). Country music likes to keep things simple; it uses these basic tools in a million of different ways. It's important that you know the basic theory behind the songs but them you have to get used to using those tools in many different ways. For example today's country uses rock scales and licks, major and minor scales, and some old school country & bluegrass idioms and chord progressions. That means not only learning songs, progressions and licks in country, but also some rock, pop and bluegrass. These all belong in today's country to varying degrees.


Rock music has a theory all it's own. It's mostly based upon blues theory (which the jury is still out on!), but also uses major and minor scales and in some cases (alternative, prog-rock) more extended harmonies and scales. Rock has been around a while, there are a lot of different styles so there are a couple of avenues to take here. You may want to start with some basic blues, some classic rock or come older metal. Within each of these you will see the roots of all of today's modern music. A lot of classic rock is based around the riff; a repeated figure that forms the basis of the harmony. Some classic rock uses variations of the 12 bar blues, while others will stick to the basic I IV V.
Just learning what a I IV V is isn't enough. You have to learn all of the various ways it's used. What chord does it start/end with? How many bars of each? What are the rhythms used most often? All music uses the basic I IV V, it's all about application.
Older metal (70's) was also based around blues chord progressions but extended into the minor scale (and model harmony) and chord progressions based around that. Today's rock uses all of these (sometimes within the same song). Modern metal is an example of taking the theories and mashing them together; riffs, modes, esoteric scales and arpeggios.
If you think there is no theory behind modern rock/metal/dance/hip-hop, you're wrong. A soon as music becomes a style, there is a theory behind it. Theory is simply an attempt to explain what's happening and the tools that are typically used. The fact that the musicians don't have a name for a certain scale or chord used is irrelevant.

Pop uses all of the above to varying degrees. Some pop uses rock idioms while some sticks to your basic major/minor harmonies.  Like rock and country, there are many variations on the basic chords. A lot of the theory is used over and over again but you have to learn the basic progressions, rhythms and forms used. Guitarists and pianists will take the same chord progression but play them in different ways. There aren't as many solos but there are a lot of things to learn about putting together parts to make an interesting arrangement. That includes chord embellishments, fills and various accompaniment styles.

So Why Though?

You may be asking yourself that if some of these musicians who are making the music don't know the theory, why should I? In fact, they do know the theory. Jimi Hendrix knew the theory. James Hetfield knows the theory. I know what you're thinking; James has said numerous times that he doesn't know any music theory. But he knows where to go when he plays chords. He knows where to go when he plays a solo. The fact that he doesn't know the name of scale or chord doesn't mean he doesn't know the theory. It was the same for Jimi Hendrix who many thought didn't know any theory. After playing with the Isley Brothers for an extended period, he said that he had every one of those songs and progressions ingrained in his head. If you stick to a certain style and have a discernable sound, there is a theory behind it.

Mimick, Learn, Apply

The fact is that all musicians learn the same way; through mimicking, memorization and application. Jimi had tons of progressions and licks at his fingertips every time he played. This was from practicing and playing these things over a period of years. James Hetfield has a sound in his head. He then searches on his instrument until he hears that sound. If you're a fan of the music, you'll notice a lot of ideas and progression are used often. If your know the theory, you can create within that style with accuracy. The same ideas are used over and over, that's why the music is its own style in the first place. If you take the time to learn the theory, the style will come quicker to you. It'll be easier to hear what's going on, know how to play it, and ultimately write and play it until it's your own.

Call for Entries 2010 - Visual Music Award

"Call for Entries 2010

The avant-garde-artists of the “Absolute Film” movement worked on visionary film experiments. They created visual symphonies from animated images which they composed on film according to their perception as artists. These were called “paintings in time”, ”visual music”, “symphonies of light and sound”, “cinematic paintings”, “color light music” or “space light art”.

Target Groups:

The “Visual Music Award 2010” is again an international call for proposals addressing young talents. Invited for participation are young independent creative artists and designers as well as students for example in the disciplines of new media art, experimental film and music video and allied disciplines.

In the year 2010, for the second time, we invite video jockeys (VJs or DJs) and "live-performance" artists to participate with their formats in the new catagory "visual music live contest"!

Criteria of Evaluation:

The competition entries should show a coherent overall concept accompanied by an holistic multi-sensual and expressive aesthetic based on distinguishable excellent skills in technical possibilities.

Not the application of complex high-end technologies but the artistic value, the originality and the composition will built the focus for evaluation by the jury."
Source of above information from


Saturday, May 22, 2010

onedotzero_adventures in motion - 2010 - call for works

"onedotzero_adventures in motion: festival call for submissions!

a fantastic opportunity to get your work seen by a like-minded, connected and creative international community.

this years festival premieres at the bfi southbank, London 10-14 november 2010 before touring internationally.

deadline for receiving entries is 30th june 2010, 5pm.

onedotzero are seeking innovative short films, installations, interactive work and live audiovisual performances to showcase at the bfi southbank, london, uk, 10-14 november 2010. the five-day festival is the first stop on onedotzero's extensive worldwide network of events.

onedotzero_adventures in motion has been the largest dedicated digital short film festival in the world since 1999. over fourteen years the programme has expanded to embrace a wide range of digital motion arts and is acclaimed by artists, audiences and creative industries alike for providing a platform to explore new ideas and fresh innovation through curated compilation screenings, features, exhibitions, live av performances, club nights, presentations and panel discussions.

submit now! this is your chance to showcase your work on an international platform and it is completely free to enter! "
Source: onedotzero submissions page

Visit: for more information and for submission form

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sara Rossi - Installation "TV effect"

Sara Rossi's beautiful video installation - "TV effect" created in 2008, is being exhibited as part of the "LookAtFestival 2010" consisting of Video Art and Music, to be held in Italy, from 15 to 30 May, 2010.
Sara's video installation caught my eye for the use of three screens and optical effects that remind me of much visual music work.

View video excerpt and still images of "TV effect" on Sara's website

LookAtFestival info:

Sara Rossi website

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Art of Arrangement

One of the things that musicians don't usually think about 'practicing' is arranging. For some writers, it comes as an after-thought when recording a song. The band will write a song, practice it a couple of times, and then head into the studio. There's usually some discussion about what goes where, what to put in, and what to leave out. The parts will be put down, mixed, and that will be it. If there is time or inclination, an alternate mix may be put together.


In fact, arrangement is an exercise and art form of its own. In classical circles, the arranger is usually referred to as the orchestrator. In dance and popular music, it's called remixing. Jazz, big band and in formal band situations, they are referred to as arranger. Whatever they may be called, arrangement is not to be taken lightly. It is another skill that must be developed and cultivated. Some of the best producers have a knack for putting together great arrangements. 'Q' (Quincy Jones) immediately springs to mind.

Decisions, Decisions

How do you go about honing your arrangement skills? Like everything else, practice makes perfect. It's a matter of taking a song, piece or even a simple melody and creating different arrangements. They could be all in the same genre with different instrumentation (think string quartet verses symphony, or standard rock version verses acoustic version), different styles within a genre (pop-ballad verses dance/pop crossover, or punk verses alternative), or different genres altogether. You must decide on what you're going to do from the outset. Are you going to make some orchestrations based on a simple theme or are you going to turn a country song into a dance-floor hit? Arranging in the different styles and genres is an entire book in and of itself. Without getting into genres and specifics, lets look at some general things that you should be thinking about when starting a new arrangement:

1. Have a goal. I know you've heard this one a million times before but it really counts here. If you have a pop song, what are you going to arrange it in to? You must have a clear idea before you start because your goal will dictate a lot of your decisions. If you're going to make that pop song into a dance remix, you're going to make completely different decisions than if you were going to turn it into a ballad.

2. Decide on instrumentation. As soon as you figure out what kind of arrangement you're going to write, you're going to have to make a decision on the instrumentation. You might be thinking that this may be limiting you but in fact it's the opposite. By deciding on a set group of instruments, it makes you more creative in trying to stick with that group. Having too many choices in this area may be more of a deterrent to your creativity than an asset. Also, sticking with a set group of instruments say a basic drums, bass, guitar, makes it easier to stick with the genre that you've decided on from the outset.

3. Decide on tempo, feel. When you decide on what style your new arrangement is going to be, immediately there will be an inherent range of tempos that will suite the arrangement. Keep in mind that when deciding on the genre, it's also implied the feel of the song within that genre. For example, you don't just decide to do a jazz version but a jazz-ballad version. This automatically denotes a range of BPM that would be suitable for your arrangement. The same goes for dance, hip-hop, etc. For example if it was a hip-hop remix, a BPM above 130 would be unusual; the same goes for a dance remix below 100 BPM.

4. Decide on form. This is another decision that would be inherent in the style. For example, if you were doing a dance remix, the build and release of a dance song would be paramount to making your arrangement work. If you were doing a jazz arrangement, you would follow the AABA form and add a chorus for a solo. If it was a pop song, you would stick to the general forms using verse, chorus and bridge. There are tons written about form in the various genres. Classical music for example has tons of various forms that are essential to learn when composing for orchestra. While there are many variations of forms and many ways form can be manipulated, it's essential to know what you're doing and the reason why.

Let's take a look at the areas that you have to consider when working on your arrangement:

This one may seem obvious but there's always a lot of decisions that must be made here and they shouldn't be taken too lightly. The basic rhythms for each genre each have a set of rules and standards. Are the rhythms in strict time (like techno and club), a little more loose (like some alternative and folk), or more rubato (like classical and traditional folk music)? Some genres swing, some don't; the answer isn't always obvious. You might assume that swing is a jazz rhythm but it's used in other genres to varying effect. Blues also swings; as does rock, latin, pop and various forms of dance music. They all use it in different amounts and the application is different. Then there are the 16th note shuffle used in hip-hop and dance. There are different drum patterns and specific drum sounds for each genre. There are also different ways to phrase your melody based on the genre. Some genres play the melody straight where as others tend to make the melody more syncopated.  The instrumentation in the rhythm section would be another deciding factor. Is it a basic drum kit, Latin percussion, or an 808?


Learning forms in music is another area where you would want to sit down and take some notes. You may already know the forms of some popular music that you are familiar with, but you shouldn't stop there. When listening to other styles of music, take note of the form. How many sections are there? How long is each section? What's the typical order of the different sections? What's the general feel of the different sections? If you're unfamiliar with a genre of music, it may be hard to tell where some sections end and others start (as in some classical forms). Every genre of music has forms that it uses over and over again. If you're new to writing in a certain style, start with one of these forms and go from there.


What is the general harmony used in that particular style? Is it your basic triads as in pop, country and dance? Is the harmony a bit more involved like some house, alternative, metal, and latin? Or is the harmony a huge factor as in jazz and classical music? Are there progressions and harmonies that used more than others? If there are, memorize and get to know those first. Even beyond the basic harmony, there are idiosyncrasies that are prevalent to each style. An RnB keyboard player would play different voicings than a traditional jazz player. Are you going to change the harmony? Make it more complicated? Simpler? Change the tonality (major, minor, modal)? There are dos and don'ts to each genre. As soon as you change the harmony for a song or piece, you may unwittingly move it into another genre. If you change the harmony enough, it may become a jazz tune instead of a pop song.

A New Skill Set

As you can see within each of these decisions is a skill set of its own. Each must be taken into consideration when putting together an arrangement. There are general rules for each genre and style of arrangement that you write. These rules are never written in stone, but it's good to know them. It helps keep your arrangement genuine to the genre. As you get better at remixing and re-arranging, you may find yourself breaking a lot of the rules.  There are tons of books out there about arranging and remixing in various genres. There also tons of books on how to play the various styles on their perspective instruments. These are all useful when writing and arranging parts particular to the style. Pick up what you can, absorb and start writing.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

NGB - video for Jinesis music track "candy"

The new video for Jinesis's music track candy is available to watch on vimeo. The video is a tight audio visual piece, which focuses on abstract visuals to work with the music.  The video was produced by NGB. The music is by Jinesis and the style is experimental soul.  It is wonderful to see a visual music approach been taken to the video for the music track.  Using processing in conjunction with quartz composer and after effects,  "Candy" explores visuals sonically exuding the 'feeling' of music in a 'synthesized synesthesia'.

More information on the video

"The Video for Jinesis's slinky audio escapade "Candy" was designed to take geometric lines and patterns and interpret the five senses we feel when in love into just 2: audio and visual. Open to the viewers interpretation, the video's Kaleidoscopic effect is intended to unravel the premeditated ideas of set borders when we think of love."


View Video

Jinesis "Candy" (HD) (720p) from Jinesis on Vimeo.

More information on NGB

"NGB is a visualist, interactive designer, and animator living in ROC, NY. A purveyor of raumlichtmusik. His work focuses on a melding of the senses to create a 'synthesized synesthesia'. He has collaborated with international DJs/MCs, bands, composers, and dancers to create a dynamic and engrossing multi-sensual experience."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Learning (and Using) Your Scales

It's all part of the program. You learn some new tunes, maybe some chords and some fingering exercises. Then, at one point you start to learn scales. But these scales seem to have nothing to do with the songs you're learning. They seem to be some extra-curricular activity that has nothing to do with actually making music. What the hell is the point? I mean sure, it's been explained to you that scales are the building blocks of popular music but since when has that meant anything. How many of you out there have taken the time to learn new scales only to practice them once in a while and then forget about them? What's the use anyway?

What Do I Do With This Thing?

The problem we usually have with scales is that the scale is learned but then there is no explanation of how to use it. Most musicians go through their scales once in a while and then forget about them and get to practicing 'real songs'. The fact is that as soon as you learn a new scale, it should be explained how to use that scale. There are many things to learn about how to use scales and how to make beautiful music, but it's not rocket science. It's an ongoing skill that must be developed. As soon as you learn a new scale, you should be making music using it immediately.

So What Now?

Say you've learned the A minor pentatonic scale. So what now? First off, make sure you've got the fingering under control. Second, pick a song in that key and start messing around with the scale. Start in the middle somewhere and just mess around. Yes, there's a lot more to it than that, but we don't care. We're going to start using it right now. Try repeating notes, jumping from a low note to a high note. Try repeating the same couple of notes in a row. Try different rhythms. Try playing a couple of notes, then repeat the same notes with a slight variation. That's it; you're making music with your newly learned scale. Sure it may not turn out to be greatest piece you've ever done but that's not the point. You're learning a new language and you're starting to use the language.

The Language Analogy

As you know, music is like it's own language. Like a language there are grammar and structure rules to learn. These don't always apply to all situations, they are mostly guidelines. Like a language, you must learn the structure of the language while memorizing common phrases and idiosyncrasies. That's what you're doing when you learn your scales, you're learning about the basic structure under the language. It's still up to you to use that structure to express yourself. This occurs when after getting familiar with the language; you become better at expressing yourself. You start using the correct grammar and complete thoughts, instead of rehashing common phrases.

Merry Melodies

The best way to start using scales is to try and create music and melodies right from the start. Continuing with our language analogy, music acts a lot like our speech. When we talk, we speak in phrases. We make a statement, stop, breathe, make another related statement, stop, and repeat. At the most basic level, music phrasing is the exact same thing. Have you ever heard somebody rambling on, over and over, with no stops in between? Annoying isn't it? Same for music. Try playing a couple of notes from your scale, one phrase at a time. Pick a couple of notes and play. Now, instead of just rambling on, stop, breathe, and then continue on with your next statement. Try and have the next statement relate to the first phrase that you played. What this means exactly is completely up to you. Everybody expresses themselves differently. As long as you have this in mind when you're playing, it'll start to come across in your playing.If you can, record yourself. You may be surprised and hear some hidden gems in there.

Don't Forget The Beat

Always try and have one ear on the rhythm. Play a couple of notes but try and make them fit into the rhythm of the song. Most songs are built from 8th notes. Try building your phrases using these to start. If you don't know what the basic beat of the song you are playing is, tap your foot. These will typically be quarter notes. Try a medium tempo. Try quarters to start if you're not sure about using 8ths. The rhythm is very important. Varying the rhythm on the same couple of notes has a huge effect on the outcome of the phrase.

Start Exploring Now

You will learn as you go that there are a lot of things to learn when creating melodies and phrases. It's an ongoing journey. As you explore, it'll become easier and easier to make statements that are pleasing and musical. Most of all, they will be your phrases, your personality. Along the way, you'll learn other solos, phrases and melodies. These, like phrases in our language, will become part of your musical vocabulary. But, if you've practiced your scales properly, it'll be easy to incorporate them into your own style. Try to create music from the very start; what will come out, will be uniquely you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Chiaki Watanabe - New Live Visual Music Performances - Europe

Chiaki Watanabe is performing new live audio visual performances and installations in May, June 2010 at several visual music and audio visual events in Copenhagan, Denmark and Karlsruhe and Berlin, Germany.

"Chiaki Watanabe is a visual artist/designer based in Copenhagen, and New York. She creates abstract visual music works in various forms: video, live video performance and installation. Her work explores cross-sensory experience in a minimalist framework by integrating sound and visual imagery. Known for “hardcore-abstract” visuals. Her interest lies in visual phenomena within music and music within visual phenomena – visual music in physical space - psychophysical effects of visual music - how visual music stimulates the senses."(US/JP/DK)
Bio at:

See also:

Visit vimeo page:
Live visuals at dansehallerne, copenhagen DK 09

Live visuals at dansehallerne, copenhagen DK 09 from CHIAKI WATANABE on Vimeo.

Visual Music Events

Dansehallerne in Copenhagen
May.11. 10, 21:00

A new live audiovisual performance/composition with Jørgen Teller
(guitar/synth) and Jakob Riis(laptop)
at Lille Carl, Dansescenen, Pasteursvej 20, København V Denmark.
Supported by Copenhagen music and art council in corporation with SKRÆP.

CAMP 2010 : Visual Music festival at ZKM in Germany
May.25 - 30, 2010
Live audiovisual performance & installation on May.28 & 29, at 22:00
at ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe Germany

Salon Bruit
in Berlin
June 4. 2010 at 23:00

A new live audiovisual performance with Denitsa Mineva(violin, objects)
at Kastanienallee 77, Berlin Germany.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Managing Your Daily Practice

Every musician knows how important it is to practice. It's drilled into our brain from the first time we pick up the instrument. For good reason; we all know that the path to mastery is consistent, focused practice. Problems arise when you want to practice but somehow it just doesn't get done. Or, you may be putting in the hours, but not getting any results. In effect either you aren't practicing as much as you like, or you aren't practicing properly.

The What and How

We are all told how important it is to practice but nobody ever goes into the 'what and how'. It's important to keep on track of what we want to do and what we are actually achieving. Make notes on what what you want to achieve but also what you've done. It's important to make daily notes so that when you sit down to practice, you don't have to sit and think about what to work on. You can continue from what were working on last session. This helps maintain your focus and may do more for your progress than anything else. 

Ready, Set...

I try to have everything ready to go as soon as I sit down. Don't put your instrument away if you don't have to. Have a corner of your space just dedicated to your practice. Have all of the materials out on your music stand ready to go. Have all materials that you may need right there ready to use: your metronome (or drum machine), your computer (if you use it), extra parts, all reference materials and your practice schedule.

The List

I'm going to summarize with a list of things that you should be doing everyday. These exercises should only take a small amount of time. That way, even on your busiest day, there is the chance that you will still get in some quality practice time. I've listed the name of the exercise and the amount of time allotted to that particular exercise.
  1. The warm-up (about 1 minute): warm ups are an extremely important part of your practice sessions but very few people do them consistently. Most vocalists know how important it is to warm up but instrumentalists are bad for not doing these. Warm ups should be simple. They should be something that is relatively easy to do (i.e. not complicated, too fast or involving really hard technique). They should be done slowly and deliberately. For example, if you're an instrumentalist, try exercises that include all of the fingers. Start at a point that is easy to execute and then gradually go higher or harder. It's all about warming up your fingers (or vocals) and getting focused. Like the beginning of a yoga session; you're trying to get into the right frame of mind. It's about shutting everything else down, forgetting about all of the days' problems and focusing on the music.
  2. Technique (5 minutes): this would include any technical exercises written specifically for your instrument. This would include picking. bowing, tonguing and fingering exercises. It may also include working on your intervals (3rds, octaves), arpeggios, and awkward leaps. It may also include such things as articulations, dynamics and rhythms.
  3. Chords (5 minutes): these are exercises that would include adding more chords to your repertoire or learning to use the ones you know more effectively. That means learning the new chord, different fingerings (or inversions) and and the theory behind it (it's function and uses). It would also include chord progressions. Learning chord progressions used in various musical styles but also how to play the chords in that style. An integral part of learning chords is learning to comp. This means different things in different styles. These exercises should be part of every players practice regimen, not just rhythm section players.
  4. Scales (5 minutes): everybody know how important it is to learn your scales. It's important that you don't just 'go through the motions'; don't spend all of your time just going up and down through your scales. Learn how to use them. Go through different patterns and doing ear training to learn them inside and out. Learning how to effectively use a couple of scales (and chords) is much more important than learning a ton of scales (and chords) and not knowing what to do with them.
  5. Improv/writing (10 minutes): I usually put improvisation and writing together when it comes to short practice sessions. I'll work on whatever is the most important at the time. This is what I call the application of theory. I use the chords, scales, licks, cliches or whatever I've learned that week and put it into actual practice. It's good to try ideas in a variety of keys, tempos, and styles. It easy to get carried away with this portion. If you're short on time, make sure  you go over the relevant material and not spend half an hour 'jamming'...which is wonderful when you have the extra time!
  6. Song/repertoire (10 minutes): this is learning new songs/material and reviewing your song list. Too many musicians learn tunes but don't review them on a regular basis. Reviewing songs regularly gets them into your fingers and helps in improvising and writing because the changes and parts are pretty much ingrained into your psyche. By organizing the way you learn songs and memorize them (we'll go over this in a future post), your repertoire can grow in no time at all. If you're a jazz or session musician, having a huge repertoire is paramount.
If you only have time for a short session, then these are good guidelines to get it all done in about half an hour. If you have more time, you can spend more time on the individual exercises. If you're learning a new tune for example, you may want to spend a whole session just going through the chord changes. Then you can use the next session going through the melody or bass line.

Pace Yourself

It's better to not spend too much time on one exercise or one practice session. There is a point of diminishing returns when you've repeatedly gone over the same material. It's better to spend less time and be completely focused. If you have extra time, try breaking up your practice schedule into smaller sessions*. This gives your brain some time to assimilate all of the information that you've thrown at it.  

*There are exceptions to being getting ready for a show. To prepare you want to go through the entire set in one session to make sure that everything flows.

Just Do It

Try to get it into your brain that your practice sessions don't have to be a long drawn out affair. It's great when you have the time to sit down and get right into it but don't put off practicing just because you don't have a spare hour. If you have a spare 15 or 20, that may be enough to get in a great practice. Remember to have the list in front of you and go through all of the exercises. Don't spend too much time on any one exercise. Sure it's more fun to get right into each exercise but you may not always have that time. This way you can still get something done. It takes away an excuse and allows you to keep motivated and on course without stressing about losing days. It makes it easier to remember what you've done, what  you're supposed to work on, and what needs work. Most of all, you'll see better results because you are practicing more often, you're working on essential skills everyday, and you're staying focused.

Master your instrument, master the music, and then forget all that crap and just play. - Charlie Parker