- Use the help features. There are several built into the app:
- the intro tutorial at Info > Getting Started
- the question-mark-in-a-circle icons give you context-dependent information:
- each red one tells you about the screen you’re on
- each blue one tells you about the item it’s next to
- the FAQ at Info > FAQ/Troubleshooting
- Don’t binge on one exercise. It’s most efficient for you to work on a number of exercises and to practice each a little every day. Perhaps 30 repetitions of each—a bit more for the short ones, fewer for the longer ones. Counterintuitively, the best use of your time is to stop before you spend much time in the enjoyable “flow” state—and work on something else instead. You’ll be able to resume at a quicker tempo the next day.
- Start in fewer than 12 keys when you start work on a new exercise that’s challenging, you may want to begin with just a few keys and add a few more each day. There are several ways to select the keys you want; an easy one is to tap the gray button at the bottom-left of the Practice screen that shows the number of keys. Remember, whenever you pull up an exercise you were working on, Random Roots remembers which keys you were using.
- Take your time. You may want to start in “rubato” mode rather than in tempo. Simply tap “READY” on the practice screen to show the first key, and each time you’re ready for a new key just tap the current key on the screen. If you have a bluetooth foot pedal, you can advance hands-free! Once you’ve “primed the pump” in all twelve keys and made some headway, then practice slowly in tempo by hitting the play button.
- Prioritize your keys. When there’s a key that’s giving you trouble, you can tell Random Roots to show it to you more often. If you see a big F# on the screen and want more F#’s, just hold your finger on the F# for an instant. A panel appears that lets you prioritize F# from -3 (show it very rarely) to +3 (show it lots & lots). Two other ways to do it:
- In the key selection view (tapping the gray button at the bottom left of the practice screen) hold down the F# key.
- Or you can just swipe up (or down) the big F# when it appears in the practice view to bump up (or down) its priority by one.
- Random Roots remembers. When you set which keys to use… or how they are weighted… or what tempo to use… that applies only to that exercise. Random Roots knows you’ll have different issues with different exercises, and remembers them all separately. Life’s too short to be spending as much time practicing things you know as the things that need work! 🙂
- Play favorites. Use the Favorites feature to assemble exercises for a daily routine. In the exercises tab, to make an exercise a favorite, just swipe left over it and press ★. Every day, go to the Favorites tab. If you select Recent order, to practice all your current exercises; each time you play one, it will move to the bottom of the list so you can choose the next one from the top.
- Hear before you play. A crucial part of the process is audiating what you play—that is, hearing it in your head just before you play it. All the exercises are set up so that you can hear the new key before you play anything in that key. Based on the sound of the new key, imagine the sound you’re about to play and make sure it agrees with what comes our of your instrument. That simple act will greatly accelerate your progress toward being able to put the ideas you’re practicing to musical use when you need them!
- Call your shots. Random Roots will dramatically help your improvisation, but it is not designed for you to improvise with. Instead, always have a particular target idea in mind, so that you’ll know whether you’ve executed it successfully.
You can use it to improvise, but Radom Roots is designed to get you to hear specific new things and be able to play them. Forcing yourself to play specific things (voicings, short phrases, etc.) in all keys is the quickest path to filling the gaps in your technique and your ability to quickly play the ideas you hear.
For improvisation, you might want to use a Jamey Aebersold playalong or iRealPro or Band-in-a-Box instead, and loop on small passages you find challenging.
- And stay up to date. If you’re using an old version of the app, you’re probably missing out on important features and improvements. Make sure your app is the current version. You can always update it for free in the App Store.
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