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 How Can I Encourage Practicing?

IT’S HOW YOU PRACTICE THAT COUNTS!

Incorrect habits are sometimes more easily developed than correct habits, and a habit is hard to change so THINK when you practice. Avoid simply going through the motions! Remember that the playing of your instrument comes through development of coordination, just like any athlete. Patience is a virtue for the ambitious player.

  1. Warm up correctly.  Concentrate on tone quality and embouchure during the long tone warm ups.
  2. Set a goal for the practice session. Don’t try to do too much in one setting.
  3. Isolate a problem or a section in a piece of music. Repeat it over and over many times just like shooting baskets at a basketball goal. Practice it slowly at first, gradually building up the speed using a metronome.
  4. Repetition of a problem area reinforces muscle and mental memory.
  5. Practice involves learning and reinforcing areas that are difficult. Practice, therefore, is not always fun because you must play music that you have not yet mastered. Try to end each practice session with something that is fun to play and that has already been mastered.
  6. Structure your practice session to get the most benefit out of your time!

EXAMPLE OF A STRUCTURED 30 MINUTE PRACTICE SESSION:

Material practiced                            Time                            Goal

Warm up and daily drill                        10                                 Fundamental Development

New Material and assignments              10                                 Develop new technique

Previous and continuing material           5                                  Improvement of fingers/tone

Personal music choices                           5                                  Fun!

Suggestions for Efficient Practice 

1. Have a Plan - Possibly keep a notebook to track what you want to accomplish, and the steps you need to take to meet your goals. Record the progress you make each day.

2. Practice “Chunks” of Music - Don’t just run through all of your music each day and call it good. Instead, take short sections (1-4 measures) of the hardest parts of the music, or the section you are having trouble with, and practice that small chunk.

3. Use a Metronome/Slow it down - Using a metronome will help keep all of your rhythms even, and will help you get used to playing in time. You can also use a metronome to slow down difficult sections or passages that you are having trouble playing. Play through the tough spot as slowly as you need to in order to get it right. Once you can play it correctly at the slow tempo, then move the metronome up a few notches, and continue to practice the section. Repeat this until you can play the section at tempo, or even faster than the listed tempo.

4. Use a Tuner - Practice with a tuner so you can always check to see if you are playing in tune. You should also know the pitch tendencies for your particular instrument, and any alternate fingerings.

5. Practice makes PERMANENT, not Perfect - If you practice things incorrectly, then you are going to start to learn those mistakes, and it will take longer to undo the bad habits. Once you get a hard section learned, try to play it 5 times without a mistake. This will help commit the section to part of your muscle memory.

6. Move on! - Sometimes it seems like things we practice over and over just aren’t getting any better, and that’s when people tend to get frustrated. If this happens, move on to something else you need to practice, or take a break from practicing for a few minutes. This will give you a mental break from the frustrating section. Come back to the same spot later, and continue to work on it.

7. Simplify - Work on difficult sections by breaking it down to the most basic elements of music.

Practice just the notes of a section one at a time, not in tempo. Work on just the rhythms of a section by clapping or saying the rhythm. Practice the first 2 notes of a section, and then add more notes as they become comfortable. Be creative!

8. Record Yourself - Use a tape player, computer, phone, or anything else you might have to record yourself playing through some of your music. We don’t often listen to ourselves play, and sometimes you can identify problems much easier if you listen to a recording of yourself.