How you should be practicing.September 6, 2011
I know, I know, it’s been 2 months since my last post. Well, it’s been a busy summer. Since my last post, I’ve played 2 weeks with the Indianapolis Symphony, 2 weeks at Birch Creek, one week with the IU Festival Orchestra, a week at Show Choir Camp (yes you read that correctly), celebrated my 15th wedding anniversary, and moved into a new house.
Now that school is back in session it’s time to build a consistent practice schedule. There are really only 2 things to practice every day. They are:
- Spend part of every day working towards your ideal sound, perfectly clear articulations, faster facility, and easier flexibility. This is a never ending quest.
- Be honest with yourself. The question is not “Is it good enough?” The question is “Is it great?”
- When appropriate, use a metronome. Trumpet players, here’s an easy rule: When the Clarke book is open, the metronome is on.
- Challenge yourself. If it sounds great, either make it more challenging or move on to something else. Without exaggerating, I can safely say there are a bazillion different ways you can practice the fundamentals.
- Since you’ve already practiced fundamentals, when it’s time to practice music, your mind can be focused on making musical decisions.
- Play the piece all the way through, without stopping, at a tempo that is feasible. Whether a solo or an etude, the ultimate goal is to perform the piece musically, which means playing it all the way through. Start with a run-through and you will have a good idea of what stands between you and your ideal performance.
- Work on the trouble spots. Again, be honest with yourself. Take the time to practice anything that gave you problems.
- Play the piece all the way through, without stopping, at a tempo that is feasible. Yes, again. In any one day you may not master a piece, but by playing it all the way through twice each time you practice it you will steadily improve.
- Don’t watch the clock when you’re practicing.
- Have a goal every time you walk into a practice room. When you are done, get out.
- Almost always: 4 30-minute sessions will be more productive than 1 2-hour session.