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:

1) Fundamentals.

  • 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.
2)  Music
  • 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.
Notice there is no mention of the time you have to spend in a practice room.  That is on purpose.
  • 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.
Okay, get to work.

One comment

  1. Really was off to a bad start this week. I am all ready to get back to work again after reading this. Thanks Joey!

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