by Kyle Hayes
Practicing is something that a serious music student should be doing daily – this is something we all know. Understanding HOW and WHAT to practice is where many (including myself) run into trouble. Some things that help are to make a schedule to follow, rate the things that you need to work on by what is important, and to make sure you touch everything so that you have a well rounded practice session.
In every practice session, make sure you don’t put so much on your plate that you tire yourself out quickly. Allow yourself to work on something and then take a short break. Following a structured routine will help you do this. For example, do a good warm-up consisting of long tones, lip-slur exercises, and scales, and then take a few minutes to empty out the water from your slides or listen to a recording of some music that you’re working on. After the break, work on your ensemble music. If you have a few measures that you never seem to get correct in rehearsal, work on them till you get them under your fingers. After you are satisfied with your ensemble music, take another short break. Then come back and work on your private lesson homework.
Try to schedule your practice session when you are able to have time with little or no distractions. Set a block amount of time during your day devoted JUST for your horn. Make sure that it is in a place where you won’t be bothered by the toys of modern society, like computers and cell phones. Get away from everything that might distract you.
List the things that you know you need to work on. One thing that I do is keep a weekly planner and write in the different things I will work on each day. One day might be to work on a few phrases in a concerto and the next day a few orchestral excerpts. By keeping your practice structured, you know that everything will be able to get worked on. This is very helpful on day when you know you might not have as much time as you would.
Remember, it’s not HOW MUCH you practice, it’s HOW– you could work on something for hours and it doesn’t get better. Smart practice is good practice.
Kyle Hayes is a music history and performance major at the University of Memphis.