Practice Tips and Tricks

Items to have at every practice session

Metronome

Tuner

Cleaning supplies (slide grease, valve oil, clean rags, mouthpiece brush, etc)

Music stand

Pencil

Where to start when practicing

  1. Warm-up: long tones, lip slurs and flexibilities

Recommended text: The Remington Warm-up Studies, ed. Hunsberger (Accura Music)

  1. Technique studies: articulation and tonguing, scales and scale patterns, range building

Recommended texts: Basic Routines, Marsteller (Southern Music Co); 66 Etudes, Slama (Carl Fischer); 60 Selected Studies Book I, Kopprasch (Carl Fischer)

  1. Musicality studies: phrasing, breath control, expression, dynamics

Recommended texts: 40 Progressive Etudes, Hering; Bordogni/Rochut Etudes; Progressive Studies, Tyrell

  1. Music for ensembles and performances
  2. Sight-reading/performance practice

Practice Tips

-Minimize distractions, but don’t condemn them. Turn your phone to silent and set a timer for the length of time you want to practice, but also allow yourself to take in information as it comes to you. Sometimes an interrupted idea sticks in the brain a little longer and provides for better retention. (More information on this in the excellent book How We Learn by Benedict Carey. Here’s a summary.)

-Mix it up. After you’ve warmed up and feel limber, practice your materials in a different order or come at things from another angle. Practice in different locations, at different times of day.

-Take breaks. The brain can focus deeply for about 20 minutes before losing steam. If you find your progress has slowed or stopped, first analyze whether your intention is consistent, and if so, perhaps it is time for a break. Our bodies have subtle ways of letting us know when they have all the information they can process!

-Take things slow or break them down. If something’s giving you trouble, pull it apart and analyze it, or slow it down to a point where you can think about all the elements. Then you can speed it up as it gets easier. You can also try ‘chaining’- start with two or three notes at the speed you want to go and gradually add to your chain (My colleague Jason Sulliman has a great video on this technique).

-Study the theory. Knowing what makes music work helps us process material efficiently and gain a better understanding of what makes it tick. This includes knowing all your major and minor keys in scale patterns, intervals, thirds, and arpeggios, as well as being able to hear and identify chords.

I look forward to hearing what you accomplish! Happy practicing.

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