on practice ...
Adapted from various sources.
"At any moment, be prepared to give up what you are for what you can become."
- Maurice Durufle
Why do we practice?
- To be responsible to the music.
- To be responsible to your classmates because the ensemble is only as strong
as its weakest members. Musicians who do not come to rehearsal prepared and
knowing their music lower the level of the whole group.
- To increase your technical playing ability; the speed and accuracy with
which you play pitches and rhythms.
- To solve playing problems presented by the music.
- To improve your concentration, focus, stamina, and endurance.
- To learn something new and for the sheer enjoyment of exploration.
- Practicing your instrument is like making a bank investment, the smarter and
the more you invest, the greater the guaranteed return.
When do we practice?
- It is better to practice more often and for shorter periods of time -
just as it is not effective to cram for an exam. Irregular practice does not
usually lead to any significant progress.
- Preferably at the same time every day to maintain consistency and
be sure to develop a consistent routine.
Where do we practice?
- A quiet room free of noise and distractions. Do not play with the television or radio on
because you need to be able to concentrate and listen closely to your sound.
- Try not to practice with other people in the room because there might be a tendency to want
to "perform" for that person thus inhibiting any real practice and progress.
- Ideally, you'll want to be able to practice in a room that you have setup
specifically for practicing with access to a piano.
What do we need in order to practice?
- A good, firm chair.
- Sufficient lighting.
- A piano, if possible, to check notes.
- A metronome, to check our sense of rhythm and time.
- A tuner, to check our pitch.
- A music stand.
- A pencil.
- Your instrument.
- Your music.
- Perseverance and dedication.
- A positive attitude.
How do we practice?
- If you are sitting, make sure you are sitting "tall", and sitting on the front half of the chair
with the small of your back away from the back of the chair. Make sure that your back is straight
and that shoulders and arms are relaxed. Imagine that a string is attached to the top of your head
and that it is continually making sure that your spine is straight.
- Setup specific goals to be accomplished for the practice session and remember to pace yourself.
- Have a set warm-up routine to begin your session. Balance your warm-up routine by
covering breath support exercises, scales and arpeggios [for everyone], long tones
and lip slurs [for wind instrumentalists], mouthpiece buzzing [for brass players],
and vocalizing [for singers].
- Following your warm-up, isolate the difficult music first. Remember to check your key
and time signatures, tempo and markings. Read through the music or passage on a "dry run."
- Practice everything slowly at first. This will give your brain the opportunity to get acquainted with the
physical actions required to produce the sounds the music requires. Gradually increase the
metronome pulse as you become familiar with the music.
- Use a pencil [NEVER PEN!] to lightly write in fingerings, articulations, breath marks, rhythms,
and accidentals that you think may be troublesome.
- Drill on counting where it might be troublesome by:
• Writing out the counting.
• Counting out loud.
• Counting and clapping the rhythm.
• Playing on a single pitch.
• Playing as written.
- If a particular passage gets frustrating after repeated attempts, don't worry about it!
Move on to something else, and try to tackle it again at a later time.
- If you feel tense, begin by taking long, deep breaths and stretch and limber your muscles.
- Use your tuner to develop a centered sense of pitch.
- Use your metronome to develop a centered sense of time at all tempi.
- At the end of your session, feel free to work ahead, or to play anything you like!
Try to spend some time composing your own tune or playing a tune that you've heard 'by ear'.
- One last thing, remember that practice does not make perfect, but perfect practice does!
A word or two about attitude:
The key to successful progress is a positive attitude towards what you are attempting to accomplish.
There is no substitute for perseverance and self-discipline. There is no "magic formula" for success.
Real performance ability on a musical instrument is about 90% hard work and 10% talent,
with a large dash of interest thrown in.
In the words of famous NFL coach Vince Lombardi:
"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength,
not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will."