Nottelmann Music St. Louis
Maximize Your Practicing – Part 1:  The 3 Main Areas We Need to Practice

Maximize Your Practicing – Part 1: The 3 Main Areas We Need to Practice

Curated from KHS America’s AcademicAlliance.com – by Donna Schwartz –

Before we get into the 3 main areas, we need to think about what would go into our practice session. (A future article will talk about setting goals.)

What you include in your practice session depends upon a few factors:

  • what playing level you are currently at (Beginner, Intermediate – playing for 3-7 years, Advanced – playing for more than 8 years, and Professional – this is your life)
  • what styles of music you play or want to play – for example, Jazz musicians need to not only build technique, but also build their jazz vocabulary by learning licks (patterns), chord changes and tunes.
  • your specific instrument – for example, Brass players need to spend a lot of time on flexibility and endurance, Woodwind players – finger coordination, so their practice time needs to reflect that
  • your performance schedule – if you perform regularly, you need to think about endurance, mock auditions or run-throughs, stage presence, confidence and adding more and more time as the performance gets closer.

Considering these factors will help you choose the best exercises and pieces to play and work on during your practice sessions.

Here are the three main areas that need to be considered when planning your practice:

  1. Tone – includes quality, embouchure (facial muscle development), breathing, long tones, articulation, posture, etc.
  2. Technique – (Coordination & Flexibility, Endurance, Vocabulary/Transcription) includes fingerings using steady time, coordinating air speed with embouchure control; ability to play the entire range of the instrument; Jazz patterns & tunes, learning chord progressions, transcribing solos
  3. Music – playing pieces or songs while only thinking of the end result (not worrying about technique); sight-reading

For beginner musicians, your practice may include:

  • long tones, lip slurs, interval exercises
  • practicing scales with a metronome
  • playing music (by ear or reading)

(Reading music does NOT have to be included in your practice session. In fact, it shouldn’t. You can make that a separate time, any time of the day because it doesn’t require pulling out your instrument and making sound.)

The key is to hit each of these areas in each practice session.

But your next question may be, “I have so much material to cover, how can I possibly fit it into a half hour?”

Here’s where we get super-focused and apply this next Rule to do just that…

Continue on with Part 2: The Rule of 10’s

About the Author

DONNA SCHWARTZ has been teaching Band, Jazz Band and General Music in public schools for over 14 years, and private Brass and Saxophone lessons for over 27 years. She has performed on saxophones in NY and Los Angeles with artists such as Vicci Martinez from NBC’s The Voice, Richie Cannata from Billy Joel’s band, and Bobby Rondinelli from Blue Oyster Cult, at such notable venues as the House of Blues in Anaheim, The Orpheum Theatre (LA), City National Grove of Anaheim, The Paramount, World Cafe Live, Wolf Den (Mohegan Sun), Riverhead Blues Festival and the Patchogue Theatre. Donna has written articles that have appeared in publications in SBO Magazine (School Band & Orchestra), NafMe (National Association for Music Education), AMP (National Association for Music Parents), and many others.

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