Practice Tips

EXAMPLE OF A STRUCTURED PRACTICE SESSION:

5-10 min.: Warm Up, Instrument specific; Focus on characteristic tone production

10-15 min: New materials, assignments, work to increase range/technical abilities

10-15 min: Previous material, work to increase speed, efficiency, include upcoming passoffs and performance material

5-10 min: Personal choice!

Practice Pointers for Parents: Your child’s success in band will depend a great deal on what is achieved during daily home practice sessions. Learning takes place in school, but proficiency is gained at home. You can use the following guidelines to help your youngster at home.

TIME SCHEDULE: A half hour a day is the minimum amount of practice time recommended for the average student. Practicing at the same time every day is good, but some flexibility should be built into this schedule. Don’t bring the world to a halt at 6:30 pm every evening because it’s practice time – kids need time for fun and relaxation just as adults do. If the situation merits, reschedule the practice session to an earlier or later time. Note: Beginners ONLY need to practice 10-15 minutes per day the first month of school and then gradually build up to 30 minutes per day after that. This is because their facial muscles have not matured enough the first month to handle 30 minutes of a practice routine without forming bad habits.

ENVIRONMENT: Practicing should be done in an area that is free of distractions away from the TV, screens, and family traffic. Good lighting, a straight-backed chair, mirror, metronome, and a music stand are definite assets. Reed players should have several reeds available during the practice session.

ENCOURAGEMENT: Spend some time listening to your student practice. Offer constructive criticisms. You do not need to be a former band member or musician to be able to hear improvement. Encourage them to play assignments and tests for you. Each time the student plays for a friend or relative, it helps them to feel more comfortable with a performance or competitive event.

IS YOUR CHILD PROGRESSING? For the beginning band student, the field of instrumental music is new for your child. He/she is learning to use his facial and finger muscles in a different way and his breathing apparatus for a different purpose. There is a new language of symbols (notes) that require the use of his mind and body to translate this into musical sounds. All of this takes time! Even parents who have had former instrumental experience have probably forgotten the struggle of producing those first few notes and songs.

Parents can evaluate practice sessions by asking:

1. What is your assignment for today?

2. Am I hearing the same daily warm up each day? It is important to play the same daily warm up and drill before beginning the assigned material.

3. Am I hearing music that they can already play, or am I hearing attempts at new material?

4. Is the tone quality becoming more characteristic of the instrument, or is the tone harsh, unmusical, and unpleasant?

5. Does the familiar tune or exercise move along steadily with some sort of fluent rhythm, or is it halting and jerky with no steady rhythm?

6. Check your child’s Goal/Assignment Sheet to see if they are being successful in-class material. Learning how to practice is an important part of playing an instrument!
Practice Pointers for Students: IT’S HOW YOU PRACTICE THAT COUNTS! Incorrect habits are sometimes more easily developed than correct habits, and a habit is hard to change so be mindful when you practice. Avoid simply going through the motions! Remember, the playing of your instrument comes through development of coordination, just like any athlete. Patience is a virtue for the ambitious player.

1. Warm up correctly. Each instrument should have a separate warm up for home practice that differs from the band warm up. Use a mirror and concentrate on tone quality and embouchure during long tone warm ups.

2. Set a goal for the practice session. Don’t try to do too much at one sitting.

3. Isolate a problem or a section in a piece of music. It may be a rhythm, a measure, or a line of music. Repeat it over and over many times – just like shooting baskets in the basketball goal. Practice it slowly at first, and then gradually build up the speed using a metronome. Before you finish the practice session, play the difficult measures with the rest of the line or exercise.

4. Correctly played repetition of a problem area reinforces muscle and mental memory.

5. In difficult technical passages, change the rhythms in the practice session to develop even, accurate, and fluid technique.

6. Practice involves learning and reinforcing areas that are difficult for the student. Practice, therefore, is not always “fun” because you must play music that you have not yet mastered. Try to conclude each practice session with something that is fun to play and that has already been mastered!

7. Structure your practice session to get the most benefit out of your time!
The practice session will vary depending on assignments and time constraints. The more consistent you are with practice time, structure, and climate, the better your results will be. Efficient use of time is important in your busy schedule.