One of my biggest weaknesses growing up was being organized. I would just wake up, do whatever I wanted to do that day, practice, and then go back to whatever else I still wanted to do. That was the most planning I would ever do with the exception of planning a time to meet a friend. As I have grown older, though, I have found that some structure is needed, especially in the practice room.
As a musician, the bulk of my work is done in the practice room. When I am on the horn, I am at work. This can be a tricky thing for a lot of young musicians who practice in their room and at school because there are numerous distractions and they can always go back to practicing if something else comes up. But, this leads to the stagnation that is often felt by these same young players: “I practiced 3 hours yesterday, but I still can’t play this cleanly,” or something along those lines, is what I hear all the time.
The first step that I encourage everyone I work with to do is to create a practice schedule. This is a calendar (I’m old-school so I have a paper calendar that I keep in my music bag) that shows what time each day you will be practicing. If you practice an hour a day, then mark down when that hour will start and end. This time is set–you have to commit to being on the horn at that time. Treat this like work and verify the excuse for why you won’t be on the horn; the release of the new Call of Duty is not a valid excuse. Once you start committing to being on the horn, then you will start to notice steady improvements. These won’t always be huge, but five clicks on the metronome every day is thirty-five clicks at the end of the week!
Next, I encourage everyone to plan out their practice sessions. I do. I know what I am doing every minute that I am on the horn, especially when I have new rep to learn or an audition coming up. If I plan to work on the solo from Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 from 11-11:30 one morning, then that is what I am doing and that is all the time I am allowed. I do not run over the time that I have allotted because then I take away from time that needs to be spent on something else. Instead, I will make note of what held me up and what I still need to do and work on that the next time that work is on the docket. Planning your practice can be a tedious thing when you first start doing it, but gets quicker each time. Don’t forget to allow time to warm up in your plan, though. Get yourself set each session so that you always start the core of your practice from the same point for optimal results.
This is only an introduction to this concept and I will eventually get up a copy of one of my week’s schedules for practice to help show what I do. By committing to being on the horn and then scheduling what you’ll do while you practice, you’ll soon find that your practice sessions are more effecient, less stressful, and more rewarding. Remember, music is a lifelong persuit so we have to pay attention to all of the small improvements that lead to our goals–no symphony player or soloist got their job after only playing for a week or two.
Posted in Practice