Five Tips for a Productive Practice Session

This is another repost from Brass Chicks from August 4th. I hope to write more helpful posts like these. Let me know if you like it!

 

Here are my five tips for a productive practice session! And the best part? These are all things you can do away from your instrument 🙂 I have done my fair share of traveling, touring, and various things where getting physical time on the instrument can be difficult. Maybe you are tired from a string of gigs or a summer festival but know you still have material you need to work on. Some of these things you can do instead of a practice session or can take place before and during a session. See what works for YOU! So here we go:

 

1. Take care of your body! This means getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and having coffee or tea if that is what gets you going in the morning. But most importantly: stretching and exercise. There is a reason that many successful people start their day with yoga, other exercise, or meditation. Interested more in the power of a morning routine? Check out these tips collected from hundreds of conversations with top performers by entrepreneur Tim Ferris!

 

2. Make a plan! Most successful performers have practice journals and specified goals to work towards – including concrete steps to get there. This can be super focused like “I want to work on playing loud second trumpet excerpts today” or or a little broader like “I want to continue to improve my lead trumpet playing” or “I want to win an orchestra job” but the most important thing is how you get there. Check out this great website on how to set goals that are SMART!

 

3. Sing or play another instrument! This is a great one for when we are in long car rides or traveling or on a hike or going through a playing injury or any situation where you can’t actually physically play your instrument but still want to get stuff done! We are all so lucky to have our voices with us at all times and we can always sing through pieces, scales, other exercises, or sing along with music. Playing another instrument like piano is great because it brings you closer to that child-like discovery and fascination you first had with music (but more on that later). Practicing on another instrument can even make your primary instrument skills stronger because it builds your greater musicality and will strengthen your ear.

 

4. Listening and mental practicing! Can’t get your hands on another instrument or sing? No worries! Turns out there is actual scientific research that says when we mental practice we are actually activating the same parts of our brain as when we physically practice. Crazy! Check more out here and here. Mental practicing can be great when you are physically tired in the practice room but want to keep working – maybe you can even alternate running through a passage in your head with actually playing it. And listening? There is so much to say about the power of listening for musicians – everything from listening to our heroes and what we want to sound like to listening to pieces we don’t know to learn them. One important thing about listening is that it can be great to expose yourself to music and styles you aren’t familiar. You never know when you could get called for a gig or be in a situation where knowledge of Indian classical music or another ‘not typically studied in standard music school’ style could be helpful!

 

5. Last but not least: Inspiration! What made you excited about your instrument in the first place? What are you looking forward to playing later this year or later in your career? What group would you LOVE to play with? What group do you want to start or solo piece do you want to learn? Hopefully if you are organized with your goals and your planning these are all things you are thinking about daily but keep them in check in the practice room as well! It can be so easy to get bogged down by scales and very specific technical practice that we can lose sight of the child-like wonder we had when we first picked up the instrument. We get to make music and spend lots of time every day trying to do that even better. How exciting!

 

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