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Practice Tips

How do I practice?

This was a question that stumped me as a student in junior high & high school, especially without a private teacher. Efficient practice does not mean just playing through materials you go over in band class everyday. Practice includes materials outside of band class that help you become a better player, & with a mix of things that you like to play, can make your practice sessions much more enjoyable. Play things that challenge you, but are not overwhelmingly difficult. And always remember: Practice makes perfect!! And of course, always keep your tuner & metronome at all practice sessions. Here is sample practice schedule I advise to students:

Sample practice session
At the beginner level, you should practice between 20-30 minutes. High school & beyond should be at least 30-45 minutes, and an hour or more if you want to get even more advanced. Try to practice everyday for the same amount of time. If you have a shorter session one day, try to make it up in the next practice session. Also avoid cramming your practice days into one day.

1. Long tones/embouchure exercises - whether it's 5-15 minutes, some is better than none. Always start in the middle & low registers & work your way up.

2. Scales - play through as many as you can, spending the most time on the ones you have most difficulty with ... particularly those sharp # scales many of you are afraid of!! Also play different forms/rhythms of scales & familiarize yourself with as many scale studies as possible, not just the ones your band requires you to learn. As soon as possible, it is very important to play scales on & off with the metronome.

3. Etudes at your level - There are so many different books to choose from, particularly Anderson & Kohler; go to the private lessons page for a list of some specific books. If you are preparing TMEA Region etudes, play through them as much as you can, but work on some other etudes as well to break the monotony, particularly etudes by the same composers of etudes you have to know. This familiarizes yourself with the style of the composer & can help you understand the music better.

4. Sight-reading - This includes etudes, solos, & band/orchestra parts you haven't seen before. It is HIGHLY advised to try to do this EVERY day, even if you have no idea how the piece goes!! It makes reading music in ensembles SO much easier because it sharpens your music reading skills.

5. Solos - too many to list; whether you're working up a solo for solo/ensemble contest or some other type of performance, make sure to play through your solo as much as possible to feel confident enough to play it in public. Also play for your family, friends, peers, & even pets (if they don't mind!)... it will alleviate some performance anxiety. If you don't have to learn a solo, expose yourself to new repertoire for possible future performances. Here is a rather short list of common solo pieces suitable for high school and advanced junior high, particularly ones that I have had students study:

  • JS Bach - Sonatas in C major, Eb Major
  • Handel - Sonatas
  • Telemann - Sonatas
  • Telemann - Fantasies
  • Donjon - Pan
  • Faure - Siciliene
  • Gluck - Minuet & Dance of the Blessed Spirits
  • Mozart - Concerto in G
  • Mozart - Adagio
  • Pessard - Andalouse
    * many more on the solos page

  • 6. Orchestra & band parts/excerpts - I can't express how many times I have been told to have your part prepared for rehearsals. Look over the complete part, and listen to a recording, if possible. Sometimes even simple looking parts can be deceivingly difficult! If you don't have any parts to practice, then it is the perfect time to raid your school orchestra/band library and learn some new parts! But, of course, ask for permission and make copies of the parts for yourself - never take an original. Just play through whatever grabs your attention... whether it's a catchy melody, or something fun & notey that looks like it's straight out of an etude book. And, if you have access to recordings, that makes the learning process that much easier and interesting.