1.      Beginners should practice 15-20 minutes per day on three or four days per week; Advanced players should practice 30-60 minutes, as often as possible (this can include multiple practice sessions on a single day, adding up to several hours when needed).

2.      Warm up. Brass players should buzz, wind players should breathe and practice long tones, strings players should practice open string bowing patterns.

3.      Dive into the basics. Scales, arpeggios, and articulation exercises for wind and strings players. Rudiments or scales for percussion players. Start slowly every day and work up a little speed, always maintaining a clean and accurate sound. Practicing messily doesn’t help anyone!

If this is all you have time for – that’s okay! Playing scales and rudiments every day will help you be a stronger player. Put in the 15-30 minutes it takes to warm up and run through the essentials during the week, and on the weekend aim for longer practice sessions.

4.      Pull out a method book and pick up where you left off. Follow the instructions and play the exercises that go with those instructions. If you finish a page and feel confident, move on to your classroom music.

5.      Pull out a piece of classroom music. Play through it once, not stopping, but paying attention to where things get difficult.

6.      After you’ve played through once, go back and pick one of the difficult parts. Play it more slowly. No, more slowly than that. So slowly that it doesn’t sound like music. Play it over and over again, getting a tiny bit faster each time.

7.      Focus on the things that are difficult for you for most of your practice time. The runs that make your fingers feel all tangled up, the rudiments that always sound sloppy, the note that is just a little outside your range. Practice is the only way these hard things will become easier.

8.      Reward yourself with the “fun parts”. After (yes, AFTER!) you’ve practiced diligently on the difficult or tedious parts of your music, you can pull out your favorite piece and let yourself play it for as long as you like. Not only does this serve as a reward for work well-done, but it helps to increase your endurance while playing. Because you’re having fun, you’re more likely to keep playing past your 20- or 60-minute practice time, strengthening your playing muscles and making you a stronger player overall! Magic!


Post submitted by Gina Denny, from our Laveen campus