Practice Tips

Much of the advice below seems simple, but it can really maximize practice time, reduce frustration, and transition a student from potential to success.

Warm up in every practice session. The warm up is both physical and mental. This is a time to get in the right mind set to practice. Good beginner warm up activities are scales, long tones, and tonguing exercises.

Practice weak areas! One of the biggest problems with students is that they will constantly play the same things: the things they play well! While this assures them praise from others, it does not make them any better. You MUST practice the things you are bad at, then move on once you have achieved mastery.

Move on after mastery. There's a great anecdote(Wynton Marsalis used to put a roll of quarters on the left side of his stand and everytime he would get something right he would move a quarter over to the right. When he had all the quarters on the right he was done. If he messed up, all the quarters went back to the left.) about this. While it's not very helpful for students to keep practicing something once they have it down, they also shouldn't move on before they've mastered it.

Practice every day! Gaps in practice time make us atrophy in skill. For a very beginner 15 minutes a day should be fine. Once they've been at it for a few weeks I'd recommend going to 30. Missing a day here and there is fine, but it can quickly escalate into missing a week. It's better to shorten a day than skip it.

Practice both from the band method book that has been assigned and supplemental materials. Go out and buy a book of easy clarinet or oboe tunes. Pick up a lower level etude book. A good mix of resources will make practicing both more fun and more rewarding!

Listen to the greats. Listen to professional orchestras, bands, and soloists. Youtube is a great resource, as long as you are listening to great players, not Johnny down the street beatboxing on flute. He's really not that good, trust me.

It's not enough to play just the notes written on the page, it has to sound good and be musical too!

Walk away. When you get really frustrated, walk away for 5 minutes and do something else. When you comes back, you're more likely to have quicker or even instant success.

Don't practice mistakes. Mistakes stick once they're repeated, so it's best to fix them right away:

Perfect practice makes permanent!!!