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Some tips on making your individual music practice time efficient and productive.

Introduction

Music teachers , directors, and band mates can be very helpful when you are trying to become a better musician, but they cannot make you a better musician. They can only tell you how to improve. In fact, many developing musicians make great strides with no guidance from others, simply by practicing well and often.

Your lesson time is a time for showing your teacher how you are doing at the moment, and getting advice on what to work on next, and how to work on it. You don't really have time to practice or improve during your lesson, only to get the insight into how to improve. Your group rehearsals (band, orchestra, choir) are mainly for learning repertoire and improving the ability of the group to play together. Again, there is no time for you to actually work on improving your skills as a musician. Performances are for letting everyone enjoy the progress you have made. You should enjoy them, too, and not have to be worried about the technical details of the music. None of these times are ideal for actually making progress, so even if you show up for every lesson, rehearsal, and performance, you will have no time to improve! Individual music practice is absolutely necessary if you want to become a better musician. If your opportunities to work with teachers or be in groups is limited, it is even more important to practice well and often.

Music teachers typically give guidelines on how often and how long to practice, as well as what to practice. If you do not have a private teacher or if the guidelines are vague, you will find some useful tips here. Don't be afraid to ask your teacher or director for suggestions or clarifications. If you do not have a private teacher due to money or time constraints, consider getting lessons for a short time (for example over one summer) when you will have plenty of time to practice between lessons. Or you may be able to find a musician who is willing to give you occasional lessons.

It is important not just to practice, but to practice well. You can practice daily and still make very slow progress if you are not practicing well. To make the most progress with the least effort, your individual practice time should include the following.

    The ideal individual practice

  • Set goals
  • Set practice times
  • Warm up
  • Work on it
  • Sight-reading
  • Cool down
  • Evaluate

Set goals

Your practice should have long-term, medium-term, and short-term goals.

What are your long-term goals as a musician? Are there particular pieces of music you'd like to be able to play? A group that you'd like to join or form? Knowing what you want to do will help you decide what you need to work on and help you set your medium- and short-term goals. If you have a private teacher, she will automatically set your goals for you, based on your present strengths and weaknesses. But if being able to improvise jazz or rock solos, or joining the local youth symphony, or being able to play or sing high notes are important personal goals, make sure your teacher knows it! She may be able to give you a warm-up that will help improve and expand your high register or give you practice materials that will help you make the symphony auditions. Also, do not be afraid to ask what your teacher's goals for you are and why. It may help your practice time to know where you are headed.

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Source:  OpenStax, A parent's guide to band. OpenStax CNX. Jun 25, 2007 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10428/1.1
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