Improve your practice efficiency
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THESE PRACTICE TIPS ARE DESIGNED TO MAKE YOUR PRACTICE TIME MORE EFFICIENT AND PRODUCTIVE.
#1 Develop some sort of a routine. Some kind of a model that you can go to every time. Here's an example of my personal typical practice session: Warm up followed by fundamentals - usually something I'm not satisfied with about my playing. I'll usually follow that with some Etudes of contrasting styles. Then, I'll play some Repertoire (usually depends on what I'm preparing for - if nothing to prepare for, I'll pick something out I haven't played in a while to keep things fresh). Obviously my sessions will vary, but this model generally stays the same. Simple, but it works and keeps me honest and efficient. You cover all your bases.
#2 Break it up. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Try and break up your practice sessions, 45 min. sessions is good for me. That way I'm pretty fresh when I'm playing. If you're smashing the horn against your face in hour 3 of a continuous practice session and you're struggling to get blood flow to your face, you're not being very productive
#3 Use a metronome, always! All musicians are guilty of not using a metronome enough, including myself. And all musicians can generally attribute their bad timing to their lack of metronomic practicing. Keep yourself honest. You'll develop much better time discipline.
#4 Always listen to yourself. Get into the habit of recording yourself. YOU are your worst critic. A teacher can tell you what you sound like in every lesson, but when you hear it for yourself, it becomes personal. You'd be surprised at how quickly you fix things after recording and listening back in real time.
#5 Practice in different environments. Some people say practice only in bad sounding practice rooms. Some say the opposite. I think you should mix it up often. Practice in different sounding rooms to keep yourself honest. If you only practice in bad sounding places, you'll never have a fully accurate account of what you sound like. Likewise, if you only practice in large, recital halls, you'll be fooled into thinking you sound amazing all the time. The hall can cover up discrepancies in sounds, attacks, etc. Not to mention, as a musician, you should get used to playing in different places so you can learn to adapt quicker to each performance space.
#6 Don't practice the same stuff over and over again. Especially if it's something you know you can nail every time. Sure, there are etudes and exercises that remain timeless in my practice regimen but they're there because they contain elements that never get old and always provide the needed reps of whatever it is I'm trying to improve in my playing. They become my "go to" etudes and exercises for when I have trouble with anything.
#7 Get mad when you sound bad and don't accept bad sounds. Becoming complacent with the way you sound is the worst thing you can do. I'm just as guilty of it. If there's something you don't like about your sound, fix it. Get mad until you do. If there's something that you can't do on the horn, figure out a way to do it and put in the amount of time to make it happen. Now there's kind of a catch 22 with this concept. I've seen a lot of advanced players and even pros completely burn themselves out trying to perfect literally everything about their playing. You have to learn to balance it by accepting that you're not going to be perfect all the time while not being content at the same time. If you start to throw your metronome at the wall in your practice room, then you need to take a step back and regroup. Find solutions to your problems that are the most efficient. Work smarter, not necessarily harder.
#8 When reading through a new piece, play through the whole thing first. Some people may disagree with this, but I like to read through the whole piece first and get a feel for where I'm going to need to focus a lot of my time on. Once again, we're talking about efficiency. Once you find those spots, work those out tirelessly until you can play them in your sleep. Chunk them up if you have to - work in one bar chunks until you can pull it all together. Once that's done, you can really focus on the big picture of the piece. That way you're not running through the same licks you already played perfect the first time, see #6.
#9 If something is difficult, slow it down to half speed. Even if that feels way too slow. Give your brain a chance to process everything. Developing muscle memory is way easier when you slow everything down and allow your fingers to fluidly move through the lick without tensing up. Then, speed it up by 10 clicks incrementally until you get to the correct speed. If at any time you can't play it perfect or you tense up, go backwards again until you can play it smooth.
#10 If you want to develop endurance, the horn has to be on the face a lot. But the practice has to be productive, see #2. Pressing the horn against the face until it bleeds can cause damage and is ultimately unproductive. That's why splitting sessions up can do the trick. Ultimately, the horn has to be on the face and not on the floor for you to develop the muscle strength.
#11 Work on fundamentals with the goal to make the challenging passages in music easier. This is where what I said in #6 comes into play. I have a set of exercises and etudes that I go to when I'm having trouble with specific things. I know they will help me play certain licks in music easier. If there is any way to make things easier in life, I'm always game for it.