Developing Positive Practice Habits

What do students practice?  Fundamentals are always important, such as embouchure, air support, good posture, hand position, and correct notes.  A right note played at the wrong time is still a wrong note.  The importance of practicing daily is the lifeblood of our band program.  Students must practice in order to reinforce concepts covered in rehearsal and to develop the necessary skills on your instrument to become a top-notch musician.  At SBMS, students are expected to practice on their instrument every day.  You will never have a day where you won’t have something to work on.  No instrument should be left behind in the lockers on Friday so students can practice over the weekend.

Students, when you first get out your instrument, be sure to go through your Daily Warm-Up Routine.  Don’t just go through the motions, but LISTEN to what is coming out of your instrument and BE INVOLVED in trying to make it better.  Remember, always take your best breath and make your best sound – ALWAYS!  Use your practice time to work on specific practice assignments given to you by your director, such as lines from the book, scales, etudes, or specific excerpts from your music.  Try to make at least one thing perfect each day.

When you practice, make sure that you are not distracted with a TV, radio, phone, or computer.  Make sure that you use a music stand and always sit with your proper posture & playing position.  Use a metronome!  Break down music that is hard, and practice it at a slow tempo.  Don’t raise the tempo or move on until you can play the music five times in a row perfectly.  If you can’t play something, you are going too fast! Practice for results, not to just “put in the time” for your practice record.  Also, be sure to play for other people as much as you can.  Remember, practice does not make perfect, it makes permanent!

The following paragraphs are paraphrased from the article “Developing Positive Practice Habits” by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser (Keynote Magazine, Nov. 2010, pg. 81-95):

There is no shortcut to playing an instrument; it is a matter of putting the instrument to the lips and beginning the endless journey of exercises.  Once the mind accepts this reality, it is a matter of DEVELOPING POSITIVE PRACTICE HABITS and being true to the on-task time commitment.  Thirty to 45 minutes each day can (and will) produce a measurable difference within a month; with 6 months it is dramatic, and after a year it can be astounding.  Getting a new instrument won’t do it, buying a new technique book won’t do it, talking about playing your instrument better won’t do it; there simply is not any instant success back doors to better instrument playing.

What’s the point?  We live in a fast-paced society and often our eagerness to get-to-the-desination blurs the requisites of the journey.  While every student would love to open the case and have the wherewithal to play whatever music is put on the stand, it simply doesn’t work that way.  The very best understanding we, as teachers, can bring to their lives is the understanding of the priceless value of DEVELOPING POSITIVE PRACTICE HABITS; it is a GIFT that will serve them throughout their lives.

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