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3 Pro-tips for your next practice session

We’re all so busy these days (students, and parents, and teachers), so today I’ll be sharing my top 3 strategies to make practice sessions really effective. (These tips work for all musicians, not just oboists!)


Last week I challenged students to make a practice schedule, and be specific about the exact days and amount of time that they would dedicate to practicing, and write their practice schedule down.

If you're a student and you didn't write out your practice schedule yet, take a moment now, grab a blank note in your notes app, or a piece of paper, and write down your Mon-Sun practice schedule. Aim for at least 4 days a week that you plan to practice. Then, add up the total amount of time you’ll be practicing each week.


For my studio, I require that students will be spending at least 3 hours a week practicing, but it's likely that number will fluctuate frequently, especially once AP classes and Extracurriculars are thrown in.

When there's not much time to practice, it's even more important to practice efficiently to be prepared.

Today’s tips are going to address practice efficiency. Teachers: I encourage you to forward these practice tips on to your students! (They’ll also be on my blog).


Don’t skip your warm up

When you don’t have a lot of time to practice, it’s really common to skip your warm-up, or to go through the motions on auto-pilot without paying attention to the purpose of each step.


X Don’t fall into this trap!

Use your limited warm up time to focus on the top 2-3 elements of playing that you need to be aware of! Oboists: that’s our air speed and support, our embouchure, and one other element of your choice (articulation, intonation (tuning), finger technique)


Be aware of each of those elements you’ve chosen throughout your warm up routine to avoid accidentally building bad habits!


Use a timer

When you really need to accomplish something in a practice session, set a timer for each part of your practice: warm-up (5 mins), scales (5 mins), Piece #1 (10 mins), Piece #2 (10 mins). Using this framework, you can work on a lot of things in just 30 minutes!


This requires a little bit of planning before you start your practice session, but it’s totally possible to know exactly what you need to work on and stick to a strict timer schedule to work on those things within a specific amount of time so you don’t spend too much time on any one thing.


If you’re like me and you like to master a particular skill or section before moving on, this tip is SUPER helpful. Having the timer on reminds you that you have only limited time, and should probably move on, hopefully helping you avoid spending all your time on just one thing.


Don’t play through your music*

Generally, when you’re pressed for time, you should avoid play-throughs of your piece or a melody at all costs. You probably know what's not going well in your music. Work on those sections first, and make sure that they improve before even considering a run-through.


Practice time is meant to be used on improving your skills, not playing through a piece you enjoy. (There’s room for playing just to play too! But when you need to accomplish something in your practice session, that’s not the time.)


*The exception to this would be if one of your goals is to work on running through a piece for a particular reason. You might want to work on sticking to your breath plan, or running through a solo in preparation for a recital.


With these 3 strategies AND a practice schedule for each week, you’ll achieve your goals and play to your best ability!

 

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