Follow These 3 Easy Steps to Supercharge Your Practice Sessions!

As musicians, we are accustomed to the constant expectations and pressures of practicing our instrument.  We put in the time, but are we getting the most out of our practice sessions?  It can be discouraging to put in the necessary time and hard work and not achieve the desired results.  Let’s take a step by step look at how to efficiently practice!

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For our approach, let’s use Etude #1 from 12 Etudes Brillantes, Op. 43 by Gallay, edited for horn by James Chambers, which can be found here.

cover of 12 Etudes Brillantes by Gallay ed Chambers

1.  Before you begin, make sure to have a practice plan.  What is your goal for the upcoming practice session?  Start with a broad goal and narrow it down.  Answer the following questions:

  • Which piece am I focusing on?  Etude #1 from 12 Etudes Brillantes by Gallay
  • What aspect of my playing am I focusing on?  Accuracy
  • Which measures am I focusing on? Pickups to measure 1 and the pickups to measure 3

Your practice will be much more efficient if you identify these 3 targets.  Remember that limiting your goal is a good thing.  If we were to say that we are working on Etude #1, Accuracy, for measures 1-48, (instead of the pickups to measure 1 and pickups to measure 3), this is not very focused.  We are playing other sections very accurately – we are choosing the specific part in the music that is not accurate.  Perhaps your accuracy is not the issue – there are other aspects to focus on, such as sound quality, intonation, or rhythm.

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2.  Next, identify what you are going to do to reach your specific goal.  This is where many younger students decide to play a section over and over again in hopes that the repetitions will make it better.  While this can work, it is not an efficient use of time.  Additionally, we have limited time to practice in our busy lives and limited endurance.  Part of planning a practice session is identifying tools you will use in order to reach your practice session goals.  Fill in the answer to the phrase, “I’m going to _____.”

  • I’m going to slow down the pickups to really hear and feel where the notes need to slot (7 notes).
  • I’m going to play 3 notes, then add a note at a time.  I will only add the next note when I am consistently accurate with my first 3, my first 4, etc.
  • I’m going to play these 7 notes all on the F side.
  • I’m going to _____ … There are many, many more possibilities and your private teacher is a great resource for efficient practice techniques.

3.  Guess what? – you may now pick up your horn and actually play!  Your practice plan has been established with a clear and concise goal that makes it possible to see and hear a result.  While it does take extra preparation and thought prior to beginning your practice session, it is absolutely crucial.  If you continue to practice in this manner, you will see results.

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Brief note:  As you focus on your practice session goal that is very specific, you will likely notice other aspects of the music that need attention.  Keep your focus on the specific goal that you established but take note of the other areas that need focus.  These can be specific goals for future practice sessions.

Happy horn playing! 📯

–Dr. Sally Podrebarac