It's been a while! Thanks to all who have made my journey to Houston successful and enjoyable during the past few weeks. It's been a pleasure to get things going in Tomball and I look forward to the success we'll have during this year.
Now on to the big one: the school year has just begun and already the math, science, history, and other homework is piling on! So, with all of these commitments, how do we find the time to practice? And how do we practice anyway!?
First, let's talk about organizing our practice time. The key is always efficiency and effectiveness in practice. When you sit down to practice, you should know exactly what you're going to work on, and have a game plan for how to use your time. Then at the end of the session, evaluate if you accomplished your goal! If you just play your instrument for an hour, that doesn't necessarily count as practice (but make time for just playing your instrument too!)
Make time every day to practice, but it doesn't have to be long! If you're just starting out (6th grade), perhaps this will only be 15-20 minutes a day. By the time you're in junior high, aim for around 30-45 minutes, and high school students can handle 45-60 minutes. The key is always consistency though - if you only have 10 minutes one day, still get your horn out and use that time wisely! 15 minutes a day every day during the week is much more effective than practicing for 2 hours one day a week!
Next, let's talk about our practice space and materials: make sure to create a space for yourself that is quite and free from distractions! Leave your homework, pets, television, etc. somewhere else and focus 100% on your instrument. Close out of your messaging apps, Facebook, Twitter, and the like! Your friends will still be there when you've finished. Technology is the toughest part for us modern musicians - it can truly hinder our practicing if we're not focused, but it can also be a very helpful tool! Make sure you have these important items when you practice:
Now you're ready to practice! Again, always have a goal in mind and address specific problems. You should always make changes during your session: no two practice sessions will be the same! When practicing, ask yourself about the 3 T's:
Ask yourself these questions while playing as a way to guide your practice. When you're feeling confident in your product, record yourself playing (here's the useful technology!) and listen back, asking the same three questions. Free programs like Audacity and even the Voice Memos App on iPhones work well! And as always, feel free to check in with me with any questions, problems, or struggles you have concerning practicing!
Good luck during the first week of school, and happy practicing!
Jeff Dunn, trombone
An avid educator, performer, and advocate for music.