PRACTICE.  Ya gotta do it!

Okay, BUT HOW?

As an elementary school musician, you will need to plan for approximately 15 minutes (or more) of practice EVERY DAY.  Daily practice is imperative to the continued improvement of our orchestra and of your personal playing level.  The best students in any subject or sport are those students who work diligently, every day.  Music is no different.

Students and parents can take steps towards enhancing the effectiveness of the practice routine.  Some highlights of these steps include:

  • Schedule a regular practice time or set of times each day.
  • A practice area should be a quiet location, free from distractions.
  • Students will need a legitimate music stand and a firm chair to ensure proper playing position and posture.
  • A quality instrument, in excellent working condition.  The higher the quality of the instrument, the higher the quality of sound, and the easier it is for the student to play.
  • Help motivate your student towards practicing.  Remind them that practicing must be done, even when they do not want to…  Just like brushing their teeth and taking out the trash.
  • The hardest part of practicing is many times just opening the case.  Encourage them to stick with it!  Many times just starting the practice session will get them into the routine.
  • It is important also to remember that quantity of practice time is not nearly as important as quality.  10 minutes of quality practice is much better than sitting in front of the music stand for 30 minutes.
  • Divide your practice time into smaller blocks.  Do your warm-ups before school (10 minutes).  Do your technique practice after school (10 minutes).  Work on your music after dinner (10 minutes).  Find a system that works for you!
  • Praise work well done!  A “way to go!” can be made during the session or afterwards to help affirm the effort.
  • Avoid non-constructive criticism!  Practicing, by its very nature, is repeatedly playing something that you may not do well yet.  Many students will feel uncomfortable playing “poorly” in front of others, especially if they are musicians as well.  This is necessary for improvement.
  • Plan activities ahead!  Remember that a student’s participation in rehearsals and performances is not only required, but a necessary part of the success of the orchestra.  An orchestra is a team, and as such, each individual’s contribution towards the success of the whole ensemble is vital, necessary and important.
  • Never use practicing as a punishment!
  • Don’t waste time practicing sections that you already know.
  • Isolate trouble sections and work on them. (Slowly at first, then gaining speed)
  • Never practice a section faster than you can perform it.  There is no such thing as, “I can only play it fast!”
  • Use a metronome!  This is one of the best musical tools, as well as one of the least expensive.
  • Always stress note accuracy, intonation, and rhythm.

Someone who practices correctly for one year will be a better player, than someone who practices incorrectly for five years.