Homework. Marching band practice. Social life. Did I mention homework?
All of those things zap our valuable time to practice. When you feel like throwing your flute across the room…relax. Breath. These five tips will help you get the most of your practice time. Even if you have as little as 15 minutes a day, you’ll still see improvement.
1. Break It Down: Rotate what you practice. For example, play three scales Monday, a different three on Tuesday, etc. until you play them all by the end of the week.
You don’t have to start at the beginning of a piece and play straight through. Break it down into manageable chunks (say a few measures or a couple of lines). Most of us wouldn’t read an entire novel in one sitting, right? We’d read a chapter or two, depending on our free time. Practice the same way. Work one chunk on Monday, the next on Tuesday, review on Wednesday.
Keep track of what you worked on in a practice journal, app organizer, or whatever works for you.
2. No Speeding Tickets: Practicing slowly will build muscle memory, finger and embouchure control, as well as endurance and pitch accuracy. If you’re stumbling over a tough run, cut the tempo in half until you can play it accurately at that tempo. Then click the metronome up 3-4 beats. Repeat.
It’s much more difficult to play with control than to let your fingers guess.
3. Practice What You Think You Already Know: You can play your scales. But do you know them? Do you play them so well you don’t have to think about the notes? Do they float out effortlessly? Then practice them some more.
The key to technical virtuosity is mastery of fundamentals such as scales, arpeggios, chromatics, etc. Don’t skip them in your daily drill.
You will be amazed at how much control you gain over your fingers and your technique, as well as ability to read music by practicing scales and arpeggios every day.
4. Be a Time Jedi: Use the time you have wisely. Practice the hard parts--don’t skip them. Do more repetitions than you think you need. Slowly at first, then faster.
If you already know the low octave of a scale, try practicing the upper one by itself. Or even the highest few notes (aren’t they always the toughest ones?).
Use your time in band class to finger through tough scales or passages when your director is working with another section.
5. Routine: Same time. Same place. Carve out your routine and stick to it. You’ll remember more (and grow faster in your flute abilities) if you practice 5 or 6 days a week for 15-30 minutes at a time, than if you wait until Saturday to cram in two hours.
Simplify your schedule by practicing smarter, rather than harder. You’ll begin to master all the stuff that propels your music forward. And your music will take on a new life.
“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.”~Malcolm Gladwell