To perform well, you must practice well. Trumpet skills are not awarded for warming the practice seat. Here are 8 tips to make your practicing mean progress:
- Schedule your practice time. Consistent practice is the key to improvement. You need to plan a time each day when you will practice. If you wait until you feel like practicing, or wait for an opening to appear in your day, you will find that you don’t practice. If you don’t make time to practice, you’ll find time for everything except practicing.
- Gather all of your equipment. It is annoying to sit down to practice, only to find that you forgot your metronome. Or the music you intended to work, or your notebook with your goals, or your mouthpiece…Make your practice effective by gathering everything you need before you head to the practice room! It helps if you can store all your gear in one place.
- Set goals and structure your time. Plan what you are going to practice and what you want to achieve in a practice session. Determine which exercises you will use in your routine, which selections from your literature you will clean, which solo section you will transcribe, etc. You can always adapt your plan as you go, but don’t just sit down and noodle on your horn, thinking this will make you a better musician!
- Remember to rest. You shouldn’t have your horn on your face non-stop. This wears you down and doesn’t build endurance. A good rule of thumb is to rest about as much as you play. This doesn’t mean you should twiddle your thumbs or check Facebook in between licks! Use intervals of rest to practice solfege and sight-singing, work through difficult rhythms, read books to enhance your musical knowledge, or break out your pencil and mark phrasing into your music. Resting should still be practicing, but without the trumpet on your lips.
- Record yourself. Sometimes you could just swear you were playing that phrase with great dynamics, or clear articulation, or a brilliant tone, but your teacher insists you aren’t. Pull out your phone, or your computer, or your tablet, or any recording device, and capture yourself playing. You will probably be surprised at what you hear. It may just turn out that your teacher was right. Recording yourself often is one of the best ways to boost your practice results!
- Use your metronome effectively. Always have your met at the ready, and make sure it is loud enough to hear while you are playing! Don’t just set it to every beat. Set the tempo slower so that it clicks on every other beat, the first beat of each measure only, once every two measures, etc. This will make your mind internalize the pulse rather than react to the metronome! In addition, focusing on the metronome will take your mind off of other aspects of playing, and many problems will correct themselves as you focus on honing your time and rhythmic accuracy.
- Use your pencil. Changes that aren’t recorded are likely to be lost. You don’t need to make your music look like it was used to smash mosquitoes. But as you make musical decisions in your practice, mark them lightly into your score so that you will remember them the next time you play. Also make notes of parts you need to spend more time on, and write goals in your notebook.
- Go slowly. If you practice making mistakes, you will perform mistakes. Take your music as slowly as you need to play it correctly, every time. Then gradually speed it up. When playing a difficult passage, take it so slowly that someone walking by wouldn’t recognize what you are playing.
You will only perform as well as you practice, so take your practice time seriously and set yourself up for success!