If you’re like most people, at times you’ve struggled with making progress in the practice room. Sometimes it seems that you can slave away for hours, days, or weeks and make little to no progress (or even regress!).
When you feel like your in a practice slump like this, I find that the most effective way out is to take a look at your practice environment and practice techniques. Such a “practice audit” can help you find places where you can improve your efficiency – reducing the time spent practicing yet increasing the results of each session.
Your First Practice Audit
Step 1: Watch this Ted-Ed video on “How to Practice Effectively”. It’s less than 5 minutes, and it gives some insight into what practice does as well as some actionable tips on how to do it better:
This video is by Don Greene and Annie Bosler. For those that don’t know, Don Greene is a renowned sports psychologist and performance coach who has written several books on peak performance (you can find all of these on my French Horn Music page, but I recommend starting with Fight Your Fear and Win). Annie Bosler is a studio horn player in Los Angeles and the professor of horn at University of California Irvine, and The Colburn School of Performing Arts (CSPA).
Step 2: Apply the 4 steps you just learned about!
- Minimize distraction.
- Focus on quality repetitions of small sections.
- Practice in several shorter, more focused sessions rather than one long marathon.
- Use mental practice when away from your instrument.
That’s it! These four steps are the basis for any good practice regimen.
For Practice Extra Credit…
There are, of course, ways to expand and improve on these four steps!
For example, if you always find yourself underprepared for performances, consider using a practice log to track what you practice each day. This way nothing will slip through the cracks!
If you find yourself unable to make it through concerts or performances, track your time (using the same log, if you like) to see how much you are actually playing each day. Remember – you’re not going to develop endurance to play Mahler 2 or Tchaikovsky 5 by practice 30 minutes a day!
If you’re a horn player (or a brass player in general) and having trouble with specific technical issues, check out some of my French horn exercises. These are all free, and they include some instructions to help get maximum results.
If you don’t have anything to practice, how about some music for French horn? Over 100 pieces of etudes, solo music, and ensemble music (with more added constantly)!
As always, if you have any questions you can use my Contact Me page to get in touch with me. If you’re looking for French horn lessons, I offer those too – both in-person and online. See my Horn lessons page for more information!