All State: Plan Your Practice


It’s been a few of weeks since the All-State etudes were announced hopefully you’ve seen them by now!

One thing that a lot of students underestimate (especially younger students) is that the first few weeks after getting music is a time when you can make noticeably progress away from the horn.

Make Your Practice Plan

Hopefully, by now you’ve had a chance to look at the Kentucky All-State audition music (if not, it’s available here).

Now that the “new”-ness is over, it’s important to spend at least one or two practice sessions developing your practice plan for this music.

This is actually one part of practice that you can do without your horn (here are other ways to practice without your horn), so there’s really no excuse to not do it!

Practice Plan: Find the Challenge(s)

During these planning sessions, you’re looking to identify the specific technical and musical challenges that are in each etude.

Remember that you want to be as specific with these challenges as possible. Learning the C Major arpeggio over 1.5 octaves is much easier than learning all arpeggios!

If you haven’t looked at my 2020 Kentucky All-State page, I have some general ideas that are good places to start.

However, don’t just copy my suggestions! If you are comfortable with some of the scales and arpeggios, then don’t spend extra time focusing on them. However, you must be honest with yourself.

Practice Plan: Find the Solution(s)

Now, for each challenge you’ve found, take about 5-15 minutes and come up with an exercise (or two) to help improve that aspect of your playing.

If it’s a scale or arpeggio, for example, there are many ways to practice those. For example:

  • Small, 2 or 3 note arpeggios
  • Big 2 (or more) octave arpeggios
  • Vary the articulation (tongued, slurred, staccato, marcato)
  • Do the arpeggios on the natural horn
  • All Bb-horn fingerings (even down low)
  • All F-horn fingerings (even up high)

You can find some of these (and more) on my Scales and Arpeggios studies page.

For tricky rhythms, figure out the subdivision and try to play the tricky phrase articulating every 16th (or 8th, or 32nd note).

Basically, you’re coming up with your own mini-etudes or warm-up exercises to tackle the All-State challenges.

But I Just Want to PLAY IT!

While spending practice time not playing the music may feel less productive, developing technique does not happen haphazardly. Remember how your beginning band book had you learn several different notes before putting them together to play Hot Cross Buns? That’s what we’re doing here!

Breaking the music down this way, and learning the component parts (scales, harmonic series, rhythmic subdivision) will not only improve the All-State music, but it will also make you a better player on everything that uses those component parts.

If You Want More Help

If you want some 1-on-1 help with your All-State music, feel free to contact me for lessons.

I have a few weekly slots available for ongoing students, but one thing I’ve been adding lately (since almost everything has gone online) is teaching online students across Kentucky on an as-needed basis.

Instead of a lesson every week at a certain time, you schedule a lesson as you feel ready. Whether that’s every other week, or month, or whatever!


About Colin Dorman

Colin is a freelance horn player and teacher, as well as a fan of tech of all sorts, aviation, and increasingly complex flight simulators. He also enjoys beer, bourbon and fitness - but not at the same time. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, as well as right here at ColinDorman.com!