Tag: practicing

  • Make a better marking

    Make a better marking

    If the marking you made in your sheet music didn’t work, do a better one. Here’s how.

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  • What really went wrong? Leaning into problem spots

    What really went wrong? Leaning into problem spots

    I have a recurring teaching challenge with my saxophone students who are tackling the altissimo register for the first time. They play a passage, and when they get to the altissimo note, if it doesn’t respond perfectly, they immediately stop playing. When I ask why, they look puzzled. “The note didn’t come out.” “Well, what …

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  • Practice fewer notes

    Practice fewer notes

    I can’t remember where I picked up this tip, but it has been a game-changer in how I practice technically-challenging passages. (If you know a source, please let me know!) The idea is this: practice only as many notes as you can keep in your head. So, if I’m practicing an unfamiliar passage, and can …

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  • Wind controllers as “practice” woodwinds

    Wind controllers as “practice” woodwinds

    Can you use a wind controller, like the Akai EWI, the Yamaha WX, or the Roland Aerophone, as a convenient and/or quiet way to practice a “real” woodwind instrument, like the saxophone or the flute? No, not really. You can practice some very limited aspects of woodwind playing. For example, each of those wind controllers …

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  • Do I have to practice over the summer?

    Do I have to practice over the summer?

    As I send my students off to their summer plans, I know many of them are asking themselves the same question I used to ask: Do I have to practice? Your teacher might give you a summer assignment. I feel like I really can’t give my students official, enforceable assignments when they aren’t enrolled in …

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  • Getting the most out of practicing your scales

    Getting the most out of practicing your scales

    When you practice scales (or arpeggios or, really, any other technical material) it’s not really about the scales. Nobody wants to buy tickets to hear you play scales. Scale and technical practice develop the fundamental technique you need for doing more interesting things. You don’t learn multiplication tables or French verb conjugations so you can …

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  • What if I don’t love to practice?

    What if I don’t love to practice?

    Musicians are supposed to wake up every day filled with a burning desire to practice for hours, right? If you don’t feel that way, you must not really have what it takes, right? And even if you don’t feel like practicing, you should be able to will yourself to do it anyway, right? It’s normal …

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  • Time-crunch vs. long-term practicing

    Time-crunch vs. long-term practicing

    My approach to practicing has to adapt to deadlines. Sometimes the deadlines come up fast, and there isn’t time to make everything as perfect as I would like. Other times I have plenty of preparation time and want to make the best use of it. Suppose the music I’m working on has one or two …

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  • Playing issues vs. reading issues

    Playing issues vs. reading issues

    Sometimes when I struggle with a musical passage it’s because I can’t quite play it—maybe my fingers or tongue won’t move quite fast enough yet, or there’s a difficult slur or interval leap that I’m still mastering. The solution is methodical practice, which of course takes significant time and effort. But there’s an additional set …

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  • Fix fixable problems now

    Fix fixable problems now

    Just about every day I have a student show up for a lesson with an etude or repertoire movement they have been working on for a week or more, and there are little, silly problems that haven’t been fixed: A spot where a fingering choice needs to be made, but hasn’t. A page turn in …

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