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How to Maximize Your Practice Sessions

Updated: Jul 17, 2021

Have you ever sat down to practice and then an hour later feel like you've accomplished nothing? The tips in this week's post will prevent that from happening. Whenever you sit down to practice you want to make your you are using your time as efficiently as possible. Think QUALITY over QUANTITY. Here are my five primary ways to ensure a efficient and effective practice session:

1) Minimize distractions. Find a quiet spot away from excess noises and disturbances. Put your phone on DO NOT DISTURB if at all possible. Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat can easily derail your focus. Remember the objective of the practice is to get better at your instrument not to keep tabs on social media.

2) Create well-thought out plan of action which prioritizes fundamentals.I like to divide my practice sessions into thirds. The first third is my warm- up. This includes reed alone exercises and long tones. Next, I focus on slow scales with a drone and then progressive to various scale patterns- scales in thirds, arpeggios, etc. The final third of my practice session is devoted to repertoire. No matter how much time I have in a particular session, I always devote two-thirds of the session to warming up and fundamentals. Set a timer to hold yourself accountable. If you only have thirty minutes, spend ten minutes on each section. If you have an hour, 20 minutes. You get the idea.

3) Think SMALLER and focus on difficult sections. Rather than start from the beginning of a piece and play it through until I make a mistake I go directly to the sections that I am struggling with. I isolate tricky passages and try to find the root of the problem. A lot of times I find that the transition between two particular notes causes the rest of a passage to derail.

4) Think SLOWER and maximize the number of correct repetitions. Remember slower correct repetitions are better than sloppy faster ones. If in doubt, slow it down.

5) Record yourself to accelerate problem solving. The fastest way to become your own teacher is to learn to listen to yourself OBJECTIVELY. Recording yourself and listening back forces you to remove your ego from the equation and hear what is truly going on. If I'm having trouble figuring out the root cause of a problem I'm having, I'll record myself playing the section I'm struggling with, listen back to the recording, and analyze what I just heard. More often than not, I am able to find the source of the issue and solve the problem.

Dr. Clara Blood, professional oboe performer

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