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One of the most important things that a musician should figure out is how to practice.  There are many ideas behind practice routines, and in this article, I am going to present some basic concepts about that have helped me.  My goal is to help you think differently about your practicing, but please note that I am still perfecting my personal time in the practice room.  I definitely don’t have all of the answers, but hopefully, I can write something that can help you or a student that you know.

One of my favorite analogies about practicing is to compare it with a house.  There are three (really more…but these three work for our purposes) parts to a house, and all of the parts are vitally important.  They are the foundation, the building itself, and the items that are placed inside of the house.

 

Foundation

The foundation is the most important part of the structure by far.  What would happen to your current home if it were built directly on the earth?  Most likely, the ground would not be able to support the home, and it would fall down.  Because there is a slab of concrete or a pier and beam system, the house can be supported safely.

Another important idea to note about a foundation is the fact that it has to match whatever is placed on top of it.  If a skyscraper were to be built on your home’s foundation, it would still fall down over time.  The larger the structure on top, the larger the foundation needs to be.

 

The Building

The building is the second most important part of your home.  Why?  Without the actual building, you have no home.  The structure is what “houses” the items inside and keeps them safe from the weather.

It is important that your home is put together properly, and you probably hope that the builder avoided taking “shortcuts” in its construction.  Also, homeowners are constantly repairing the home and updating its different features.

 

The Stuff Inside

Imagine a home with nothing placed inside.  How boring would that be?  Would you want to live there?  How useful is a foundation and a building if you cannot sleep inside the house?

There are two ideas to note about the things inside of a home.  First, there are many different types of decorating styles that people use.  Some people like the sleek, modern look to a kitchen, and other people prefer a “country style” look.  Both are acceptable styles, and the decision about which to use comes down to the homeowner.  The second thing to note is the fact that the interior of a home is the area that people judge first when they see your home.  Rarely do people look at your foundation or the structural integrity of the home.

 

So, what does this have to do with practicing an instrument?

Everything.  Hopefully, you were starting to catch the analogy as you were reading above, but let’s dive into what these areas represent in our playing.

The foundation part of the home represents the mechanics of making sound on an instrument.  In order to build your musical foundation, your goal should be to practice and perfect your tone production on a daily basis.  For brass musicians, these exercises include buzzing, long tones, and lip slurs.

The structure represents your technical studies.  What are technical studies?  They are the common patterns that you come across in music.  This area of practice should include scales, arpeggios, articulation exercises, etc.  Remember that it is important to avoid taking “shortcuts” in this area of your practicing.

The stuff inside of the home represents your practice of actual music.  Just like the fact that people see and judge the things in your home first, this area is what an audience actually hears.  This part of your practice routine should include etudes, solos, audition material, ensemble material, and anything else that needs preparation.

 

Putting It All Together

I stress to my students all of the time that they need to make their practice a routine.  In order to do so, practicing requires planning so that you hit all of the necessary areas on a daily basis.  After the routine is constructed, your goal should be to form it into a habit, and by building constructive habits, you help to create success.

 

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Photo by Nathan Siemers. Used under Creative Commons License.

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