Practice Plan and Principles
Warm-Up – play easy, in the middle range of your instrument. Just get sound moving and fingers going a bit.
Long tones –
Woodwinds and brass – as long as you can hold each note in one breath. Play with a full, characteristic tone, mezzo forte at least. Choose notes in the middle register of the range of your instrument.
Work for steady, smooth air flow and set embouchure – just firm enough.
Vibrato is only for Flutes and double reeds. Everyone else work for a steady, unwavering air speed.
Strings – long, full bows – vibrato is of course desired. This is a great way to work on adding or improving that. Play with a full, true sound with steady bow movement – not too slow, and enough bow weight on the strings.
Also apply dynamics. Begin ppp, crescendo to fff then back down – all the while maintaining good, characteristic tone.
Scales – in the Instrumental Warm-Ups and Builders book in the Warm-Up/Development Series. Work on the scales most difficult for you. Play slowly at first. The eventual goal is to play through the entire sheet in order. Adding 2 16th notes on ever 8th note is a good way to make sure fingers and tongue or bow move at the same time. Once you can play them well, then and only then you can work for speed.
Range Builders – at the end of the Warm-Ups and Builders book. Go as far as you can each session. It will help increase your upper range.
Repertoire – Work on your part for any piece on our DropBox – especially our concert music. Play along with videos on YouTube when you can. On difficult passages, play them slowly – slowly enough to be able to play it correctly. Then, increase the tempo a little each time you play it.
Etudes and Exercises – Use books you already have. Also Google recommendations for your instrument and order things from Amazon. Work on technique, fingering, range, flexibility, and endurance.
Intonation – Keep a tuner on your stand. Refer to it occasionally throughout practice. Check all ranges and dynamics.
Sight-Reading – Pick something you have never played. Look through it for key, tempo, challenging fingerings or rhythms, then play it through – for better or worse without stopping.
Worship – Play some things just to play them to the Lord. He deserves it!
- Do all for the glory of God.
- Start at a slow tempo, then raise the tempo gradually. Staring too fast will greatly multiply the time it takes to learn a passage.
- Set goals – small, short term and longer term for your improvement.
- Record your practice from time to time. We develop selective hearing – we think we know how we sound, but recordings are much more objective.
- Listen to recordings or great players. Many instructional videos and masterclasses are available online. Strive to sound like what you hear.
- Learning to play well is a life-long process. Enjoy the journey.