These practice points have been put together to assist in sharing the importance of developing an effective personal practice routine. This focus will aid in acquiring improved technical and rhythmic skill vocabulary, along with the musical development necessary for successful and rewarding musical growth, as well as improved participation in your ensemble performance.
This process should also lead to a better personal engagement and preparation with solo and ensemble repertoire, which will serve several ends. It can prevent the loss of precious rehearsal time in addressing individual parts during rehearsal, allowing for more time to develop ensemble unity skills necessary for music interpretation and stylistic expression. It can release time for exploring additional repertoire for exams and preparing for ensemble concerts more quickly. More importantly, it can assist in obtaining more effective generic, transferable learning skills providing for more personal ownership and accountability for learning in general.
Acquiring an effective practice routine does not lead to an educational dead end, as one may suppose. On the contrary, it is a generic learning process/strategy which can be applied universally to both skill and knowledge acquisition of any field or activity in which we are involved. Trust me in this; the system works, and the lifelong learning implications are enormous!
7 Point Practice Technique – Remember: Before we can perfect a passage we need to learn it first! Learning is about becoming familiar with the target: Practice is about perfecting; consistently achieving the target. This requires patient, mindful, purposeful and reflective repetition.
· Scan: Check both ‘key’ and ‘time’ signatures, also taking note of tempo and expressive markings, unfamiliar, pitches, rhythms and unfamiliar finger/slide/stick/bow patterns.
· Research: Check out unfamiliar rhythms applying the counting and sub-division strategies for clear understanding. Check out unfamiliar pitches with reference to a fingering chart. Look up for alternative fingerings/slide positions/sticking/bowing patterns.
· Play: Play through the section-excerpt in question slowly until you stumble, or as slowly as you can play the entire passage accurately. Never play a passage any faster than you can play the most difficult portion of the passage correctly. Slow practice is always the key to mastery!
· Stop: Stop and identify the problem/s - challenges.
· Breakdown: Use strategies given in your rehearsal or private lesson to simplify the section. Don’t forget to ask your section leader, private teacher or your musical director if you lack a strategy for solving the problem.
· Perfect: Address the passage by playing it slowly and correctly at least 3, or more times in a row. Then gradually increase the speed until it is at the correct performance tempo.
· Context: Now put the passage under question back in the musical context, now starting at the beginning of the larger section, playing past the passage under consideration. Repeat the process another three or more times, and now you have mastery!
Key Point: When practicing we must learn to listen in three ways.
• Critically - What am I doing correctly – What do I need to improve?
• Analytically – What strategy can I employ to improve the passage?
• Patiently – Take time to master the passage: mindful repetition; your effort measured against the model demonstrated in rehearsal– Slow Practice is the key – Be both patient, and persistent!
I have a model of what is to be recreated either from my teacher/musical director or another source, such as a professional recording or live performance. I try to emulate, re-create the model. Following my attempt, I compare my performance against the model; I make adjustments and try again. I repeat this process until I achieve a close approximation of the model.