A Brief Guide to Smarter Practicing

After learning about Colin’s experience, I decided that the most effective way to practice is to be:
Mindful practice means always having a goal or point to your practice sessions. Always think musically, even in your warmup. Mindful practicing also involves keeping an active and focused mind that stays present for the task at hand, i.e. don’t wonder what you are going to eat for dinner as you are working on a Bordogni etude.

1. Remove distractions from your practice area, i.e. turn off your computer, phone, 
TV, etc.
2. Focus on your own playing, not the person who is in the next practice room.
Organized practice techniques can help you become more efficient during your practice sessions.

1. Make time to practice. Sit down with your calendar and schedule when you will practice each day (and stick to it!).  
2. Keep a practice log that shows what you are working on for your weekly lessons.
3. During your scheduled practice sessions, plan what you will work on and for how long.  You may want to use a
        notebook or small dry erase board.
4. Record your practice sessions or lessons and listen to them afterwards. Take notes and evaluate yourself– you can
        be your own teacher!
5. Keep all of the materials that you are working on in one space.  You may want to have a binder or folder with tabs
        that keeps your music organized.
Healthy practicing can help you avoid injuries. 

1. Three to four 45-50 minute practice sessions are better and more effective than a 3 hour long practice session.
2. Take breaks during your practice session. You can still be productive during these breaks– if you recorded
        yourself, then this is a good time to listen and evaluate your recording, mentally practice, conduct and sing, study a 
        score, listen to a professional recording, etc. 
3. Maintain a relaxed posture, and note any tension that may be causing you to use more pressure. If this tension
        creeps in, then try to pinpoint where/why it is occurring, take a quick rest, and then resume in a more relaxed state.
4. Remember that muscle repairs itself roughly on a 48 hour basis. Plan intense 
practice sessions with this in mind.
Healthy living habits can help benefit you in all areas of your life–even in your trombone playing! 

1. Engage in regular exercise (at least 30 minutes 3-4 days a week). Try practicing right after you exercise– you will
        be surprised at how much air you are able to take in!
2. Get a good night’s sleep. Even though you are college students, you still need rest. 
3. Start your morning by eating a healthy breakfast. Beware of eating overly salty/sugary foods before a practice
        session or performance.
4. Drink lots of water, especially if you are practicing and exercising a lot. Also, be mindful of the types of food that you 
        consume before you play.
5. Brush your teeth before you practice and wash your mouthpiece and horn regularly, especially during flu season.

College can be a stressful time for music majors. The most successful music  students are well organized and self-motivated.  Take one (or all!) of the suggestions above and try it for one week as an experiment. What works for you? What areas are you weak in? Do you notice improvements in your trombone playing? 

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