Even the most seasoned of practitioners need to refresh themselves on how to practice, and that includes something as simple as how to divide up your time. In my last post, I discussed the importance of adopting the mindset that we have all the time in the world when we are in the practice room (even though we don’t!). But for more methodical thinkers, there are some ways to make our time feel more manageable.
For me, the routine always changes, but as long as there is some semblance of a plan for how to spend my time, I find it always goes better. It’s never a bad thing to just pick up your instrument and enjoy whatever comes out, but that isn’t always productive, especially when you’re attending school to play that instrument. So here it is: I once had a teacher tell me that I should only spend 25% of my time on repertoire. I completely concur with that opinion! The repertoire is the place where we apply the skills we just practiced, not where we practice the skills themselves. As to the breakdown of the other 75%, I guess a lot of it depends on the instrument. But here’s my personal breakdown, and I admit that I have stolen it (100%) from other flutists.
Phase 1: 25% of practice time spent on tone exercises, including long tones and slow scales, overtones, singing and playing, breathing, octaves, and vibrato
Phase 2: 50% of practice time spent on technique! Technique again, and technique until the cows come home. I will admit that I am in a good company of people who despise
phase two. Just for the record!
Phase 3: 25% of practice time spent on repertoire. Honing in on color changes, expressivity, etc. Saving the fun stuff for last!
Where does ensemble music factor in? Until we are professionals, ensemble music is akin to a word that starts with H and rhymes with loamwork. It’s homework! Which means it is sometimes busy work and sometimes crucial to our development, but never optional.
- Sarah Castle