This semester, I’ve been trying to streamline my practice time, especially when it comes to orchestra music. Being in an ensemble is required for most music majors, and it can really take up a lot of your time, even outside of rehearsals.
Symphony Orchestra is nearly a 3 hour class, going from 1:00 pm to 3:50 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays. That is a lot of my day spent in rehearsal. Instead of simply playing the music, I’ve been evaluating my practice time while in rehearsal.
For instance, say I worked on a passage that requires a ton of shifting up and down the strings and I created a fingering for it. In rehearsal, I’m evaluating what I did when I get to that part of the piece during a run-through. I ask myself a couple of questions:
Did my fingering work?
If not, why isn’t it working?
Do I only need to write in reminders right now, or do I need to go back to the drawing board?
Also, especially for a first rehearsal in a new concert cycle, I’m evaluating what parts I need to actually practice. I won’t need to focus so much on a passage that has only whole notes, but I might need to look at a passage that involves a weird bowing or shifting pattern. In that case, I’ll mark an “X” in the margins of the music for later so I know exactly what I need to do.
This works in conjunction with listening to the pieces. I cannot stress this enough; listening to your music will help so much! For me, I learn the music much faster when I listen to the pieces because I know what to expect in rehearsal. You don’t even have to have a score or your part in front of you; you can listen while doing homework, chores, or anything, really. The most valuable thing I’ve learned in college is to streamline my practice as much as possible because time is incredibly valuable as a student. The less time you spend in the practice rooms means more time for homework, socializing, or my favorite activity, napping!