On a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the best, how would rate your practice time?

Do you feel you get a lot accomplished with real quality time?

Maybe?

Maybe you are thinking “I wonder if my practice time is a 3?”

Anyone right there?

I believe you are not alone.

In my own flute journey, effective practice was a hit or miss. I had to learn to use my time effectively – to make that time productive.

Practicing

It took a long time before I felt that I accomplished much in the time allotted. Most of us figure something out as we get through college and practice for our recitals. But, I don’t think I optimized my practice time until I left the halls of college and entered the work force. Only then did I realize how lovely college was for practice time and how little the work day even as a college flute professor, allowed for concentrated practice time. Then throw a husband and kids to the mix and practice time became very precious indeed.

Of necessity, my practice time now needs to accomplish everything in less time then I had ever thought possible. So, I have developed a productive practice routine that is shorter, because with 4 kids, homeschooling, dinner to make, a large private studio, and teaching┬ácollege, I don’t have large blocks of time – connected hours – to practice. Optimization is where it’s at people.

The most common mistake that I discuss with my students who think they don’t have enough time is that they immediately go for the solo. THEY SKIP THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF PRACTICING!

Playing only your solo is like eating dessert for supper everyday.

Now we all like our dessert (unless you are weird like my sister Janna who likes to eat a can of green beans for dessert. Yuck Janna!). But your health will suffer if you skip the meat, fruit and veggies everyday. Dessert can only get you so far. You have got to have the things that are going to keep your body strong and that is the same for flute practice.

Etudes are the meat & potatoes – the main course.

All those technical exercises like Taffanel and Gaubert, and Reichert are the salad.

Solos are the dessert – the reward you earn for a proper diet of practice fare.

To make the most out of your practice time you need to be “on” when you practice. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted during the time that you have. I like to practice in short bursts as it fits the schedule I’m living with at the moment. But, I make sure that I concentrate when I’m practicing. When I think back on those days in college and grad school where I got hours and hours of practice. I wonder how much was concentrated practice and how much was daydreaming and other distractions.

Now sort out your day and decide what to practice in each of those practice sessions. Make sure that you chose the best exercises for your needs in each category: technique, tone, etude, solo. Then, when you practice decide what you are trying to accomplish especially when it comes to the solos. What parts are you going to work on today. We often begin our solos from the beginning, we play through them, then we begin to work on sections. Why not pick the section you want to work on from the start, and only work on that part?

As the saying goes: “little plus often makes much.”

It is amazing that sometimes you can get so much more accomplished in less time just because it is concentrated and very directed. Now it’s your turn to take a look at your practice time and see if you can accomplish more in less time. What are you wasting time doing or thinking? Do you play “through” your pieces too much? Are you a dessert person skipping the meat and potatoes?

Now direct that practice time and accomplish much!

Doctor Flute