Are you busy? Really, that is a silly question because who is not busy. Schedules today, both our own and our kids are so full that having copious amounts of practice time is an ideal thing of the past.

Today it’s about how to get the most out of the little bit of


that is available in your busy day.

My life today is so busy that once Monday hits it’s a whirlwind and then it’s Friday again. Weeks are just flying by. I’m fighting time to get my practice time in and when I do, it has got to be quality time. My college students are busy too. So are my high school students.

I’m betting that you feel busy too.

The six-million-dollar question is:

“what do you do with the little time you have to optimize your practice time?”

The easy answer is:


I don’t mean never.

But with a small amount of time, so often the pressure of learning a solo becomes monumental that the first thing you reach for is the solo.

I read a book once called Cold River which was about 2 kids who survived a couple winter months in the Adirondack wilderness after their father died. These two were from a different generation that is long gone. They knew how to survive. The narrator explained that they ate rabbit, but didn’t eat too much, because you could starve eating rabbit.

You could starve in the wilderness eating just rabbit?

The idea being that there is no fat on rabbit and just eating lean protein doesn’t give you what you need to survive. Now, not being a wilderness maven myself, I can’t confirm or deny this piece of information. I just know that if I were lost in the wilderness I wouldn’t eat only rabbit.

OK, so what does that have to do with practicing only solos?

It’s like this, if you only practice your solo when you have tiny bits of time to practice,

you will get out of shape as fast as if you weren’t practicing at all.

Is that too strong? Maybe, but the idea is right. Just practicing your solo will not significantly improve your playing. Yes, you would learn your solo, but your technique and your tone will go downhill fast!

Don’t do it just don’t do it.

Repeat after me: “Friends don’t let friends practice only solos.”

If you aren’t supposed to play solos what are you supposed to do? The secret answer to your conundrum:

technique and tone.Technique and Tone

When you don’t have a lot of time to practice, technique and tone will keep you from getting out of shape. It will keep your finger muscles limber and your facial muscles remembering how to produce a cracking tone.

Much of the time I feel like I’m in maintenance mode!

But that’s okay in this busy season of life. Because when I do have the time, I hit my solos and the time is much more productive because I’ve kept my tone and technique up and I’m not out of shape.

My solo time is much more productive!

Through the years I’ve tried the only-practice-solo-technique then wondered why I got further and further out of shape. The same thing happened when I was insanely busy with college teaching, and playing principal in an orchestra. I was only practicing the orchestra music, and going to long rehearsals. But I felt like I got more out of shape as time went by.

30 minutes at a time is all it takes to maintain shape.
30 minutes of tone and technique.

Yes, you need more than that to progress. You need more than that to learn your solos to the level you would perform. But to keep in shape all it takes is 30 minutes of tone and technique.

Work on your Taffanel and Gaubert, Geoffrey Gilbert studies, Maquerre, Moyse, Reichert, do your scales in 3rds. Just do whatever it takes to keep those muscles moving. Practice your long tones, harmonic series, your de la Sonorite, your Trevor Wye Tone.

If you are granted another 30-minute time slot in the day, guess what you get to practice. Did you guess solo? Wrong. Ha. You do not get to practice your solo yet. You do get to practice an etude.

Etudes are the next best thing to keeping you in shape.Etude

Now I will grant you, that you could, on this step, practice 15 minutes on the etude and 15 minutes on solos. It could happen that way. But then again, you could wait to squeeze out another 30 minutes somewhere in the day to do solos. You could.

Are you busy?

Practice tone and technique, it does a body good.

Doctor Flute