Practice- When?

What difference does it make when you practice? That is a very good question for little has been written on this subject. I will share some of my feelings on this in hopes that you can gain some insight into the affects of practicing at various times throughout the day.

What is the best time of the day to start practicing?

The best time of the day to start practicing is early in the morning. Your schedule will dictate if this is possible but if scheduling is not an issue and you could plan out your whole day around practicing, I would suggest that after your shower and breakfast, you should start your practice for the day.
Why is it better to start practicing early in the morning?

Repetitious actions such as warming up are much easier when you’re half asleep in the same way brushing your teeth in the morning is something we do but really never think about. I’m not saying that your warm up is not important but that chore does not require any more concentration than the every day act of brushing your teeth.

Is one practice session better than multiple sessions?

If you have only one period in the day to practice, that would be the best for you. If you are able to break up your practice into several periods, that would be better. It has been proven that most people can only fully concentrate for twenty minutes at a time. Because this is true, it would be more effective to break your practice sessions into twenty to thirty minute segments. You will be able to accomplish much more in this manner than you would if you practiced for a longer period.

What disadvantage is there to breaking the practice sessions into several twenty to thirty minute segments?

One big problem with multiple practice periods is the fact that many times we start the day with good intentions but because of conflicts and unseen distractions, we many times do not get back to practice the additional material. And for most players, after working all day at their jobs, be it school or work, they are more tired at the end of the day and our productivity and energy is at a lower level.

Can I practice at night?

Of course you can. If this is the only time in your daily schedule that you can devote to your instrument, that is what you should do. Practicing in the evening can be very relaxing after a busy day and I encourage you to do so. There are some issues which you should consider when practicing in the evening.

• Melodic playing is more pleasant to perform when you’re tired.
• Technical passages are more demanding and require more concentration.
• When the body is tired, your endurance will drain faster.
• High range playing can many times require more effort when you’re tired.
• Concentrating on finger exercises can be helpful.
• Before beginning your practice, do some deep breathing exercises to help you wake up.

When I’m away from my horn, is there anything I can do during the day to practice?

There are several things you can do during the day which will benefit your playing.

• Keep an extra mouthpiece in your car so when you drive down the road, you can practice buzzing.
• In addition to the practice on your mouthpiece you can also practice buzzing without the mouthpiece.
• Buzzing with and without the mouthpiece is also great practice for developing better intonation for if you are able to buzz a recognizable melody, you will be improving your intonation ability.
• Buzzing lip flexibility exercises work the embouchure in the same way that playing on the instrument does.

What would be an ideal schedule for each day of practicing?

That would totally depend on the individual. I have found for me that this works best-

• Mouthpiece warm-up after breakfast (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Arpeggio Studies (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Lip flexibility exercises (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Valve work (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Range and interval studies (twenty- thirty minutes)
• Melodic studies (twenty- thirty minutes)

Our next post will get down to the final issue of what material needs to be practiced on a daily basis.

Bruce was a member of the faculty at the University of Northern Iowa, School of Music in Cedar Falls from 1969 until his retirement in 1999. He has performed with many well-known entertainers such as Bob Hope, Jim Nabors, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Anita Bryant, Carman Cavalara, Victor Borgie, the Four Freshman, Blackstone the Magician, Bobby Vinton and John Davidson.