Practice Tips

Always have your PRACTICE & LESSON JOURNAL with you – read through your assignment for the week and remind yourself of specific topics your instructor discussed at your previous lesson. As you practice throughout the week, write questions in your journal for your instructor. In addition, write down specific accomplishments, i.e. “Today I played with a full, focused sound!” and areas you would like to improve on during your next practice session.

Set GOALS – whenever you are practicing, establish some sort of goals for yourself. Goals can be short-term or long-term, i.e. “Today I want to have a clear, focused tone” is short term; “This month I’m going to focus on learning more notes” is long term. Use your lesson journal to write down your goals so you can track your progress throughout the week or month. You will be amazed at your progress!

Use a PENCIL – make sure you keep a pencil in your clarinet case, on your music stand, or in your band folder, and bring one with you to your lesson each week. Mark accidentals in your music, plan your breaths, and pencil in alternate or chromatic fingerings and “L” or “R” pinky keys as necessary! Many times clarinetists have more than one choice for fingering a passage. Consider using chromatic fingerings in chromatic passages; keep the finger movement in one hand when possible and write “L” or “R” over the notes so you can easily remember which pinky to use in a particular passage!

ELIMINATE errors immediately. If you make a mistake once, it’s an accident; if you continue to make the same mistake over and over again, it becomes a bad habit!

Use a MIRROR – watching yourself in a mirror will remind you of some of the fundamentals you are learning during your lessons. If you know what a good embouchure looks like, you can then watch for that in your own playing if you have a mirror nearby when you practice. Most especially when you are learning about the embouchure and correct finger/hand position, a mirror is essential to your success. REMEMBER: your instructor is only with you one day a week – you are your own “teacher” every day of your life.

Have proper-working REEDS on hand at all times. Do not practice on a reed that is damaged in any way or one that has poor response. See REED TIPS for further information. (Tom: REED TIPS should have a link to the section on “Reed Tips”)

Maintain a proper practice ENVIRONMENT – make sure to practice in a quiet room where there are no distractions. Keep pets and siblings away so you can concentrate fully on the music in front of you. Find a chair with no arms that provides proper posture, a music stand, and other essentials identified in the “practice tips” list.

Establish FIRM PRACTICE TIMES – determine exactly when you will devote time to practice throughout the week. Make sure your daily practice times is a priority in your daily schedule. Practicing several shorter times throughout the day is more helpful than one lengthy practice session. Your instructor will suggest daily practice times based on your skill level. Newer clarinetists will have shorter practice sessions due to training the muscles required to perform on the instrument, etc. As you progress, you will have more to learn, and, therefore, will need more time to practice.

Use a METRONOME – there are so many wonderful metronomes available at a variety of prices to fit any budget. Practicing with a metronome will help you develop an internal pulse and insure you are playing evenly and accurately. Make sure to practice at a very slow tempo so you can pay attention to proper hand/finger position, accidentals, rhythms, articulations, dynamics, phrases, etc. Find a tempo at which you can play a passage or etude evenly and accurately and work your way to a faster one throughout the week. Keep track of what tempo you begin with so you can track your progress throughout the week!

RECORD yourself – what we hear in our own heads is often not what is really happening! A recording will not lie and is a wonderful tool to use.

Take CARE of your instrument – Make sure your instrument is in proper working condition at all times. If a pad is leaking or a key is bent, your clarinet will not respond well and you will begin to develop poor performance habits to compensate for the instrument. If you have any questions about the condition of your instrument, consult your instructor immediately.

Make practice time FUN – Once you have practiced your lesson materials, band music, etc., take some time to sight-read something new or play through a piece that brings you great joy. Make time to “perform” something you’ve been working on for your family members or friends so you can show them what you have accomplished!

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