10 Tips to Practice More Efficiently

by Mitchell Estrin


I enjoy practicing, and throughout my career have practiced every day, with very few exceptions. A musician needs to practice regularly to stay in top performance shape, improve on fundamentals, learn new repertoire, and continually develop as an artist. There are a finite number of hours in each day, and, in addition to practicing, a myriad of other responsibilities and tasks to achieve. So, it is important for a musician to learn how to practice efficiently. As the great trombonist Joe Alessi says, "The goal is to achieve the maximum results in the minimum amount of time."

There is an old joke that asks what is the most difficult part of practicing. The punchline is opening the case. Funny, but often true! Just getting to the point in the day where you are actually in a room for the sole purpose of practicing can be challenging. Once you are in the practice room, try these 10 strategies to help you be more efficient in your practice routine.


1. Have a plan. 

Know exactly what you are going to practice and in what order before you begin. I decide when I am packing up after practicing what I am going to practice and in what order in my next session.


2. Practice early in the day. 

Even if this means getting up earlier. Your mind will be fresh and rested. There is nothing worse than getting to the end of the day knowing that you have not practiced. Also, if you practice early in the day, you may find "bonus time" later in the day to practice more. 


3. Warm up properly. 

A good warmup will give you a better practice session and will increase your daily endurance. For me, this means 30-45 minutes of long tones, scales, and articulation exercises. 


4. Take a 10 minute break every hour. 

Your mind and muscles need time to rest and recharge.

"That text and voicemail can be answered later. Facebook will also be waiting for you." - Mitchell Estrin

5. Hydrate.

Drink plenty of water. Your muscles need hydration


6. Create an environment for successful practice. 

This should be a quiet and isolated location which will be free of any distractions.


7. Go into the practice session with the right mindset and mental focus.

Know what you wish to accomplish. A wandering mind will result in a non-productive and potentially frustrating session.


8. Have everything ready and in place. 

Music stand, music (in order for the session), metronome, tuner, pencil, and, my personal favorite, a handbook of musical terms.


9. Turn off your cell phone.

That text and voicemail can be answered later. Facebook will also be waiting for you.


10. Don't over practice! 

Regular daily sessions of reasonable duration will be much more productive and reap superior results in the long term than irregular practice marathons. 


 I hope these 10 tips will assist you to practice more efficiently. Now, go open that case!


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