PRACTICE TIPS


Twitter Tips!

A 182 tip experiment

Lance LaDuke

From April 16, 2013 until February 2, 2015, I tweeted 182 practice tips. I may continue to add to them from time to time. Until then, here are the existing 182. Enjoy!

PRACTICE TIPS

Step out of your comfort zone. No, JUMP out! Reach. Strive. Stretch. Risk failure. Then do it again. And again. 

Stuck? How would you teach someone who had this problem? What diagnosis? Which exercises? What encouragement?

Goals are important but you must also have a plan for achieving them. 

Musician, hear thyself.

3 Q’s for your goals:

Where are you? 

Where are you going? 

When will you get there?

Bonus Q’s: 

How?

Why?

I’m too busy to practice = my priorities are out of whack (or I’m afraid of sounding bad).

To know what to say (musically or otherwise), you must first learn to listen.

Technical problem? Change something. Speed, rhythm, note order, octave. One bite at a time. 

A positive attitude is the most important thing to have in the practice room. And maybe your instrument. 

Practice away from your instrument. Ear training, rhythm studies, finger patterns can all be done anytime, anywhere!

No time (or drive)? Fix the ONE passage/measure/skill today that needs it most. Small effort, HUGE impact!

Spend a few minutes at the end of your practice session to recap your progress and plan for tomorrow. 

Leave your preconceptions on the other side of the practice room door. Explore. Experiment. Exfoliate. 

If at first you don’t succeed, welcome to the club. It’s part of the process. Adapt and try again. And again. 

Just because it’s fast (or loud or high or whatever) doesn’t mean it’s musical. What SAY you, musician?

Decide. Commit. Strive. Adjust. Achieve. Rinse. Repeat. 

Some days you just have to tough it out. Set your sights on one tangible goal. Tomorrow will come!

Sometimes Plan A is a bust. Have plans B-Z ready to go. Don’t mourn. Move on. There’s work to do!

Begin with why, move on to what then focus on how. Motivation, goal, process. Why, what, how.

Sometimes the most difficult part is opening the case. Get the ball rolling and let momentum carry you.

Improving is simple. Be thorough, consistent, tenacious, curious & patient. Simple. Not easy. But simple. 

If you fall out your routine, don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge it and move on. Back on the horse!

Music communicates. Practice teaches us to speak. Have something to say and say it! We’re listening. 

Adversity breeds resolve. Or despair. Choose resolve.

Relentless focus on your weak areas, hours of concentrated effort & overcoming your fears IS the easy way. 

Sometimes you just have to slug it out. Rear end in chair. Instrument in hand. Persevering. Every day. 

Get out of your own way! Question your “limitations.” Which are self-imposed or no longer represent reality?

The only note you can do anything about is the one you’re playing.

Locate, diagnose & fix the problem. Fearless focus!!! If your tooth hurts, see a dentist, not a barber. 

Wind players: 

1. Sing. 

2. Sing plus fingers. 

3. Wind pattern plus fingers. 

4. Play. 

Baby steps. 

5 in a row before moving up the metronome. Boring? Not if you are focused.

Your goals are like life GPS. They need starting points, destinations & suggested routes. There WILL be detours! 

I play because it’s fun, challenging, expressive & I like to learn. Plus, I get paid! What’s your list?

Keep track of which practice strategies are most effective for you. Which could be tweaked to improve their effectiveness?

Take a tangible step in the direction of your dream. You don’t need permission. Just go. Today. Now!

Not sure how to tackle a problem? Ask for help. Someone has faced this before. Guaranteed. 

Overwhelmed? Stop. Assess. Tackle one small thing. One step in the right direction. Rinse & repeat.

Miss the same note twice? Write it in. Pick it apart. Analyze. Don’t let it become habit. Fix it. For good.

Practice with a metronome. Practice with a tuner. Work on the parts you can’t play. Use your pencil. Breathe. 

Often, the fear of the thing is worse than the thing itself. Ignore the bogeyman. Boogieman? Boogie, man!

It’s actually very simple. Put fear & doubt aside & tackle what needs to be tackled. Not easy. But simple. 

Ask the question. Follow the lead. Try the idea. Address the problem. Face the fear. Shock the monkey. 

Know how you want to sound before putting wind, bow, stick or plucker into motion. Especially your plucker. 

Sometimes you need to stop, breathe & reassess. Make sure you’re still digging in the right direction.

The notes are the ingredients. Dynamics, phrasing & vibrato are the spices. Make something delicious! We’re hungry!

Sit down in the practice room with an attitude of curiosity & optimism. Be open to discovering how far you can go. 

When in doubt, act. Try something. Change something. Learning happens through action. Do. Fix. Redo. Shoobeedoobeedoo.

What did you accomplish this week? What adjustments do you need to make for next week? Make a plan!

Tough technical passage? Build it backwards. Start with the last note and keep adding the notes before it, one at a time. 

Noisy practice rooms

Earnest efforts to improve

To and from the heart

Give yourself permission to fail. It’s part of the learning process. Don’t waste the learning opportunity! Fail better next time!

Things won’t go according to plan. Expect that. Roll with the punches. Adapt. Keep a positive attitude. Persevere. 

It’s a perfect time to re-evaluate your goals. What, SPECIFICALLY will you accomplish in the next 90 days?

Why not accept the fear & move on? Why not try anyway? Why not see if you can fix that un-fixable problem?

Learn your tendencies & plan for them. Anticipate & adjust. It’s a sign of maturity. Kind of like musical acne.

1. Bracket the measures you can’t play. 

2. Work on those measures 80% of the time. 

3. Improve.

Psst! Practicing is working out your parts on your own. Rehearsing is coordinating with others. Pass it on!

For all the work we put into our music, at the end of it, we play. Man, that’s deep. I need to lay down. 

Accept the fact that you have weak areas. When you do (& focus on addressing them) your progress will amaze you.

Frustration is part of growth. It means you are struggling w/something just beyond your reach. That is how it works. Be patient.

Praktiss, Practiss, Practice

Tone, time, tuning. 

Let’s leave it at that. 

You don’t have to practice in one big  time chunk. Try 15 min. “mini-chunks” throughout the day, each w/a specific focus.

Memorize a piece. It’s good for your brain, removes the barrier between you & the audience & does other good stuff I can’t remember.

Don’t worry about solving every problem w/your playing today. Pick one. Move forward. One bite at a time.

Don't worry about solving every problem w/your playing today. Pick one. Move forward. One bite at a time.

Spend a few minutes at the end of your practice session to recap your progress and plan for tomorrow.

Despite what some trumpet players may tell you, you should always tune down to the lowest voice. Blame Pythagoras, not me.

Negative thoughts & doubt will creep in. Acknowledge them and move on. Dwelling on them means you aren’t focused on making music.

Plateaus will happen. Take a break. Do something unrelated. Attack the problem from a different angle. Don't freak out. Exfoliate.

Sometimes you need to keep your head down & push. Other times you need to look up & make sure you’re still on course. Deep, right? 

Bring as much focus to your warmup as you do to the rest of your playing. 3 out of 4 dentists recommend it. The 4th is a jerk face.

Take time to learn tunes correctly (even if it's boring) so you won't have to un/re-learn them later. Patience, young Padawan.

Scientist, coach, artist. We shift between these roles when we practice. Experiment, exercise, emote. Be aware of the shift.

You should only practice on the days you want to. And on the days you don't.

Don't stop at right notes. What is the intention? Tell a story. We all like stories. Especially dragon stories! Grrrr!

Pick a passage by one of your musical heroes. Dissect it- why does it hit you? Apply THAT to your playing. Lather, rinse, repeat. 

Wind players! A great way to miss a note is to stop the air before exhaling! You'll make amazing noises! Go scare your cat!

Frustrated? Break down the problem into baby steps and work up from there. Sing. Count. Note by note. Chillax, Brah.

It's not always going to go the way you want it to. How you react, recover and retool will determine your success.

Congratulations on yesterday's accomplishments! Now, get back to work! What will you do today? Strive for more.

Commit to a new habit or routine for 100 days. The results (like writing 100 practice tips) will surprise you! Thanks for reading!

Miss a note once, it could be a fluke. Miss it again, circle it and make a plan to ensure there isn't a third miss. 

Stuck? Sick of practicing? In a rut? Take a day off. Settle your head. Reconnect w/why you do this in the first place & come back fresh. 

What is the most important step you could take today to improve on your instrument? Go do that. I'll wait here. Go on.

Before buying a new mouthpiece, horn, accessory, etc. check within. The problem could be on your side of the instrument. 

Practice isn’t about hours logged. It is about honestly and earnestly facing your challenges and striving to meet your goals.

It's a perfect day to clean your instrument. If you know what I mean. And I mean clean your instrument. It's gross.

Find a “Practice Buddy.” Hold each other accountable to your goals. Celebrate accomplishments. High five. But not in public.

Stuck? Change something. Alter the rhythm, octave, speed, articulation. Or just put on your lucky socks.

Multiple small steps add up to huge overall progress. Take a small step. Then another. And another. Just keep moving forward.

Blow chunks. Practice in concentrated chunks of time today instead of all at once. Let the material sink in.

Teach a concept you are struggling w/to a friend who plays the same inst. You will be forced to analyze your process.

If you’re stuck, ask for help! Do research. Watch or listen to an expert. Find a new teacher. Ask an old teacher!

If you improve, that's on you. If you don't, guess what? That's on you too. Have a nice day!

Equipment check (Top 10):

Tuner

Metronome

Recorder

Mirror

Pencil

Music

Instrument (duh)

Stand

Goals

Positive attitude

If you got a couple measures to fix, put it on a loop. If you've got a couple measures to fix, put it on a loop. Repeat.

You know what? Just go practice. You're never gonna feel like it. Just go do it. Yes, right now. Go.

If playing the flute or trombone

In a band or even alone

On your feet, in a chair

You must use lots of air

To get a mellifluous tone 

Reconnect w/the reason you started playing music in the first place. Unless it was to get rich. That was just silly. 

When thinking about your goals, identify the specific actions you will take to make it happen. Or be a smelly loser weenie.

Scared to play for a crowd? Start with playing for one person. Or your cat. Unless he’s super judgemental. Maybe try the dog.

Go for it! If you miss a note, miss it BIG! Commit! Strong and wrong! Give 100%. Take a chance! Grunt a lot!

Mirror, mirror on the wall,

Is my posture weird at all?

Tension in your back or neck,

Always makes you sound like heck. 

In addition to solo & lg ens playing, be sure to play in a chamber group. It helps develop musical independence!

Remember what Yoda said. It's better to sound right than to be right.

When in doubt, go back to the basics. Tone, wind, posture, time, pitch, song, push-ups.

What part of your playing you fear/dread the most? Make that your new top priority. Let the fear/dread be a compass.

Spend 30% of your time on skill devel., 50% on specific probs in your music & 25% playing for fun.

Your goals should have expiration dates. Otherwise, they are your bucket list. Think "next Friday" not “someday."

What happens if you miss a note? Famine, locusts, acne, halitosis, dandruff. Other than that, not much. Adjust & move on.

What are you trying to communicate? The notes are the words. Dynamics, rubato, tone are your accent. Be clear. Connect with us!

Decide you can. Your mind & body will prove you right. If you decide you can't, you'll prove that instead. Choose can.

You don't need your instrument to practice. Work on your ear, rhythm, muscle memory. Counting to four.  Looking cool.

Devote 5 minutes each day to improving the weakest area of your playing. Make a conscious decision to improve!

Don't be afraid to fail. It's part of the process. Learn. Adjust. Improve. Yodel.

Practice performing from beginning to end. Record to figure out weak spots. Play canned applause. Or laugh track.

Never sacrifice sound for volume. It's bad juju. And your toenails will fall out. You've been warned.

Today's a fine day for fixing what you put off fixing for fear that fixing it was futile or may finally fix itself but didn’t.

Fear is a lousy reason to settle for mediocre. You're a big, brave dog!

The destination is important but don't ignore the ride. Quit asking if we're there yet! 

Attitude trumps aptitude. The right bower trumps everything else.

Learn a piece backwards. Start at the end & work towards the beginning. Reward yourself w/dessert before dinner!

Start where you are. Don't worry about how others play. Compare your progress to your potential.

Bring a positive attitude into the practice room. Even if you have to borrow one.

Start a practice journal TODAY! How much time. What you worked on. How you felt. You'll be glad you did!

If you're stuck, ask for help! There's no shame in doing so. The sooner you ask, the quicker you'll be back to making music!

The rests are as important as the notes. And easier to play.

Do your goals have due dates? Set some @ various intervals (1day, 1week, etc.) & see which spur action. Don't use actual spurs.

Are you a visual learner? Aural? Kinesthetic? Do you know? You should! Figure it out & plan your practice accordingly!

Make your goals specific & measurable. Choose "mm=152," over "faster." Clarity is key. Claritin is an allergy drug.

How would you teach someone to fix that thing you are struggling with? Create an assignment for your “student."

To strengthen your ears, create a drone and play along (scales, intervals, etc.). Or do ear push-ups!

10 min x 7 days > 70 min x 1 day. Consistency > Cramming. Coke > Pepsi. 

Be your own teacher. Record a short passage & create an assignment for yourself based on what you hear. Heal thy self.

If you're the one who decided on your limits, then you are the one who can remove them. So do so.

Just go ahead & learn your scales, arpeggios & intervals & get it over with.

Use a mirror to check more than your beauty. Look for excess tension, bad alignment or general "weirdness." Your mileage may vary.

Tension in your body becomes tension in your music. Take a moment & adjust your posture. Move freely, play freely.

Want to miss more notes? Focus on the ones you already missed instead of the ones you're playing now! Works every time!

Play a patriotic tune today. In all 12 keys.

Long tones. Lots of long tones. And then more long tones. Repeat. Listen. Adjust. Refine. Improve. Floss.

Mix up your playing today. Sightread first. Play scales last. Whatever. Get out of your rut. Don't let your routine become routine.

Concentration is a skill. You need to develop it like any other. Try to... wait, what was I saying? Um, go practice.

Play in a different room than you are used to. How are tone, articulation & dynamic contrast different in the new space?

Listen to a pro on an inst you don't play? What can you steal from them? Not just their wallet. How about tone, phrasing, vibrato?

If you don't like your tone, change something! If it makes it worse, change something else. Keep adjusting and improving.

Pay attention to BOTH ends of the notes. How you finish is (at least) as important as how you start.

Learn something by ear today. Could be anything. Start with whatever annoying earworm you've been carrying around today.

It's a nice day. Go play outside. You can annoy your neighbors! Or earn a few bucks. Or both. Have them pay you to stop! 

Practice makes progress. Progresso makes soup. Get it?

Correctly diagnosing the problem is half the battle. Work is the other half. Attitude is the other half. Math is the other half.

Wind players, there are very few tone problems (maybe none) that aren't related to the quantity and/or quality of your breath. Blow!!!

Not sure what to work on? Start with the thing you are most scared of playing. 

Instead of every beat, set your met. for every meas. & shift it to beat 2, 3 or 4 of ea. bar. Baby steps to rhythmic independence!

Play some scales for your Mom today! She'll love it!

Leave the tuner on as much as possible today when you play. I dare you. 

What are your tendencies?

Forte is only important in comparison to piano. Contrast is key. And bird is the word. 

Vibrato is not binary. It is an expressive tool. Vary width & speed to say what you have to say. Think slider, not on/off switch. 

Before adjusting pitch, make sure you're playing with your best sound. Tone, then tune. 

Systems check! Excess tension? Clear goals? Facing fears? Focused on weak spots? Having fun? Fly up?

Question your assumptions. Why can't you play higher (faster, w/a nice tone, vibrato, etc.)? What if you can? Remove the limiter!!!

In a rut? Have a "Listen-Fest" and fill your ears with great music to recharge your batteries!

Play in the moment. Forget the notes you've played. Don't worry about the notes to come. Sing, dagnabit!

When you sit, make sure your knees are lower than your hips. Too low, you'll be standing. Deep, right? 

Bored? Increase the challenge. Frustrated? Simplify the challenge. Adjust, adjust, adjust. 

Just go ahead and write it in your music. You're not going to remember. No, you won't. 

Spend 80% of your time on the 20% of your playing which is the weakest. Own up to that 20%! Be brave Li'l Buckaroo!

Listen to one of your musical heroes today. Fill your tank. You'll be tankful!

Try to communicate w/every note you play. We want to hear what you have to say. It's the whole point yada yada hay.

1. Record yourself

2. Listen

3. Adjust

4. Repeat 1-3 a whole bunch of times

5. Improve

The R's of sight reading:

Follow the Roadmap

Read the Rhythms

Relax (rinse and repeat)

Guess the tempo of every tune you hear today. Check w/metronome. Close? Can you improve? Bonus: Annoys your friends!

That thing you've been putting off fixing? How about today? How about right now? Why not?

From 1st note to last today, focus on your sound. Let's call it Tone Tuesday!

Play w/an attitude of curiosity today. Remove your limits & see how far you can go. Or stay stuck. It's up to you!

Play something just for fun today. Could be old, new, borrowed or blue(s). See what I did there?

What's the weakest area of your playing? Spend 30 min. on that today. I triple dog dare you to! 

Focus on what you can't play. If the problem's at m. 47, don't start at m. 1. That's just silly. 

If you can't sing it, you can't play it. Join band, learn to sing!

When in doubt, slow it down. Half speed is your friend. 

Piano = as softly as you can play w/a good sound. It will change every day. Sound first, then volume. Please? Pretty please?