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Step Three: Practice regimens

So you've been putting time in on the horn? That's great! Getting started is the hardest part, and those first days can be very frustrating. And of course, there are the folks who brag about how much they practice. Practicing extreme amounts is no way to compare who is better. And who cares how much McKenzie was practicing? We each have our own journey. Practicing smart is 100% more important than practicing a lot.

So we have identified ways to impact your playing immediately with the metronome and drone. But how do you put this in place? One of the key things to remember is that when you start talking about multiple hours of practicing in a single day, you need to build in rest time. I use a 2:1 ratio in my practicing, with a target of 20 minute practice sessions. I find it easy to break that 20 minutes into 5 and 10 minute blocks to work different sections (especially when preparing for an audition). I learned this idea about taking breaks from Roy Poper, who teaches trumpet at Oberlin College. Roy loves bass trombone, but I wasn't 100% sure if he came in during my lessons with DeSano because he heard bass trombone or because hearing bass trombone meant Roy needed to save Jim from my awful playing. Either way, Roy had lots of great ideas (another is practicing fundamentals while watching golf or baseball).

So how can you put this into place? Start keeping a practice log. What does a practice log look like? What goes into a practice log? Do I have to buy some wild and expensive book? Nope, none of that. All you need is a spiral notebook (or you could take notes on your phone?) Log when and how long you practiced in a session, and log what you practiced. Take note of what has improved. Note what you want to improve next. Reflect on the log every week and come up with a plan of attack for the following week. A practice log is just a physical manifestation of individual accountability.

In the end, how you choose the practice will influence your progress. Just don't forget to give yourself a break.

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