How to Practice


Every practice session should begin with a good warm-up to prepare your muscles and your ears for the music that you are about to play. A good warm-up should include: Long tones, flexibility exercises, scales, and some music reading .

Long tones

Hold various notes for at least 16 counts. Start in your low range, and then gradually try higher notes. Make sure that all muscles are as relaxed as possible with the exception of your diaphragm which pushes your air. Take the deepest breath possible. E xhale completely while you hold your long tone - and stay relaxed. Once you can do this well, then try to add a crescendo and decrescendo during the 16 beats. Try to be very gradual about your getting louder and softer (no sudden bursts of air and sound). Then . . . take a well deserved break. (Breaks are very important, especially for brass players. You are building muscles and they need rest.)


Brass players should do lip slurs, such has the three-note, four-note, and five-note warm-ups as we do in lessons. Please start easy, and don't play high notes too early in your practice session. Even if you can hit the high notes, it is best to start in the low to mid range of the instrument for the sake of your long-term endurance. Woodwind player (and brass players) can work on their flexibility with a variety of interval exercises, such as this one: Go up a "C" scale slurred in this pattern: C D C E C F C G C A C B C C-high. This can be done on any and all scales that you know, throughout your range. It can also be done backwards (ex., C-high, B, C-high, A C G C F C E C D C C-low). It increases your accuracy and consistancy as you compare each note of the scale with the fundamental C.


Once a student can play all the notes in the basic range, you should then take on the task of learning all 12 major scales as soon as possible. Most band students should have a goal of memorizing at least 7 of the 12 major scales by the end of sixth grade, and learning to memorize all 12 as soon as Junior High Band. Then you can play any band piece or solo that is put in front of you because you know all the notes!!!. Once a student knows their scales, then you should try to play them faster, and also play them with different articulations like stacato and legato (slurred). Then, one scale at a time, try to play them for two octaves. LEARN THE CHROMATIC SCALE IN AS LARGE A RANGE AS POSSIBLE - notice that when notes are ascending, they are spelled as sharps (#), then descending they are spelled as flats (b) - but they are all the same notes (this is called enharmonic equivalent, when the same note is spelled two different ways).

A side-note for Percussionists : Your scales are your rudiments. There are 26 scales that a typical high school student has learned by the end of their school-music career. Take every rudiment that has been assigned to you and review it: rolls, flams, paradiddles, ratamacues, etc.

Music Reading

Once you are warmed up it's time to play some music. A musician always wants to increase his or her skills in reading music. When reading new music, do it slowly and carefully, yet still at a steady tempo. Be sure that you are counting the right amount of beats for each note. After your lesson assignment has been covered, read something for fun. It could be a past lesson or band peice, your current band music, solos, or a book of music from a music store. Try to not just limit yourself to the current band music only.


One thing that will help every student with their rhythmic accuracy is owning a metronome - preferrrably one with a loud click, rather than just a high-pitched beep. Any music store or on-line music catalogue will sell you one for approximately $25.00 Put the metronome at a slow speed at first, a speed that you can definitely line up your quarter notes or eighth notes with the beats that you hear from the metronome. Make sure that you are listening closely for whether or not you are with the metronome beat. Then when you can do that well, try it gradually faster. You can find an online metronome here. (click on the metromone once to activate the page, then you'll have to click on the desired tempo you want in order to start the metronome - make sure your speakers are on and turned up).