For most musicians, time is not on our side. We have to hustle with a day job, work tons of gigs, teach, or do a combination of things. That is why flute practice is so important. But, if you don’t have much time, you need to focus on quality over quantity.
In music school, the idea that I had to practice for hours a day was drilled into my head. If I wanted to be the best, I had to practice as much as I could. Now that I am out of school, that is just not possible for me.
I work full time in an field outside of music, and so I don’t have multiple hours a day to dedicate to practicing. I wish I did, but I don’t. Since graduating, I have learned to appreciate the time I do have to practice.
Here is why quality practice is so important and how you can make the most of the time you have.
Get up earlier.
One thing I have started doing lately is getting up a little earlier than normal. I set my alarm for thirty minutes before I *need* to get up, and I use those 30 minutes to practice.
I did this in school, so why can’t I do it when I’m out of school?
There are many benefits to practicing first thing.
The obvious benefit is that you get it out of the way. You don’t have to think about it all day. That’s especially nice if you work all day.
Another perk of practicing first thing is that I have the energy to do so. I know some people are super groggy first thing, but I am lucky that I am not. Since I am awake, I am able to use some of that energy to practice.
If I were to wait until I got home from work, I would be tired, and I would not have the motivation to practice.
Make a list.
It can be a mental list. I like to make a list of what I want to accomplish in any one practice session. Maybe my goal is as small as improving my harmonics. It might be as big as perfecting a section of a concerto.
A list can help streamline your practice and help you focus on what you need to work on. If you just pick up your flute without any goals or direction, you will just be wasting that time.
So make a list of a few small, achievable goals that you can work on for your next practice session.
Another great thing about listing out your goals is that you can look back at them. You can look back to see if you accomplished your goal or if you missed something.
Then you can reevaluate for your next practice session.
Take a break.
If you are not genuinely motivated to practice, you will not get anything done. I have found that unmotivated practice is a huge waste of time and energy. It accomplishes nothing.
While it can be tempting to practice whenever you have the time, it’s not always worth it. If your mind is elsewhere, put the flute down and come back later.
Mindless practice is exactly that: mindless. Walk away. Go watch a show. Read a book. Take a nap. Do whatever it is that is taking your attention away from the flute.
Part of practice is being able to discipline yourself, and that includes knowing when to take a break. You will improve, but not if you are practicing without wanting to.
Make the most of your time.
When you have limited resources, you learn to make the most of what you do have. That includes time. Unless you are in music school (not working), or you somehow managed to find a full time performing job, you will not have endless practice time.
You will have an outside job, or other classes, or other life responsibilities that you need to tackle. That, sadly, leaves less time for music.
But part of becoming a well rounded adult is learning to make the most of what is available to you. If you really prefer to practice for a longer period of time, utilize your days off. Get up earlier. Go to bed later.
Do what you need to do to practice how you need to, but remember that time is limited. So make the most of it.
How/When I practice.
As I stated above, I like to get up about 30 minutes earlier than I need to so that I can get clock in a half hour of well rested, motivated practice time. I start with harmonics and then long tone to warm up my lips.
Then I move to some technical exercises so that I can work my fingers and practice different articulations. After that, I play through Debussy’s Syrinx from memory. That helps me maintain the piece from memory, and I can practice my expressiveness.
Finally, I move into solo and ensemble music. Since I play in a flute choir, I usually like to work on the harder sections or pieces. I also like to work on a solo or two to build my repertoire list.
If I have the motivation later in the day, I practice some more, and I will usually pick up my piccolo. However, since I have already achieved thirty minutes of uninterrupted practice, I don’t feel bad if I don’t have the motivation to play later in the day.
That’s the nice thing about having an outside job. I can be more forgiving with myself when it comes to music. I don’t *have* to practice all the time. Music is something I can do on my own terms.
How do you practice? Do you practice quality over quantity? Let me know in the comments!