Practice vs. Efficiency

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by silverstar, Jan 25, 2006.

  1. silverstar

    silverstar Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 6, 2005
    (I posted this on TH as well, but I thought I'd give it a go here too....)

    Today our Wind Symphony had a bit of a wake-up call. We had the opportunity to listen to a rival school's Wind Symphony, and...OMG...they were AMAZING. Our Wind Symphony got OWNED by their Wind Symphony...and my directors and my classmates knew it. After we got back from our little shindig at the middle schools, we had a sort of meeting with the directors. They talked about what had happened with us, and we all came to the conclusion that the major difference between our band and theirs is the fact that EVERY SINGLE member of their band most likely goes home and practices their part EVERY SINGLE day.

    One of my directors made a comment that made me think a little. He said something to the effect of, "Now, they probably don't spend as much time practicing as some of you, but they're more efficient with how they practice. Some of you need to start practicing, and those of you that already do practice, need to really think about if you're practicing efficiently."

    Now, I try to get at least an hour on the horn everyday. I practice whenever I have a free moment in my day, but I seem not to know exactly what I'm doing. I think I'm one of the people he was talking to about practicing 'efficiently'.

    What does it mean to 'practice efficiently'? How do you go about changing from just 'practice' to 'efficient practice'?

    I really would like some help, because it will A.) help me become a better player, and B.) it will help out my band.

    Thanks guys!

  2. LFRoberts5

    LFRoberts5 Pianissimo User

    Nov 1, 2003
    St. Louis
    Practice in such a way as to never make a mistake. The saying "Practice makes perfect" is WRONG!!!

    PERFECT Practice makes perfect!
  3. Alex Yates

    Alex Yates Forte User

    Aug 11, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    In a a nutshell Lara (sorry, I am sleepy), efficient practice is killing several birds with one stone. For instance, while playing scales - instead of merely "learning a scale", you can work on sound, timing, tonguing, intonation, dynamics, consistency and air all at once. You have to mentally be in all of those places while you practice. It may sound daunting at first, but it is really about awareness. Taping yourself doing this is also efficient practice. Learning the fingerings of pieces/etudes and mentally running them in your mind with a metronome is efficient practice because you are not wasting chop time. Singing through a passage and then playing it is another example. You get the idea. I hope this helps.
  4. silverstar

    silverstar Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 6, 2005
    Thank you, Alex!

    I have a hard time with the whole scale thing because everyone's always telling me to learn them...and I've had them memorized since 9th/10th grade. I like that idea of using scale time to do other dynamics, and air consistancy, etc. I've not thought of that, so many things to think about.

    *reads the word metronome and dies*
    Ok..ok...if you say so. lol. (<---she hates metronomes!!! )

    Seriously, I do have to work harder on working with a metronome. Ever since 4th grade those things have annoyed me to no end...but, I realize that they will help make me a better player. So...point taken, and I will be better about that!

    Thank you for your helpful post!

  5. bas

    bas Pianissimo User

    Jun 2, 2005
    Iowa City, IA/Corfu, GR
    Lara....the metronome really will be a good friend to you. It's like any other friend, the more time you spend with it, the closer and friendlier you two will become. :-)

    BTW....great answer Alex.
  6. W Scott

    W Scott Piano User

    Dec 8, 2003
    Carson City, NV.
    Some other things to consider (along with what Alex posted).

    Do you have a goal? What are your weak areas? If you're weak on rhythm and counting, then you have to work with the metronome. How is your sound? Your speed?

    Figure out what you're weak on and spend the bulk of your time getting this worked out. Don't neglect the things you are good at, but spend time on the things you aren't. Some of the easiest exercises can be some of the toughest.

    Scales? Try doing some of the scale based exercises in Arbans, with a metronome running; paying attention to how much air you are breathing out--how far can you play in an exercise without a breath?; How is your sound? Notes centered? Big sound without pinching or straining? Pay attention to the rythmn as kept by the metronome---keep the flow of the exercise smooth.

    Try #17 (p.62); #26 (p.64);, 39 and 40 (p.67)---both are in the key of A, so you can work on a tougher key.

    You will be working on staccato tonguing, legato, intervals, low notes to high notes, different keys---all in four exercises.

    Hang in there, Lara. Sometimes the greatest triumphs are born out of the worst defeats. You love to play the trumpet, and as long as you have that--sooner or later the rest will come.

  7. bandman

    bandman Forte User

    Oct 16, 2004
    Lafayette, LA, USA
    This is an interesting thread. I taught in a school for over 20 years where I had five 52-minute rehearsals a week. I now teach in a school where I have two 50-minute rehearsals and one 33-minute rehearsal per week. Efficiency during rehearsals is a must for us, and it was a wake up call to me to find out that it was possible to do in half the time what I did in the past, and still get the job done as well.

    A few comments about your post.

    1) Young people today are amazing. You folks are involved in so many activities that you see yourselves coming and going. I’m willing to bet that the members in the other band don’t practice that much more than the members in your band. I bet the efficiency of practice comes during the rehearsals with the band.

    2) How much time during a rehearsal does your director WAIT ON THE BAND MEMBERS? Do an experiment one day after telling your director what you are going to do. Take a stop watch and time the total number of minutes and seconds of wasted time in a rehearsal due to students that chit chat, or don’t listen, or toot on the side, or need to get up and do something. I’m talking about time when 100% of the band is not on task. Remember that if one band member is off task that the director will need to re-teach that section of the music.

    Now take the total number of minutes and multiply that times 180 (the number of days in a school year). Losing 5 minutes per day adds up to 15 hours per year. 15 hours per year over 4 years is 60 extra band periods.

    My students use every minute of every period so that we can make up for the lack of time we have as compared to traditional schools who have band five days per week. We have less time, but I bet our total time on task is close to that of many bands.

    3) I agree with out of school practice time for your normal band member to this extent – every band member needs to practice so that he/she is proficient on the material taught at today’s rehearsal at the next rehearsal. It then becomes their responsibility to go to the band director before school, after school, or at lunch for help on the parts of the music on which they need extra help. If your director is not willing to give up this time for your band then you have bigger problems than we can address in this thread. If the band member is not willing to give up his/her personal time then the answer is that this person needs to be replaced. A lesser player who is willing to put in the work is better than a great player who does not fulfill his responsibility to his fellow band members.

    4) Proficiency in your next rehearsal is 100% dependant upon all of your band members being able to perform what was taught in the last rehearsal. If one band member continues to mess up on yesterday’s lesson, then the rest of the ensemble must wait for that person to practice during class.

    One last major observation. It does not ever matter how your band plays in comparison to another band. What matters is how does your band play as compared with the level that your band should play?

    I’ve had some super fine bands that at the end of the year I was disappointed with how we played as compred withwhat I expected from them. Those bands may have won every competition they attended, and made straight “A’s†on every score sheet all year long, but they never reached their potential.

    I’ve had other bands that were much weaker, but they made such wonderful strides during the year. I tease my band students this year saying that the band last year “had to improve to be bad!†This year we started at bad and right now we are pretty darn good. If we continue to make these improvements in a few years they will be exceptional! The important thing is that we are improving every year, and that we are working up to our full potential.

    Not every band is going to be GREAT. Some years it just doesn’t happen. On those years you need to stress the importance of 100% focus during rehearsals. The band members need to tell each other during rehearsal to get on task so your director can focus on teaching.

    All of these things together lead to that efficiency in practice as a band. I have certain goals I want to accomplish in every class period I teach. I always make certain that those goals are a little more than I can get done. We shoot for the stars, but may only reach the moon, but at the end of a rehearsal we feel very good about what we accomplish.

    One last personal comment – I finish every rehearsal by telling my band “thank you for your attentionâ€, I tell them I love them, and we say a closing prayer together (in my room always the “Hail Maryâ€). All of that takes about 35-45 seconds. It may be time away from our rehearsal, but it makes us close like family, and makes us want to do things for each other.
  8. silverstar

    silverstar Mezzo Forte User

    Jan 6, 2005
    Wow...great posts everyone!

    Thank you so much!

    I know what I'm doing at lunch today...I'm going to practice, practice, practice! Oh yeah...and find my metronome. :oops: That is a really helpful post.

  9. Alex Yates

    Alex Yates Forte User

    Aug 11, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    The Great OZ has spoken....i.e. Bandman. Great post! I am sure all of the band directors are taking notes as well. You run a tight and successful ship Captain!

    You're in good hands Lara. Now go practice (with a metronome)! LOL.

    Pssssssst...come here........we all hated working with metronomes at one time or another so don't feel so bad.
  10. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    Yeah! Might I add (or state as a variation on that theme) that it also matters how much your group has grown (improved) over the course of the year.

    I find it important to set a goal for each and every practice session. What is the purpose of this session? Is it just a warm-up time or do you have some specific aspect you are working for (it should ALWAYS be the second). To arrive at that, record yourself or make a mental note about the things your director is constantly telling you to do in lessons or rehearsals.

    You may want to try this (it's alot of work, but I found it extremely helpful): keep a journal on hand exclusively for practicing. Before (or at the start of) each session, write down your goal for that session. Base this on your last entry; for the first one, base it on your instinct. Make a plan. What studies/excercises/etudes and literature will move you forward towards your goal? At the close of the session, (and this is THE key element here) evaluate yourself. How did it go? What went well? What problems did you experience? Why did you experience them? (Were they mental blocks or technical fauxpas or whatever else?) Every so often (maybe each week or so) go back through your journal checking and paying close attention to the evaluations.

    I love Ed Carroll's take on this...maybe he can make an appearance and re-state it a bit more eloquently than I: Make a plan; follow the plan; evaluate the plan; make a new plan.

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