• Rachel Friedman

How to Practice



Practicing is divided into three - sometimes four - categories:

  1. Basics (scales, long tones, open strings, arpeggios, vibrato exercises, etc.)

  2. Building-blocks (etudes)

  3. Learning Music (solos, excerpts, or orchestral music)

  4. Run-throughs (This step is primarily before auditions or after I feel that I have reached a level of permanent competence on a passage. This step does not happen at every practice session!)

I do 90% of my practicing about 20-30 clicks under tempo. Very very very slow. It’s grueling sometimes, but muscle memory and clean technique are important. I very rarely play anything at tempo while practicing, unless it is category #4 (see above). I also take breaks every hour. It is important to put your instrument down and give your brain and fingers a rest for a bit.

-Words of Wisdom contributed by Christina Bonatakis, Principal Bassoonist of the Missouri Symphony Orchestra and Bassoonist in the Civic Orchestra of Chicago


Practice Tips:

  • Don’t play it up to tempo – instead work it up to tempo from a slow speed

  • PERFECT PRACTICE

  • Backwards chaining (where you start at the end and work your way backwards)

  • Alternate rhythms “bag of tricks”

  • Play the music forward AND BACKWARD

  • Break the music into small segments (like 3 notes) – practice the basics on those 3 notes

  • Play with DRONES or open strings

  • Record yourself (honesty)

  • Conscious choreography: say the bowings/fingerings as you’re playing them.

  • Set a kitchen timer during practice time. Say “I’ll work on ____ for 10 minutes.”

  • Practice everything staccato or legato once

  • Pretend like you are your teacher. What would he/she say?

  • Watch yourself play in a mirror: Are you holding tension in any part of your body? Does anything look like a bad habit? Is your bow straight/on the right contact point with the string?

  • When you practice, THINK “What didn’t sound right?” Then experiment!

"We aim above the mark to hit the mark." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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