How to Practice
Practicing is divided into three - sometimes four - categories:
Basics (scales, long tones, open strings, arpeggios, vibrato exercises, etc.)
Learning Music (solos, excerpts, or orchestral music)
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
Don’t play it up to tempo – instead work it up to tempo from a slow speed
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