Day 7 - Practicing

You are probably glad my 7 blogs in 7 days are coming to an end! A lot of information jammed into a few days, but hopefully there has been something useful in all my waffling! 

Today I am going to sum up everything into a blog that really focusses on one of the most important aspects of learning - Practicing - How do we practice? how do we stay motivated to learn? to want to be better - its a tough one. I know lots of players who find it a chore to get the instrument out and do the hard work that is needed, you are not alone if you are one of these players. 

I actually love practicing, I really enjoy getting into a quiet room and working on the things that I need to, its something that really motivates me. I know that by putting in the hours now, I will reap the benefits later, but I am aware that we are not all like that. 
So today I wanted to give you a few pointers on making practice more enjoyable and productive, and things I do to keep me motivated to practice.

Firstly, you need to feel good walking into your practice session. Put on some music by a musician you love to listen to, or even a piece of music that you want to perform at some point. Start your session by listening to something that is going to motivate you to want to practice. For me, I love to put on a recording of one of my favourite singers like Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau or one of my favourite jazz trombonists Urbie Green or Bill Watrous. Then I feel like I am in the zone to get started. 

The late great Bill Watrous

The late great Bill Watrous


The first aspect of practicing is knowing what you want to achieve, setting goals and working hard towards them. If you go into a practice session with a clear set of objectives and goals, you will come out the other end having achieved something. If you go into a practice session just doing what you always have done before, then you will continue to make the same mistakes. 

So - here are a few rules I abide by when it comes to my practice. 

  1. Before you start practicing, make a plan of attack. Work out what your session is going to look like - what are you going to focus on today. Be organised and structured about your session, you will achieve a lot more. 
  2. Find somewhere quiet and away from the ‘real world’ - away from devices and distractions. If you only have 30 minutes to practice, don't spend 10 minutes of it on Facebook. 
  3. Have all your music sorted and ready in one place. Either on a stand or scanned into an iPad. Get it all ready before you start so you can keep going without have to head off and find that bit of missing music.
  4. Have a Tuner, Metronome, Pencil, Breathing Bag etc at the ready. Every practice session should include a tuner and metronome, they are so vital to our development as musicians. Surround yourself in the gadgets you need to help you improve!
  5. Dont do the same things day to day. Mix up your routine and stay fresh. Throughout a week I want to work on all the aspects of my playing, but I don't want to do that everyday. Keep a diary of what you have done, and don't repeat yourself day to day. 
  6. Challenge yourself - your practice time is your time to make mistakes. You have to make mistakes to know how to improve. Push yourself hard, practice at 100% - not on auto pilot. 
  7. Play some music that is out of your comfort zone - for fun! I like to put on transcribed jazz solos from youtube - I play along with JJ Johnson or Frank Rosalino, and try and keep up. Its not something I am good at, but I love the challenge. 
  8. Steal music from other instruments - there is so much music available out there, don't just settle for the stuff you are given, go looking. Head to - - and start searching.
  9. Warm up and Warm down - vital for making sure you feel good tomorrow
  10. Finally - find someone you respect and is at a similar level to you, and meet up every few weeks to play to each other. Play scales, exercises back to each other, ask questions and talk about playing. Bounce ideas off each other, and challenge each other to be better players. 

My Practice sessions look like this generally:

Preparation - plan what I want to practice

Warm-up - Air, Buzz, Low Register

Studies - Flexibility, Scales, Multiple tonguing, Technical proficiency, range extension.

Work - Solos, orchestra/band music

Fun - new music, playing along to youtube, just be crazy!

Warm-down - low register, preparing for tomorrow. 

Most importantly, I abide by a simple rule when it comes to practice. If I am not enjoying it, stop. Go away, get a coffee, do something else, and come back to it later. You will achieve so much more in your practice if you feel motivated and excited to be doing the work. Try and make your practice room a place you enjoy being in, set up with a stand and your music, perhaps even a way to listen to music. In a perfect world, have a recording device setup so you can record yourself at any point, and then play it back. I like to work on something, and then record it and listen to it back, making notes for next time. 

Practicing is about being disciplined, but it also needs to be fun. Find a way to enjoy your practice, don't make it feel like its homework.

I will endeavour to post more blogs over the coming weeks, but might take a week off now! Please email me if you have any questions about any of these topics, or for more exercises. I have pages and pages of exercises that you are welcome to - my email is

Good luck, and work hard.