Benjamin Coy

Trombonist

Building a practice schedule

April 19, 2013 at 9:32 am

Analogies between musicians and athletes are common, and for obvious reasons: both musicians and athletes perform difficult physical tasks with a high degree of precision. Throughout school, most of these analogies were completely lost on me. I was always the geek and had very little interest or aptitude in sports. A few years ago, though, I got interested in running, and I completed a couple of half marathons. Training for those races was a revelation for me. It’s not that the process is hard to understand or even that I learned anything I hadn’t heard before. But, when I began to develop the ability to run for multiple hours without stopping, I could feel the effects of my training on a very deep, pre-conscious level. It was no longer an academic problem, and the details of what kinds of things were effective for my physiology became blatantly obvious. And the most fundamental truth of all was this: you’ll never cross the finish line unless you follow a well-concieved training schedule.

A good practice schedule shares many of the characteristics of running and other athletic training plans:

  • Increase the intensity of workouts at a rate that culminates on the day of the event but is gradual enough to avoid injury.
  • Incorporate various kinds of exercise (cross-training) for versatility
  • Require regular rest to allow muscles to recover and strengthen
  • Include a “taper” period before the event so that all muscles are fresh

It’s important to note that runners use the big muscles in their legs while brass players use the very small muscles in their face. Because of this, we can’t work as hard or as long. 4+ hour marathon-length practice sessions are not just unhelpful, but dangerous too. On the flip side, our chops can recover quicker; instead of a 2-3 week taper before our event, 2-3 days is sufficient.

I’m ramping up for an audition, so I thought I’d share my current practice schedule as an example. I’ve been doing this for about two weeks, and I’ll give it one more before I transition to a new schedule and the next phase of my preparation.

When designing a schedule, it’s important to take other responsibilities into account. We can’t just practice all day; we have to conserve some energy for gigs, allocate time for any teaching or day jobs, and make room for family and social obligations. In my case, Mondays and Wednesdays are relatively clear days for me, so I put my hardest workouts on those days. I travel out to the suburbs to teach on Tuesdays, so I do my mouthpiece routine in the car on my way there or back. Weekends often include gigs and social engagements, so I ease up a little bit. Sundays are my rest day. Every other Sunday I take off completely (except whatever playing I may do in a gig or during a lesson), and the other weeks I do something musically stimulating but not physically strenuous, like overdubbing duets with myself.

Monday
Session 1 Adam routine
Session 2 Record all excerpts in random order
Focus on the weakest excerpt for 30 minutes
Select two other excerpts for 10 minutes each
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Session 3 Record all excerpts in random order
Tuesday
Session 1 Record all excerpts in random order
Spend 30 minutes on Rochut and other etudes
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Session 2 Perform all excerpts in random order
Spend 30 minutes on long tones
Session 3 Mouthpiece routine
Wednesday
Session 1 Record all excerpts in random order
Focus on the weakest excerpt for 30 minutes
Select two other excerpts for 10 minutes each
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Session 2 Perform all excerpts in random order
Work for 15 minutes each on three random excerpts
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Session 3 Record all excerpts in random order
Thursday
Session 1 Record all excerpts in random order
Spend 15 minutes each on two random excerpts
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Session 2 Perform all excerpts in random order
Spend 30 minutes on flexibility and response studies
Session 3 Mouthpiece routine
Friday
Session 1 Adam routine
Session 2 Record all excerpts in random order
Focus on the weakest excerpt for 15 minutes
Work 10 minutes each on two random excerpts
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Session 3 Record all excerpts in random order
Saturday
Session 1 Adam routine
Session 2 Record all excerpts in random order
Focus on the weakest excerpt for 15 minutes
Work 10 minutes each on two random excerpts
Perform all excerpts again in random order
Sunday
Session 1 Rest or recreational playing
Tags:
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>