How To Practice

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  • By Neville Shade
  • Posted in Practice
How To Practice

Why do so many students spend a lot of time practicing and see no major improvement? Professional musician and educator Neville Shade shares some tips for practicing.

Why do so many students spend a lot of time practicing and see no major improvement? This lack of progress occurs because the students have no method or plan in their approach. Therefore no specific area of their playing is improved when they practice. I’m sure that most teachers indicate to their students that an area of their playing is in need of improvement, but may not then follow up with how to achieve this end.

The first question I believe that needs to be answered is “Why do you practice?” The answer should be to improve one’s ability/accuracy. So why doesn’t it magically happen? The answer is in the next question - “What should you practice?” i suggest that you can make any practice beneficial if you have specific aims and objectives. It doesn’t matter if your practice is fifteen or fifty minutes as long as you make the goals achievable and work in a logical manner towards them. Try not to make your practice too complicated. Set only one goal for each practice session. For longer practice sessions set no more than two goals.

Most goals can only be achieved over a number of practice sessions. Remember you are developing an area of skill and that takes time. Be careful not to practice mistakes into your playing. Have you heard someone say “I always make that mistake” This is due to the fact that the error was not practiced out of their playing but rather into their playing through repetition of the error. Remember to practice what needs to be practiced not what doesn’t. It’s great for the ego to play all the playable sections but that doesn’t improve the areas you can’t play. Often students will practice the passage at the normal speed allowing little time to solve the problem. Slow careful practice is always best even for fast passages.

Aim to improve at least one element of your playing each time you practice but don’t be impatient. Look back at your week’s work to see what you have achieved. Try not to measure your progress on a daily basis. Remember to warm up before each practice session. Above all - enjoy your practicing!


Neville Shade B.Ed.
Professional Woodwind Doubler/ Teacher
Senior AMEB Examiner/VCAA Assessor
Deputy Director of Music - Methodist Ladies College (Melbourne)
Involved with recent syllabus reviews and new syllabus development. Neville also takes a keen interest in the development and improvement of the teaching of Woodwind instruments.