Re-thinking practice time

Saturday, 19th October, 2013

As a working musician and a teacher I think a great deal about how to make the most of practice time. In my personal practice, it is important that I optimise improvement, while maintaining motivation and avoiding physical and mental fatigue, and I’m always looking for new ideas to help improve my routine.

Most musicians are used to practicing in ‘blocks’, where they work on just one individual skill like flexibility, then move on to tonguing and so on. There is now lots of research which suggests that practicing each skill in a big chunk is an inefficient way of working; ‘interleaving’ practice sessions, where each skill is alternated with others is thought to be far more beneficial for long term skill development.

During an interleaved practice session working on fundamentals, the player with sandwich fundamentals with others. An interleaved practice session could be structured like this;

Flexibility-tonguing-long tones-flexibility-tonguing-pitch bends-flexibility

Since each skill appears repeatedly in each session, the player is required to process each skill many times in a single session, research suggests that interleaving leads to greater long term improvement.

You can find out more about interleaving and how it can improve practice at the following webites.

Happy practicing!