Trumpet Topics

Duration and Spacing of Practice Sessions

I have been asked to address the subject of "the practice session", relative to length, number of daily sessions, and spacing of the sessions. This is a subject I often bring up with my FSU students as I try to help them with their time management, and advise them on attaining the most efficient use of their practice time.


The question of "how much should I practice each day" simply doesn’t have one correct answer, simply because we are human beings and there are an incredible number of variable factors. I hope it doesn’t sound glib for me to say I believe that it is extremely important for you to practice the correct amount, then to say that I can’t tell you how much the correct amount really is.

Because of the physical demands of brass playing, the amount of individual practice on days which include rehearsals and/or performances will naturally be less than on days with light schedules. Sometimes my students have as much as 5 hours of rehearsal in one day. In that instance, they may be lucky to just have enough lip to get in a careful warm-up. One may want to do only light playing on the day before an important performance; however, several days prior to that performance it may be desirable to put in fairly long hours of playing as a final conditioning.

So, the total amount of individual practice will vary greatly depending on the situation and the individual. I will say that we should generally plan on a minimum of two hours of total daily playing time. Much less than that, after time, will result in less than desirable tone quality, range, endurance, and flexibility.

Number and Spacing of Practice Sessions

We will accomplish much more in our practice sessions if we feel like we are at our best, physically. If I practice for two solid hours, I really don’t feel that I am accomplishing nearly as much in the final half-hour as I was right after I completed my warm-up. I realize that it is difficult to schedule several practice sessions each day, but I strongly feel that several 30-45 minute sessions are by far more productive than a single, long practice session. If only 2 or 3 daily practice sessions are possible, try to make the final one the shortest, when you are most tired. My suggestion for a 2 1/2 hour day of practice is:

play 45 minutes: warm-up, tone studies and fundamentals
----------wait 1-2 hours
play 45 minutes: technique and repertoire practice
----------wait 1-2 hours
play 30 minutes: technique and repertoire practice
----------wait 1-2 hours
play 30 minutes: tone studies and fundamentals

I want to stress that it can be just as bad to overdue it as it is to not practice enough. As with any physical activity, excessive stress on our embouchure can cause a breakdown which may require lengthy recovery time or even long term damage. Probably my best advise regarding practice session duration is to carefully "listen to our chops". They will tell us when we’ve played too much, as well as telling us that we need to keep going a bit longer.

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