Practice Routines

I recently posted a thread on Reddit’s Oboe section regarding practice routines, and there were many great comments.  This one I liked so much, however, that I wanted to share it:

Start a practice journal. Practice by achieving goals, not by counting how much time you put into practice. So that way, you are focusing on quality over quantity.

So every week, I start writing down what I want to achieve every day during my practice session. Or you can also just list weekly practice goals if you don’t want to write it down every day.

For example, I’m working on an audition in about 2 weeks just for a summer camp. This is what I have written down in my practice journal for today.

Monday:

  • 2 octave Bb major at quarter = 100, work on getting low notes to speak clearly
  • 2 octave F major at quarter = 100, work on high note transitions and intonation
  • Full chromatic (Bb3-G6) at quarter = 100, high note transition and check intonation with tuner
  • Ferling 3, measure 14-16 and 29-31 – work on smooth, effortless slur up to high F
  • Mozart, measure 32+83, make it technically perfect and clean; measure 32-49, check for evenness of tempo; measure 93-95 at quarter = 105.

By defining what you really want to achieve, you avoid wasting time and you make your practice session much more efficient. Before I started doing this, I would just goof around during practice and just play what I already know.

This routine usually takes me about 1-2 hours a day depending on how difficult the goals are. You don’t have to achieve all the goals in one session either. I like to spread my sessions out into 20-30 minute blocks throughout the day. It allows me to be more focused on just one goal during each session.

During the school year I tend to block out of my practice session in this order

  • Warm up (long tones and a scales)
  • New oboe skills (circular breathing, double/triple tonguing, multiphonics, high notes, alternate fingerings, etc)
  • Etude (Barret or Ferling usually)
  • Orchestral excerpts or audition music
  • Solo in progress
  • Large ensemble or chamber music

I do reedmaking and adjustments during my break, never in the middle of a practice session unless it’s a minor adjustment.

Which is precisely what I’ve started to do.  I bought a Top-down Planner, which has monthly and weekly breakouts, and try to plan out my practice routines for the week.

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