I know that it seems like students should just know how to practice, but I don’t usually find that this is the case. At the BC Music Educators’ Conference in October, there was a session run by a very good band teacher who helps districts start up band programs all over the country. He is a retired band instructor, and now he gets flown around the country by Yamaha Canada to be a clinician, mentor, and instructor to music teachers. His name is Kevin Hamlin, and he has 7 steps for successful home practice. And, the great thing about it is, only the last two steps actually involve “playing” the instrument, so the other steps can be done quietly in a room in the house. The first five steps are still very valuable and can be just as important at playing the instrument.
Setting up some scheduled practice time every day (or at least 3-5 days per week) is essential for students to progress on their instruments. If they only go over their material in class, the will not improve and progress much over the year. Practicing at home for even 10-15 minutes is very valuable! And, once they get in the habit of having short practice sessions, they may enjoy it more and more to the point that they want to schedule in more practice sessions throughout the week.
The following are suggestions on how to practice exercises, scales, and small sections that are difficult in their music. They don’t need to practice the easy parts!
Here are Kevin Hamlin’s 7 Steps for Successful Home Practice:
1. Tap your foot to the pulse/beat of the music, clap the rhythm and say the counting.
2. Say all of the note names out loud (and figure out the tough ones and write them down on your music). Not at a certain tempo.
3. Say the note names and do the fingerings. Not at a certain tempo. Just figure them all out.
4. At a slow tempo: say the note names out loud, in rhythm, while tapping your foot.
5. Same as Step 4, but try to go full speed.
6. Actually PLAY the music now at a slow speed (1/2 speed for example)
7. Ramp things up gradually and try to play it at full speed (or even faster!).
I hope these suggestions help!