” One thousand hours of the wrong sort of practice is one thousand hours of wasted time “

(Mills, J (2007) Instrumental Teaching Oxford : Oxford University Press )


  • Start off with a warm up. Long notes are a good way to develop tone. Play them with your eyes closed, this way you can really listen to the sound you are making.
  • Choose what you would like to practice and then play the scale of the key that the piece is in. This will get you tuned into the tonality of the piece and should help you to remember which sharps or flats you should be playing.
  • Identify what needs work. If there is a bar or two that you struggle with, isolate them and concentrate just on that bit. Play it slowly. Try and work out exactly what the problem is. If it is fingering, for example between two specific notes, play those two notes slowly and repeat a little faster. Then add the note after – then then note before. Carry on like this until you build up the whole bar/phrase. When you think you’ve got it, start four bars before and run in to it.
  • If you have a passage of quavers or semiquavers, try this technique – Firstly, play it slowly. Then play it swung or dotted quaver,semiquaver. When you play it like this, turn that rhythm around so that you play semiquaver, dotted quaver. Think of a heartbeat. Be warned, this is really quite hard, and it might take you a while to do this. Then, when you’ve got it like that, play it normally. This technique really does work and is a good way to speed up a passage that you can only play slowly.
  • If you are looking at a new piece of music, I find that starting from the end is a good way to approach it. Look at the last four bars and play those. Then go back another four and play the last eight bars. Then go back another four etc etc. This way you always moving into familiar musical territory !
  • When you have finished practising the bits that you need to, play the piece to consolidate your work.
  • End your practise session by playing something that you know you can play. Play the music not the notes.


        If you don’t have a great deal of time, don’t worry. 10 minutes of effective practice can be all that you need to   be more confident in Orchestral rehearsals or band practice.