• Level up your long tones

    In my opinion, the most important part of every practice routine is long tones. I realize that’s a pretty bold statement, so let me explain. Long tones are like a musical multivitamin. Depending on what you choose to focus on each day, you can fix a multitude of problems through effective long tone practice. If practiced effectively, long tones can help you improve tone (duh), tuning, lung capacity, posture, finger position, and basically anything else you can imagine. If you’re already practicing long tones, here are a few tips to help take them to the next level: Don’t go on autopilot. Have you ever finished practicing something but have zero…

  • 9 Questions to ask yourself for more effective practicing

    Have you ever had one of those days in the practice room that feels like whatever you do, nothing seems to help you improve? If so, you might be asking yourself the wrong questions (or using ineffective internal talk). One of my biggest goals as a teacher is to help teach my students how to practice effectively. After all, I only get to see my students for 30-60 minutes each week, and the rest of the time they’re on their own in the practice room. Here are some targeted questions which will help create a more effective and productive practice session: What am I trying to improve? This sounds super…

  • How and why musicians should leave their comfort zones

    Musicians’ lives are built around repetition. Repetition of scales, passages, auditions, performances, and years of constant hard work and dedication to their craft. It’s understandable that musicians can become comfortable and complacent after a while. However, it is important for musicians to regularly explore beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones so they can continue growing as people and as artists. Leaving your comfort zone can be simple, like working on a new style, or more pronounced, like moving to another country. (I’ve lived in three different countries, and this has definitely influenced me as a musician!) Leaving our comfort zones is actually good for us because it causes the…

  • The Importance of Musical Prompts

    One of the challenges in performance or audition situations is transitioning smoothly from one piece to another. It can be difficult to instantly switch from one style or musical character to another, so how you can practice these changes before you perform? By using musical prompts. If you’ve ever given a presentation, you’ve probably used cue cards. Instead of printing your entire speech on each card and robotically reading from them, you choose succinct prompts to help you streamline your thoughts. Or, if you’re an actor, you think of prompts or other cues to help you quickly get into character. Creating musical prompts is the same kind of idea. For…

  • Quick Fix Friday: Play scales musically

    It’s been a while since I’ve written a Quick Fix Friday! Here’s a quick fix to start your weekend on the right note: Do you practice your scales (or other technical exercises) with the same musical intention as you do when you’re working on ├ętudes or repertoire? Chances are, probably not. Scales are music too, but a large number of musicians focus just on the technical aspects, ignoring phrasing, tension, and overall musicality or expression. The quick fix? Add some musicality to your scales the next time you practice. Incorporate dynamics, rubato, pacing, and anything else to make your scales more interesting to play and to practice. Not only will…

  • How to stay cool in the practice room this summer

    If you’re living in the northern hemisphere, you might be experiencing a heat wave at the moment. These languid days of summer make finding the motivation to practice extra difficult, so I’m here to help you stay cool in the practice room! Practicing any instrument requires lots of physical and mental energy. Especially for wind players, practicing is very much a cardio activity, so it’s important to make sure you’re beating the heat to operate at your best in the practice room. As the temperature climbs higher and higher, here are some ways you can stay cool in the practice room: Practice early. If your family and neighbors don’t mind,…

  • 10 mistakes you might be making in the practice room

    Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news? The bad news is that even if you’ve mustered up the motivation to practice, you might still be losing out on those practice session gains if you’re not practicing effectively. The good news is that I’m here today to share 10 of the most common mistakes I’ve seen musicians make in the practice room which can hinder their progress. Quality of practice is always more important than quantity, so here are 10 suggestions to improve your practice room progress: Turn off your phone or set it to do not disturb mode. Let’s be honest here – how many…

  • How to use the Pomodoro Technique in the Practice Room

    If you’ve never heard of the Pomodoro Technique, it’s a time management skill used by people around the world. This technique utilizes specifically timed intervals (traditionally 25 minutes) called pomodoros, which is the Italian word for tomato. Why tomato? This is the design of the kitchen timer Pomodoro Technique creator Francesco Cirillo used while in university. During each pomodoro, you focus your attention to work on one task. Once the time is up, you move on to another task. After completing a few pomodoros, you are allowed to take a break. There are many more specific rules which you can discover on the official Pomodoro Technique website. The reason that…

  • Should you take a practice break?

    Do you remember a couple of years ago when the “Should you be practicing right now?” infographic was everywhere online and on the walls of music teachers? It was a lighthearted and humorous way to encourage musicians to practice more, but there can be a negative side to this mentality. Throughout their musical careers, musicians are primed to work diligently and consistently over the course of many years. Eventually, this can take a huge toll on their physical and mental health. I believe that a well-rounded musician leads a fulfilling life both inside and outside the practice room. Their experiences outside the practice room only enhance their work in the…

  • Back to Basics Boot Camp

    The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on all of us in many different ways. One of the most common refrains I’m hearing and seeing from so many musicians is that their practicing schedules are completely out of whack. That’s why I’ve created my Back to Basics Boot Camp. I developed this boot camp to help clarinetists get back in the swing of things in the practice room. During this 15-day boot camp, you’ll rebuild your embouchure and physical endurance, regain technical abilities including articulation, and improve your musicality and phrasing. This boot camp is completely free, and I hope it’s the impetus many musicians need to get back in…