Co-op Press

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Dr. B’s Music Practice Guide

Dr. Sy Brandon
Professor Emeritus of Music
Millersville University of Pennsylvania

©2015 Co-op Press

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Musicians spend many hours in the practice room perfecting their craft, yet how many are actually taught how to practice effectively? This free guide is designed for all musicians and teachers as a compendium of ideas that I have gleaned from my teachers, by attending workshops and master classes, by talking to colleagues, and finally, through sheer necessity of needing to help a student or myself solve a problem. I extend a big thank you to all my teachers and students. The beauty of our art is that there is always something to learn.

About this Guide

This guide is divided into four main sections; preparations, focusing practice, reinforcing learning, and making practice enjoyable. The appendix contains sample practice sessions that incorporate the ideas of the main sections and are grouped according to the development level of the musician and a list of additional resources. Most of the ideas in this guide can be applied to or easily adapted for any instrument or voice. They are presented as general concepts first, and then suggestions are made regarding using the idea by different genres of instruments or voices. It is the hope of the author that these ideas will enable both the musician and teacher to spend their time more effectively, see more rapid improvement, and find more enjoyment in making music.

About the Author

Dr. Sy Brandon is a Professor Emeritus of Music at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where he taught low brass for 24 years. Prior to Millersville, he taught instrumental music at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, low brass at Boise State University, and elementary instrumental music in the Haverling Central School District in Bath, New York. He has played professionally in the Corning (NY) Symphony, the Colorado Springs Symphony, the York (PA) Symphony, and the Keystone Brass Quintet as well as being an active recitalist on trombone, euphonium, and tuba.

Table of Contents

Part I – Exposition – Preparations
Why practice
When, How Often, and How Long to practice
Equipping your practice area
Planning the practice session

Part II – Development – Focusing Your Practice
Warming Up
Tone Production
Performance Practice
Sight Reading
Warming Down

Part III – Recapitulation – Reinforcing Learning
Silent Practice
Recording oneself
Knowing the score
Using a positive voice

Part IV – Coda - Making Practice Fun
Playing with others
Playing by ear

Sample practice sessions
Developing Musician
Advanced Musician
Performance preparation

Suggested Resources

Comments from Readers

"Sy, we are starting a department wide practice focus at Mansfield. Your guide looks perfect! I will post the link to your developing project today! I look forward to seeing more." - Christine Fish Moulton

Exploring more scientific methods of practice is so beneficial. I will be checking back often to read your next installment." - Janet Murray

Visited your website. Wonderful information. I thank you for your hard work." - Howard Adamsky

Looks great! When will it be complete? I would like to share with my students, one in particular, who is young and just developing practice skills." - Karen Rager

Many thanks for doing this. I put a lot of effort into teaching my pupils how to practise as I'm sure it makes a world of difference to their progress, so will be following your installments with much interest." - Jenni McGhie

Thank you! And how timely for me. I am working with a student who, while motivated, believes practice is successful when enough time is spent, rather than when goals are met. You're approach speaks to this in some new ways for me. Thanks!" - Jodi Bortz

Thank you so much!! This is such a great read!" - Pavel Spichak

Bravo. Great practice guide." - Robert Martin

I skimmed over your free book, The section that intrigued me most was the depth of the warming up lessons. I've been playing Baritone for only 5 Years, and I'm still learning better techniques and warming up practices. Thank you contribution. I plan on reading more and more as the days go by." - Daniel Albertson
Looked at the first section of the book, Sy, and I think it will really help me. I have been a musician for the last 30+ years and not until a few years ago had a teacher mentioned how to practice--and I went to Indiana University School of Music. I'm looking forward to reading and using it in my practice and with my students. Thanks." - Celeste Gates