Plan, then Play. Decide in advance what you want to get out of practice sessions in general and each session in particular. We’ve all heard it: “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Minutes of thinking can avoid hours (or years!) of wasted practice time.

Whether a professional player or a community band/orchestra member with a “day job” and a family, time is precious. Practice time can be hard to come by, so use it well

Work Efficiently: Work To Improve. Herbert L. Clarke said, “Don’t waste time on [exercises] that are easy.” Avoid “habitual” practicing; make everything you do contribute to improvement. Bring focus and passion to specific aspects of playing: different kinds of attacks, good sound, smooth, relaxed air.

Remember, working effectively on one area
nearly always creates improvement in others.

That said, set aside some “fun time” in your practice sessions; all work and no play, etc. Make sure some of your practice time reinforces that love of playing that gives us all joy.

Practice With Care. I’ve written about the benefits of slow, careful practice in other postings, but the concept bears repeating.

Fifteen minutes of careful practicing will improve our playing far more than an hour of careless practicing, with the possible exception of endurance. Small amounts of careful, focussed practicing yield disproportionally large amounts of widespread improvement.

Practice to Perform. Trumpet soloist Rafael Mendez said, “Make every note a solo,” and longtime Chicago Symphony Principal Trumpeter “Bud” Herseth said, “Never practice; always perform.”

Focus your practicing on getting it as right as you can, every single time; there are no “do overs” in performance. Mick Hesse puts it this way: “Establish a practice routine that culminates in a Peak Performance every time [you] play.”