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How to Practice

A Guide to Doing Everything Wrong for the Holidays

First-year GD Trombone


If you’re anything like me, the idea of traveling home to family over the winter break is both an exciting and terrifying prospect. What begins as a joyful reunion of kin can quickly turn into an interrogation. “What happened to your nice shoes?” “Have you put on weight?” “When are you going to give me some grandchildren?” The possibilities to antagonize are seemingly endless, and the relief only temporary. A safe haven from the stress of familial interaction lies in private practice. Locking ourselves in a room away from external worry is what we musicians do best. Here follows a guide to maximizing your outcomes while home for the holidays. If you follow these simple suggestions, you will definitely come back to NEC a different musician than when you left. Enjoy your breaks and happy not-practicing, everyone!



1. Make sure to leave at least some, if not all, of your important music in your locker at school.

A common rookie mistake is to believe that you need to read music to be able to play it. It’s OK, I’ll forgive your trespass. In fact, I’ve never read a sheet of music in my life!

2. Remember that it’s not necessary to bring all musical accessories with you.

In line with point one, you don’t need all that extra junk! Broke a string? Replace it with some copper wire from the hardware store! Need some valve oil? Tears of a jilted lover work fine! You don’t need a tuner and metronome to play well. Do you think Ashlee Simpson uses any of those things? Correct– she doesn’t use them, so neither should you.

3. Practice only between the hours of 10pm-10am.

All good bohemian artists waited till sundown to let their creative juices flow. Preferably after consuming a few alcoholic beverages, get your kit out in the dead of night and let it rip. Nothing will receive more of a reaction than your bold statement of purpose as an artisté.

4. Abandon scales, etudes, and technical studies.

Are pieces made up of scales or easily identifiable motifs transposed through harmonic modulations? If you answered no, then give yourself a gold star! You don’t need to practice all that other stuff when you’re staring the Bach Cello Suite No. 2 down the barrel and nothing’s gonna stop you. Just dive in and play it through many times at breakneck speed without stopping. You’ll have it under your fingers in minutes.

5. For expert level achievement, leave the
instrument in its case for the entire duration of your stay at home.

Most people underestimate the power of the mind. Why, once I learned the entire trombone part to Mahler’s 4th Symphony while also finishing a particularly difficult level in Halo 3. Remember, the best practice is the one done in your head. Your muscles will be very happy when you surprise them with Prokofiev’s Chamber Symphony the week after you come back to school. They’ll let you know!
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