As a musician you will spend a lot of time in a room all by yourself.  Try some of the tips below to limit the time spent and increase productivity!

NEVER walk into a practice room without specific goals set for that session.  Decide what you are going to work on ahead of time, and then simply execute the list.  When the goals are satisfactorily completed, your session is over.  I find that in times when I’m struggling with motivation, writing down my goals for the session as a list and actually crossing them off after completion helps me be productive and feel positive about my practice.

Set reasonable goals for yourself in a practice session.  If your list has 8 things on it, you probably won’t give any of the items the attention they deserve.  I usually aim for a practice session that is around 2 hours in length.  So for each practice session I have 2-4 things on my list.  If I find that I’ve been amazingly productive and accomplish everything on my list or that it was easier to accomplish my goals than I thought, I can always come up with something else if I choose!  But the goal is to finish your list before you leave the room so make sure the goals are reasonable!

Take breaks!  Stretch during your breaks!  Put the bassoon down and walk around for five minutes!  I play for 30 minutes and then have a 5-minute break.  This means that for every one hour I practice, I actually need an hour and 10-minutes.  Remember you need to stretch for 5-minutes at the end too!

Minimize distractions. 
This is obvious.  Don’t practice with facebook next to you.  Don’t practice with a friend in the same room who wants to talk.  Don’t have your phone on so you can respond to text messages every 5 minutes.  Practice time is time to focus on your bassoon, so leave as many distractions as possible outside of the practice room!!

Don’t have a clock visible in your practice room. 
Set the alarm clock on your phone (which is on silent otherwise!!!!) to notify you when you need to take breaks or pack-up.  Time shouldn’t be something you think about (or watch) when you’re practicing.  If you aren’t watching a clock, do your stretch breaks at the end of each goal on your practice list.

Practice slowly.  ALWAYS.  Every teacher or book on practicing says this.  It’s the broken record of practice tips; but seriously, the slower you practice a piece/measure/scale/etc the first times playing it, the less time over all you will have to spend learning it.  By playing it slowly to begin with you will have minimized the number of “mistakes” that you played and programmed into your muscle memory.  One wrong movement of the fingers takes numerous repetitions of correct fingers to rectify.  Therefore, play it slowly enough in the beginning so you don’t make wrong moves in the first place!

Don’t practice the things you can already play!  If you are working on a piece, don’t play through it multiple times, separate out the few notes that you struggle with or the bars that aren’t clean and practice them separately.  Then after you have solved those problems put everything together in the context of the piece.

If you sound fantastic most of the time you are practicing, you are probably not spending your time on the things that need your attention!  The point of practicing is to identify a problem and work on it.  Sometimes the “work on” phase isn’t enjoyable to listen to, but after mastering the weak spots, you should sound pretty again!

Practice in the early mornings.  I was told during my undergrad that every hour of practice you do before 10 am counts as 2 hours for your body’s muscle memory; I have personally found this to be VERY true.  My concentration is always so much better first thing in the morning.  So, set your alarm and get your first practice session for the day completed before 10 am.  Then go take a few hours break!

Determine practice blocks for the day and stick to them.
  The days when I have nothing scheduled at all are the days that I just don’t seem to practice enough, funny considering I had all day to do it!  Instead I set my practice times up on my calendar, just like any other commitment, and when the hour of a practice block comes, I drop what I’m doing and practice!

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