Practice Imperfectly

Practicing the wrong thing will help you play wrongly more consistently. If we practice perfectly, our practice helps us to play our instrument correctly.

Purpose of Practice

The purpose of practice is to develop your skills and strength. Practice is needed to maintain familiarity with your instrument and will help you achieve your full potential regardless of natural ability.

To play a brass instrument confidently and well, the lip muscles (“chops”) must be trained and the player must maintain a level of ‘chop fitness’.  This means playing both regularly and frequently. 


Ideally, a player should skip no more than a day of practice.  Roughly 2/3rds of a practice session should be spent on building and maintaining basic skills and 1/3rd on playing pieces of music.  Use a lesson and practice journal (see an example at end of this book) to record your progress.

Tip:  At home, leave your instrument out of its case, in a safe place.  When you walk past, have a blow.  Twenty minutes of playing over 6 consecutive days is much better than playing for 2 hours on only one day each week.


Athletes don’t train by only practicing their event, they work on all aspects of their skills – just like us.

Here is nn example practice routine. Always playing with a full sound, both soft and loud:

  1. Have a warm up – long notes – keep the air moving – breathing – filling the lungs to the max!
  2. Flexibility – lip slurs with a full sound on every note.
  3. Slide/valves – play scales fluidly so they become automatic (tongued and slurred).
  4. Single tonguing while constantly blowing air (use both Ta, Da).
  5. Range – produce full sounding high and low notes.

Next, play as musically as possible (play like you would sing). Don’t just play notes – make music!

  • Rehearse musical pieces that you want to master
  • Sight-reading – accurately play music you have never seen before.


Always play passages as slowly as needed to play them accurately, then gradually speed them up.

The Effect of Effective Practicing

The difference in capability between a student who practices regularly and one who rarely practices is enormous.  If a student is familiar with their instrument and can play it confidently, the entire experience is far more enjoyable for everyone, but especially for the student. Students who don’t practice at all will improve so slowly but the musical experience will often become frustrating for them and everyone around them.
Tip:  Use a Lesson and Practice Journal.
You can download one for free here.

Leave a Comment