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Practice Diary #1

Welcome to my first InstruMental practice diary entry!

It's been a bit of a whirlwind month with band being able to finally return to rehearsals and becoming properly reacquainted with my instrument after 14 months of inconsistent (and sometimes non-existent) practice.

But, now is the time to get back into it and learning to get back into a regular practice routine is still a journey - I'm sure many of us feel the same way.

We're in this together though and the purpose of this practice diary is to show the realities of music practice!

Throughout these practice sessions, I've been using the InstruMental Practice Journal Sheets, which you can download for FREE!

So, without further ado, let's get into my practice diary for the month of May!


The Goals

This month (and it will probably be the case for the next few months, I expect) is all about getting back to basics.

Since my stamina has taken a knock (through my cornet spending more time in its case than on my face!) improving this was, obviously, one of the most important goals.

I was using a mouthpiece with a more shallow cup, as it's made it a little easier to get up into the higher register and I found I wasn't lasting very long (in my unfit and out of practice state) on my normal Denis Wick 3.

So, two of my main goals this month was to get back to using my Denis Wick 3 and to last at least 30 minutes without being utterly knackered!

With a bit of patience, a lot of discipline (read as: putting my phone out of reach and not procrastinating) and attending my rehearsals this month (when we were allowed) I managed to achieve both of these goals.

I'm currently lasting nearly 2 hours of solid playing on my Denis Wick 3, which is thrilling!

Lip flexibility and finger dexterity are two other (rather important) parts of my playing that needed some polishing and I'll explain the materials I've been using for this in the next section of this diary.

So after I established the goals, what did I do to work towards achieving them?


The Materials

For lip flexibilities, I've been using exercises from the Charles Colin 'Advanced Lip Flexibilities' book.

It's a book that my former teacher, Iain Culross, introduced me to when I was younger and it has been my go-to for strengthening those lip muscles and improving flexibility.

At the moment, I've been using the exercises from the first two pages and working on using my diaphragm to support my notes, rather than ramming my mouthpiece against my gob and applying tonnes of pressure.

Obviously, the aim with these exercises is to slur between intervals without hitting every note in between and I will admit, at first, some of these slurs did sound like a donkey going through puberty - lots of split notes, honking and general crappiness (technical term!).

However, although I'm not perfect yet (I'm still frequently sounding like a donkey) progress has been made!

For finger dexterity, I've been using 'Characteristic Studies for the Cornet' by Herbert Clarke.

This book is very well loved and, like my Arban, it is now coverless and contains many an ear-marked page.

As they are 'studies' rather than exercises, if you prefer learning pieces to running through exercises, I think you'll enjoy working from this book - it's the reason I love it!

I'm working on the C Major with the main aim of improving air flow - ensuring it is controlled and, again, working on diaphragm support.

But, the main aim of these exercises is speeding up my finger dexterity and making it more accurate.

The way I've worked on this study, is the same as I would work on a technical piece - slowing it right down to around just over half the written speed and paying close attention breath control, support, fingers and articulation and how they are all working together.

I also break the exercises into sections and give them letter names - just as pieces are often broken up by letter rehearsal marks - before working through the exercise section by section, ensuring that none of the hard work I do when I've slowed down is lost when I bring it back up to tempo.

Finally, I fancied learning a new solo and I wanted to pick one that incorporated a lot of skills I'm aiming to improve, but also one that wasn't too taxing for the time being!

So, I chose 'Whirlwind' by Peter Graham, which is a fab piece that is fairly accessible (it's not in the scary realms of Grand Russian Fantasia or the like), but contains a lot of room to perfect technique and work on musicality.


The Feelings

Now, those of you who have read about the aim of InstruMental will know that the focus of these practice sessions isn't just what we 'do' or 'achieve', it is how it makes us feel.

At the moment, it is the beginning of the journey, so I'm prepared for some sessions that are going to test me, but all in all, so far I have enjoyed my practise.

I'll be honest (after all, this entire project is about being honest with ourselves in order to improve our practice) with work commitments and balancing going back to band, I haven't quite got into the perfect practice routine yet - but we're getting there.


The sessions that I am managing to fit in, I have REALLY enjoyed.

Focussing on both progression and enjoying the session has changed the way I'm looking at practice.

I'm not constantly beating myself up, I'm picking a good combination of stuff I WANT to do and stuff I NEED to do.

More importantly I noticed the difference when I went back to band.

All in all, my InstruMental practice sessions have been successful, so far which is great!

The aim for the next month?



Free resources!

I hope your practice sessions are going well!

Make sure you check out the InstruMental Resources page for those FREE Practice Journal Sheets and other resources!

There will be new content and resources uploaded soon, so make sure you're subscribed to the site to get an email notification when they go live!

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