Well, we all have had those weeks when we feel overwhelmed and have a lot on our plates. Last week was one of those weeks for me, so I definitely know what it feels like. It’s at these times when we may be short on available practice time. Notice the word ‘available’ because it’s how we make use of the time we DO have that will keep up on track. Hopefully some of the followings suggestions will help you as they’ve helped me:
1) Get to the “Good Stuff”- This may be like stating the obvious, but don’t waste time on playing through music that you are perfectly fine on. It would be to your benefit to spend 15 minutes really focusing on 3 difficult passages in a piece, rather than playing through a 15 minute piece.
2) Have a ‘Short’ Warm-Up Drill.- Practicing scales and etudes is time consuming, so if work really needs to be done on a particular solo piece or orchestra excerpt, then create a short practice routine that caters to that particular piece. For example, playing a piece in G major… okay do some long tones, scales & arpeggios in G-major (and maybe E-minor), and then get right to the piece that needs work. It’s imperative warm you up for what you’re about to do!
3) Get a Cooking Timer- These little things are great! Most timers are very affordable and can make a big difference if you are really looking to manage time. In the past if I’m getting ready for an orchestra audition and I have a lot excerpts I need to play through every day, I’ll set the timer to go off every 5 minutes. This means I don’t spend longer than 5 minutes at a time on a particular passage, so I’m constantly moving on rather than getting bogged down or fatigued on one passage. Of course, I’ll go back later if I think I need to keep working on something. Think about auditions: you only get one shot at a passage anyway, so start learning to play and move on- even when mistakes do occur!
4) Mental Practice- This could be in the shower, riding the bus, walking to your car, riding the elevator, laying in bed, etc. Mentally visualize the music you are working on… both for notes and rhythms, but also for what it might feel like or look like on your instrument when you actually get down to playing.
5) Score Study- Take the music with you on the bus, or car trip, or waiting at the Drs. office, or wherever you might be able to take the music but not your bass. This may coincided with mental practice, but is a good way just to stay fresh with the music at every available moment.