Practicing When You Can’t Practice

Practicing When You Can’t Practice

Practicing When You Can’t Practice


In light of current events I thought it would be a great idea to explain some ways one can still practice even if you can’t touch your instrument. Having sustained a finger injury, and recently, surgery, I’ll not be able to physically work on any instrument, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t still focus my energies on my craft. An injury or a segregation from your horn is not the end of the world, we can’t all practice 24 hours a day, but we must learn a few ways of staying sharp when we are away.  Below are a list of ideas for keeping your mind in shape.

Mental Practice-

There are a number of ways to do this, you’ll have to decide for yourself what works for you. What I recommend is finding a quiet space, usually your normal practice area but it can also be the place where you mediate or relax. The goal is that you’ll want an area that you’ll not be distracted from outside forces.  Dim the lights, sit in a comfortable chair, or lay on the floor. Allow yourself to relax and gear up your brain.

What you want to do now is visualize what it is you want to work on, maybe a new performance piece, maybe a tricky fingering. Hear the piece in your head (if you don’t know it that well, listen to it in this area- mentally play along), visualize how you’re going to play it- see the keys below your fingers. Think of each fingering for each note before you move along to the next. Meditate on the issues you’re having with the music, or the technique, or your phrasing.

Use this time to break through those mental blocks you’ve been having.

Score Study-

Studying the music is an integral part of being a musician no matter what.  It is imperative that one knows what’s going on around them, so they can interpret the music correctly and play well within the group.

Score study is not difficult and only requires the sheet music, a recording of the piece, and your time and attention.  I recommend listening to as many different artists performing the same piece as possible.  The reason for this is that while I’m doing my score study, I’m also writing in notes for phrasing (as well as cues).  You may find that a performance by one artist is flat and dry, and the same piece by another is dynamic and interesting.  Take notes on the performances you prefer.


There’s little that’s more effective to better understanding your music than reading about it. I, personally, have a stack of books on musicianship, teaching, and history that are in queue to be read, as well as a ton that have already been read. Learn from those that came before you. Understand the history of your craft. It’ll help you make better decisions in your music. There are also a number of books that one  can read to help their careers.

I personally love reading memoirs, or biographies of artists and  composers (Berlioz’s memoir was a great read).  They are fun and an interesting look into the lives and times of the artists we admire. They are also invaluable tools to understanding how a composer saw their music, and a good indicator to how their pieces should be performed.

In a future post I’ll have to make a list of recommended reading- but I would say to start reading something that’ll interest you.  If it’s the analysis of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, or the memoir of Marilyn Manson, than go for it.

Be an Audience Member-

Use this time to observe other performers.  Attend live concerts. Take notes on stage presence, performer etiquette, audience etiquette. Are you still clapping between movements? Stop that.

Write Music-

Use this time to transcribe pieces you’d like to play.  Write something of your own.  Get creative. Do a mash-up.


No matter what, always enjoy the music.



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