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Tuesday Tips: How to Practice, Part III: Time Management by Dan McGuide

Sep 13, 2022, 08:00 AM by Rhythm Scene Staff

Directors often tell their students to practice, giving them a laundry list of items that they must improve. An area that is often overlooked is a critical component of student preparation: how should students practice? This article will focus on the concept of “Time Management."

With the concept of “Triage” in place (see Part II), the next step is teaching students how to approach practice time for each category of material. I often have students tell me they practiced for an hour but then, after asking them to break down what they did, find out that they spent 45 minutes working on their fulcrum and only 15 minutes on their music. While this can be okay for a short span of time, it will stymie the student’s improvement long-term.

Given the context of a 30-minute practice schedule, following is a suggestion as to how that time might be used. As the teacher, you can adjust these numbers to whatever you feel is most appropriate for a given student or ensemble.

• 5 minutes: Focus on one technique issue using a known exercise.
• 15 minutes: “Chest Pain” assignment. This is the primary focus for the practice session.
• 10 minutes: “Broken Bone” assignment. This is something due in the future that needs to be consistently worked on.

It should be noted that, with only 30 minutes of practice, it will be difficult to get through all three stages of “Triage.” Sometimes students will be hard-pressed to find 15 minutes for practice; other times they might be able to spend over an hour. Utilizing this concept will help them to be efficient in however much time they have, allowing them to feel successful and stay engaged in your ensemble.

Dan McGuireDan McGuire is Director of Percussion and Assistant Director of Bands at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Percussion Ensemble is a two-time winner of The PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition, performing at PASIC 2013 and 2016, and at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2018. McGuire’s students have garnered honors such as winning the Tennessee Statewide Solo Percussion Competition, as well as participating in DCI Top-12 Drum Corps, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, regional honor bands, and the Tennessee All-State Band. McGuire served as Vice-President the Tennessee PAS Chapter from 2017–19 and President from 2019–22.

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