Practice with an Integrated Intention

For the time crunched, the thought of a well balanced practice session can induce fear and dread. It can even make you procrastinate because the question of, “Well, I don’t have time to get to EVERYTHING, so why even bother?” leaves you taking no action at all. Another way to combat the time shortage is to focus entirely on rep and while that approach is OK short-term, it can be detrimental long-term since it keeps you from enjoying the lifelong journey that is playing a musical instrument.

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I’ve written about my love affair with the Pomodoro Technique and how this technique can help you break your tasks into bite sized chunks while also giving yourself time to reflect on what you’ve done before moving on to the next thing. Keeping track of your time helps you manage your time efficiently and minimizes stress. I recommend using the Pomodoro Technique to structure the type of integrated practice plan that is the focus of this post.

This blog post is intended primarily for those  focusing on higher level goals like playing with better intonation or with a better range of tone colors. Without the fundamentals, achieving this type of goal is going to be impossible so if the fundamentals are not in place, you must devote time each day to the basics and your long term goals must be designed with this work in mind.

You can’t put the cart in front of the horse, so to speak; however, scheduling your practice time with these elements in mind will help you progress faster than if you compartmentalize each element of your practice time.

Gestalt, or putting the parts back into the whole, is a central part of Body Mapping but the idea can be applied in a very useful way to music making as well. We want all the elements we practice to integrate into a more musical performance.¬†Mindless practice of long tones and scales doesn’t serve you and is a huge time waster so here’s my challenge for you:

If you’re crunched for time, sit down for 5 minutes to write down what you want to achieve in your daily practice that serves your overall goal for the week. Don’t practice anything that doesn’t serve this intention. This type of planning can be high level enough that you can still make individual choices based on how you feel in the moment. If you’re stuck on how to do this, here’s a sample daily plan for you:

Week’s Goal: Increase performance readiness from 55% to 70% with refined use of tone colors, dynamics and technical fluency.


Expand range of tone color and dynamics


Arpeggios, extended 7th chords and grupetto scales


Karg-Elert Caprice for fluency


Respective sections as broken down into weekly rotation, integrating work I did in previous practice sections

It’s much easier to practice just one thing in a smaller block of time than focus on the fifty things you think you need to improve. Choose your weakest area and the other elements will improve proportionally creating a more well-balanced you.

If you find this way of structuring your daily practice useful, please leave a comment and let me know!





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One Response to “Practice with an Integrated Intention”

  1. fluteplayer1977 July 22, 2013 2:14 pm #

    I agree with you that it is better to force yourself to focus on one particular thing for a smaller block of time. I find it all to easy to slip into a routine of practicing without any real focus and then realise I have achieved little other than playing over the bits I could already play.

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