I lasted about 20 minutes when I first picked up the horn. Then I spent months lasting only about 45 minutes until I got a tip to play for 20 minutes then rest for 20 minutes, play for 20, rest for 20 and play for 20 to push to an hour of practice daily. I did this for many months ultimately doing this on / off strategy for two practice sessions in the morning and again in the afternoon. On the days when I had band rehearsals or a lesson I could only warm up in the morning if I wanted any chops later in the day. Now I practice two hours daily, morning and afternoon, but without the 20 minute breaks. I also practice for a full hour in the morning before rehearsals or lessons. I occasionally put in three hours in a day though I do pay for that with poor endurance and/or sound quality about two days later.
I’m heading to the Barry Tuckwell Institute (BTI) again this June and we will be playing for 3 to 4 hours everyday. Last year I really, really struggled getting through all the playing and by the last day my chops were totally shot. So my plan is to try to build up to 3 hours a day, with breaks, so that I can do better at BTI.
For a long time I would have some good days followed by numerous bad days. I consider a ‘good’ day to be a day when I miss fewer notes and play with a decent sound quality. Really bad days are when I just can’t play anything right. I’ve learned that these really bad days occur when I don’t concentrate and use air properly. About six months ago I got to the point where I had about the same number of good days and bad days and they seemed to come in cycles. Three or four good days followed by three or four bad days. Over time the bad days are getting less bad. When I changed my mouthpiece to the Moosewood AW11 I started having numerous good days and only an occasional bad day. I’ve just started using a Moosewood C8 (no rim change) and so far I’m not having any problems. Practicing is much more rewarding when the good days are so frequent.
For about six months I was very diligent about taking notes during both my practice sessions and my lessons. Then I stopped taking notes altogether. I even went through the effort of designing a practice log. I only used that for a week or two. I think the reason I stopped taking notes was that I was always writing the same things which got boring. I didn’t really have a good way of capturing small increments of progress. I was also recording myself occasionally and I stopped doing that as well.
I also get lazy and don’t really woodshed the problems. I know how to practice but playing something from start to finish is more fun. I don’t spend a lot of time with scales even though I know it’s really important. I think a lot of this comes from not having a specific goal of finishing something by a certain date. Recently I got into a quartet with a recital on June 4th and I’m also doing Brahms Trio on May 23rd. I have been much more diligent about how I practice now that I have a goal. This also makes me wonder why assignments from my teachers don’t have the same effect.