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      How long should one practice a piece before moving on to the next one?

      That depends on “At What Standard” you want to play that piece.

      If you want to play a piece properly, then that would be the equivalent in a Music Teacher’s eyes as playing the piece to a marked grade exam standard in what ever level of playing you are at. It all depends on your audiences expectation of your playing ability and their knowledge of music.

      The problem with playing to a marked grade exam standard is, you would have to hit the right notes, at the right time, for the correct length, the correct volume, the correct speed, the correct expression. The danger is you can get so focused on playing a piece properly that you forget to enjoy playing the piece, which is what a lot of examiners pickup on.

      Another problem associated with practicing a piece, is you have to know the length of your concentration span. You might find you can only concentrate for 20 mins, after which it’s pointless trying to learn something. So always do the concentrating exercises first.

      Feedback – When you perform a piece, you should get feed back. One thing you should always remember, is that the person giving you feed back may not know at what level (grade) of playing you are at. Level of playing is NOT related to how many years you have been playing, it is related to what grade level a music teacher would assess you at.
      So if you are at grade 1 level playing, and someone thinks you are grade 8 level player, the feed back from that person will be very depressing. Grade 1 players aren’t expected to play as well as grade 8 players (grade 8 players usually play in an orchestra, grade 5 players usually play in a jazz band) they don’t have the same level of experience.

      When it comes to practicing, here are some of my tips:

      First: you need to set goals, which can change Weekly or Monthly, don’t set them in stone, and make a record of your goals, to remind yourself. Otherwise you’ll be adrift at sea aimlessly going nowhere on your sax.

      Second: Once you’ve decided your goals and mission statement (i promise to play the piece properly, the whole piece properly, and nothing but the whole piece properly lol)
      Then you need to get an exercise (log) book, and you must keep a record of every piece you practice on the sax each day.

      You’ll find that very useful and a time saver, next to the piece you should add notes (example problem with bars 13 to 20). So the next day, you can look back in your log and and start off by just practicing bars 13 to 20 for a couple of minutes and then run through the whole piece – less frustrating than running through the whole piece hundreds of times. Make sure you note any problems in the piece, and when you have mastered the piece.

      I also write notes, like ‘move on to practicing the next group of bars’.
      DON’T waste time practicing bars/measures that you already know.

      If you ever watch a conductor, the first thing he will do is run through the entire piece.
      Then he will go over and over the problem bars/measures with the rogue instrument players until he’s happy with them. Then he’ll just do a final run through of the whole piece.

      My Teacher is exactly the same , he will say “go home, don’t waste time practicing the whole piece, just practice the bars/measures that you have a problem with, lots of times”

      The other advantage of making notes, is you can also jot down new things you come accross, example you might have just learn’t what a Dorian Scale is etc..

      I find it useful, as i sometimes start practicing a piece, then leave it for a few weeks, and then pick it up again, and my notes tell where i got to. Saves a lot of time.

      It’s then fun to look back years or months later, and see what useful or useless things i was doing that i wrote down.

      Thirdly: when you practice a piece, write notes all over the music sheet in pencil, its a great reminder the next day, of “how some bars/measures should be played” or “a bar that is presenting problems”, to focus on.

      Fourthly: there are three types of practice, and they are all different – a) practice playing with a metronome, b) practice playing without a metronome (If you are going to play in an orchestra, don’t tap your feet in time, can you imagine what an orchestra would sound like if everyone tapped their feet?) c) practice with a backing track or Band.

      The difference between ‘a’ and ‘c’, is the metronome is replaced by the base player or the drum types, either way, you HAVE to get used to listening to both, in order to stay in time.

      Finally: When you play a piece of music on a sheet, if you are the only instrument playing that piece (ie you are not playing in section), this gives you more freedom on how you play the piece in your own style, So you can get away with changing the sheet within reason. Just remember a lot of written sheet music is often just a guide of how it should be played.


      feel free to add any of your tips you find, that are useful and save time


        Some very good points.
        my method was to start playing from the beginning and stop on the first mistake, correct it then start over again.
        simple procedure but when you stop at a mistake and practice it over and over till you get it right, then start over again it’s
        amazing how you will just blow through it next time….rinse and repeat.

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