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Did you realise that you can become a better player without touching your instrument? There are sometimes you may not actually be able to play your instrument, for example you may have RSI, a sprain, bruise or other muscle injury.

A lot of your musical ability is made up of things that are not directly related to instrumental technique. To be a good musician you need to have an awareness of theory, history, other players and a whole number of other things. This method will allow you to develop your knowledge in those areas. This in turn will help you to become a better player on your instrument.

For this practice method you are going to use the internet, library and any other source you can find to discover more about your instrument. You need to think of this as you would practise, so you need to do it regularly throughout the week (not just once!). Here”s the list of questions you are going to try and answer:

1. Who wrote music for your instrument? What did they write?
2. Who are the famous players of your instrument? Can you find out about them? Are you able to listen to a recording?
3. Find and listen to pieces of music that use you instrument.
4. Find out about the history of your instrument.
5. Do you know how your instrument is made? Who are the major makers? What materials are used?
6. Can you find out more about the playing technique for your instrument?

So you are going to spend the time between lessons trying to answer these questions. Don’t worry you”re not expected to find out everything – it would take you years and years to do that! Make a few notes about what you’ve found out – this is not an essay writing task so don’t worry too much about how you make your notes.

At your next lesson have a discussion with your teacher about what you have found out and ask them any questions you have. You find that you have found out lots of interesting new things about your instrument. You should feel free to try out any of the ideas on your instrument if you can.

Don’t be restricted in the type of work you set between lessons. The type of project outlined above can make an interesting and stimulating change from the normal type of practice set. As well as research why not try asking the student to go to a concert and writing you a review, or perhaps listening to a cd and writing a review of that. Alternatively you could get them to write a piece of music for their instrument which you play for them at the next lesson. If you use your imagination there are lots of alternatives you can find to setting standard practice.

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