Checking your practice progress

When we’re hard at the coal face practising it is sometimes difficult to take a step back and evaluate our progress. We had a question in this week from a trumpet player:

Hey, first let me say thanks for a great site. I wonder if you can help me? I have been playing trumpet for around 3 years but just lately I don’t feel as though I have been making any progress. Some days I think I’m making progress but on others I seem to be going backwards. I always try to do good practice and try to stick to the same times before and after school. . . .

Our reply:

You’ve made the biggest step towards continuing your improvement on the trumpet – you asked the question. :)

Much better to have asked now than to go on not sure of where you are going. I would encourage everyone to discuss their playing and practice habits with as many people as they can. You won’t agree with everyone but you will become more experienced as a result. Our forums are a good place to discuss.

I’m not sure if you have discussed this issue with your teacher? I’m assuming you haven’t. Remember music lessons are a two way process involving you and your teacher. Lessons are not so that your teacher can just talk at you. You should feel free to ask any question you like and I’m sure your teacher would welcome you sharing your concerns with them. If you do this your lessons will become much more effective for you.

Many musicians worry about the progress they are making so you are definitely not alone. We all have good and bad days. The key is to make sure you are always improving. There are two keys to this. First is to make sure that you are doing good regular practice and from your note it seems that you are playing regularly and thinking about your practice – very good. ;)

The second point which I think you need to think about is how you evaluate your playing. Try not to look back each day and see big results or improvements in your playing – it tends not to happen like this. If you look back on every day you will become confused by the good days and bad days. Instead I would recommend you step back and take a longer term view of your progress. For example compare how you play today with how you played three months ago? Or perhaps six months or a year ago. If you do this you will get a much more realistic view of your progress and improvement.

I’d also recommend keeping a practice journal. Each day you can write down your thoughts and issues. When you look back at this in the months ahead it can be very inspiring to see just how far you’ve come! I’ll talk more about practice journals in a future article.

I hope this helps, please let us know how you get on.

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