The Art of Practice by Howard Snell

Snell-Art-of-Practice-ReviewThis review first appeared in The Trombonist, magazine of the British Trombone Society

Former principle trumpet with the LSO, Howard Snell, tackles a subject about which many assumptions are often made – most frequently that musicians instinctively know how to do it well. His experience of teaching at the Royal Academy of Music has shown Snell that conservatoire students not only require lessons on their chosen instrument but also in the art of practice. This book distils his teachings on practice into a single easy to read volume. Although firmly aimed a music college students those not at conservatoire level and those past this stage already in the profession will find much of value here.

The first part of the book focuses on accurate musicianship and details how the student might develop a strong concept of how they want to sound. There is much focus on concentrated listening which can lead to a better self analysis. Snell has strong views on the role of the teacher as the person who will question and draw out the students own unique qualities – the teacher ultimately becoming redundant as the student will have learnt how to teach themselves. He also firmly advocates that students should take an active role in developing individuality.

The second part of the book provides details and techniques for many aspects of practice including planning, use of time, sound concept, rhythm, simplification, repetition and using the mind to practice away from the instrument.

The cornerstone of Snell”s approach is ”listening as the controller of practice and the engine of improvement”. This is an excellent volume with something new for players of all instruments regardless of ability.

The Art of Practice by Howard Snell, (2006, Pen Press Publications, ISBN: 978-1905203284) is available from:[amazon asin=1905203284&template=htp price]

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