Alternate Forms of Practice

Practicing music isn’t just about physically playing your instrument. There are many ways you can continue to practice and improve as a musician without even picking your instrument up; many of these types of practicing are necessary for really digging into your music.

  • Study your part and the score away from your instrument. Decide on phrasings, highs and lows. Map out the formal, dynamic and emotional structure of the piece. Figure out where different voices weave together or where interesting musical moments happen. The possibilities of score study are endless, and improving your understanding of the piece can make the final product more compelling and confident.
  • Listen to multiple recordings of your piece and compare them, noticing the different interpretations. Ask yourself which you prefer and why. Listening to recordings may help you decide how you want to play a piece and can also help you become deeply acquainted with the music.
  • Do “mental practice” of the pieces you are studying. Sing the lines out loud or think the phrasings. You can even do full runs of pieces completely inside your head. If you are intimate with your musical intentions, you will likely find more success when you actually go to play the music.

Many injured musicians feel that since they can’t practice, their progress could become stagnant, or even regress. While it is frustrating to not be able to physically play, there are still many different kinds of practicing injured musicians can do you can do:

  • Engage your ear and practice listening more critically in large ensemble rehearsals, studio classes, recitals, and other performance opportunities. If possible, follow along with a score. Notice the various voicings, colors and rhythmic density in the music. Listen for the whole sound and for individual parts. Ask yourself why the conductor or performer is doing something musically. What is good about the music? What could be improved? How would you make the music sound different?
  • Listen to lots of music. Explore different composers; standard band, orchestral and choral repertoire; music for your instrument; musical periods you like; modern and contemporary music; genres besides classical music.
  • Discover new repertoire for your instrument. Study the score and/or piano accompaniment.
  • Do mental practice of the pieces you are studying.
  • Practice aural skills and rhythms.
  • Practice forming your embouchure, breathing, or moving without tension.
  • Search the music library. Read books about music in general, your instrument or other topics you’re interested in. You could even ask your teachers and friends for recommendations. The “Recommended Reading” section has a great list of books to get you started.
  • Do your own research on musician health and wellness and become more knowledgeable about your own situation.
  • Go to more concerts, including ones off campus.
  • Explore the other fine arts. Go to plays, dance recitals or art galleries. Consider how the dynamics of performances and expression in other art forms relate to musical performance and expression.
  • Reflect on why music is important to you. What do you hope to do with it in your future?

Additionally, when you are unable to practice physically, you may as well use the time to your advantage to “practice” other activities that aren’t related to music that you might not have done otherwise.

  • Give yourself permission to relax. If you are injured, you certainly don’t need any extra, unwarranted stress. Take some time for yourself and know that it’s all right to do so. Go outside and experience nature, spend time with friends, read a book, write in a journal, or meditate. The possibilities for relaxation are endless.
  • Think about your general health. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating right? Are you staying hydrated? Are you active? How are you managing your workload? Are you stressed out a lot? How might you improve some of these aspects of your life?
  • Try something new. Go to guest lectures or seminars on topics that interest you, join a club or service group, or explore your passions. Trying out new things may spark insights into other parts of your life, such as academics or music. You may even discover a new hobby or passion.