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How to study music (a simple checklist) 

Few weeks ago I began teaching. I decided to organize my lessons in steps:

1 - Organize and warm up!
First and foremost I’d like to stress how doing some stretching before studying can be vital for a musician. Also, if you are tired while you are studying, it’s good to stop playing and just relax for a quarter.

Well, we live in a frenetic society and we have to make profitable our time. I suggest to organize the day in time ranges. By saying that I mean: if today I had only 30 minutes I won’t spend 30 minutes practicing long tones. Instead I’ll spend 10 minutes for the long tones, 10 for the technique and the last 10 for the exercises. If tomorrow I had more time I would organize the day in a different way, with different time’s range.

Spend at best our time is important. We have to practice all the areas of music: technique, musicality, creativity ( e.g. long tones, scales, transcribing, ear training, etc. ) without keeping one back or developing one more that the others so that everything grows in an equal way.

Another important thing is to give continuity to the process of studying, make it constant.
Studying every day is more important than studying eight or even twelve hours a day. ( Tweet Me! )

2 - Sound
The most important thing to develop is your own sound. We study sound through long tones, over tones, top tones and other techniques like multiphonics and vibrato. Vibrato, like the sound, is a personal thing ( there are musicians who don’t use it at all). We can study it in a classic way (in quarter notes, triplets, etc.. )

3 - Scales and arpeggios
Practice all the scales with all the patterns, the articulations, and the intervals. We have to keep the same volume on the whole range of the instrument (above all in the lower and higher octaves).

Instrument and performer must be a whole thing. ( Tweet Me! )

4 - Classical music exercises
This point is important to develop technique. It really can jumpstart our technique. If a passage is hard to play, I suggest to split it in small fragments and practice them in a slower tempo until we play it right. Then move on a faster tempo until you play right at that tempo and then play it right at the original tempo.

5 - Ear Training and Transcription
It’s the best method to understand the language. If we want to get deep in, let’s say, Frank Zappa, Charlie Parker, Stravinsky or whoever, the best method is listen and transcribe his/her music. We might want to listen to a particular solo or a particular phrase and catch it by ear, and than begin to practice on our instrument, to understand the changes.

Don’t transcribe only music by musicians who play your instrument. If you play saxophone for example, go transcribing a cello, or a trumpet!

I suggest to hear everythings in order to have an open and critic mind.

Thanks for reading. I’m looking forward to read your thoughts in the comments,

Mike Rubini is a talented performer, teacher and composer based in Italy. Rubini strives to make music that moves people to enjoy and experience a wide array of emotions and hope to make an impact in the music scene as an open-minded and innovative musician. Make sure to check out his blog.

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