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Motivation and Incentive

I suppose one leads to the other, but I was wondering for those at the same level of learning new instruments - clarinet for this thread - for doubling what keeps them motivated to practice every day, assuming they do.

Most sources I've read on the topic suggest practicing at least one hour a day. If one is learning clarinet and flute while trying to advance their skills on a primary (sax) instrument, that would mean at least three hours a day, or one on each? Not practical for many people still tied to a day job to make ends meet.

If unable to practice one hour a day per instrument, obviously something less will have to suffice. I seem to be rambling here, but is there hope for a would-be doubler if they devote less time to working on these instruments? If so, what is the best way to make the most use of the limited time available?

I hope I'm making some sense. The fact is, I want to be able to double on flute and clarinet in big band situations where mostly standards are played, but I don't have full days, every day, to devote to making that happen.


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
There are not enough hours in a day for our pursuits me thinks. And there are no absolutes either. Depending upon how efficiently you practice you might not need as much time. I just try not to feel *too* guilty about how much time I spend on the Internet and watching TV which seem to suck up most of my free time.

So I prioritize based on the bands I'm in now. That translates to three years with a flute that I've probably only played a total of ten hours or so. And my hours on clarinet is under 50 in the same three years.

But I do find that if I'm playing a bass clarinet part I seem to work it harder and make some progress. And since my grandson started on clarinet I spend an hour a week with him. Heck I've even sat in with his sixth grade band.

Maybe it's all about being clever about how we schedule our musical pursuits. That sax quartet arrangement has been sitting on my desk for over four years! And working full time for the man doesn't make it any easier.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
FWIW, you also have to practice the right way.

I have an acquaintance that I lived with for awhile. He's a violin player. He'd practice 4 or so hours every day on the same piece(s). And he'd hit the same notes wrong. Every. Time. I wanted to smack him over the head with the violin and say, "Dude. If you can't play it at speed, slow it down. A lot. Don't speed up until you can play *every* note perfectly."

I believe in targeted practice, especially if you're doubling. If you have a passage that's difficult, practice that. If you have a full piece that's difficult, practice that. If you have a passage in one piece that's difficult, but it's only a couple bars, and you have an entire chart that's difficult, practice the chart: play tacit horn for the passage.


Admin and all around good guy.
Staff member
It's surprising how many students don't get this. I hear, I don't have enough time to practice. When you take a look, they are practicing every thing down to the half/whole notes. A little common sense goes a long way.

I have a concert coming up at the end of the month and I have five tabs marked in my book with the offending parts underlined and beats marked. I spend all my time trying to get these parts down pat.


Brassica Oleracea
Staff member
Well, if your students could get those half notes in tune ....



Clarinet CE/Moderator
Staff member
One of the most difficult things for newbies while practicing is knowing that they are playing in tune, knowing that they are playing the correct fingerings (and for clarinet knowing which fingerings to play); knowing when they are playing something correctly plus the embouchure/tone development / air support.

and a teacher can help students in the right direction

before a concert I'll usually sit down and look through the music and review touch sections.

FYI - I usually sub in college bands / jazz bands so I get very few practices (and actually prefer it that way)

what keeps me motivated ?
Trying to play as good as I can in the small amount of practice times that I have. and trying to be as good as I was in college .... one reason i need that darn LH Eb key ... i was pretty good back then (able to make principal clarinetist above clarinet majors as a sophomore - i was a sax player).

plus I love playing clarinet and sax :)
One more tip I think beginners miss. Play the piece like your are performing. Once you've got it down, play it as if you're in front of an audience. Full volume, proper tone and speed. Think of it as a dress rehearsel. Think of it as developing your confidence. If you can't play it well alone, it won't get easier in front of others.


Content Expert/Moderator
Staff member
I'm working a lot on flute lately.

I start with the tone exercises from Trevor Wye's books.

Then I proceed to the mechanism (technique) exercises.

As I do both, I extend them up as far as I can to work on my comfort in the upper register.

Then I do some reading, making an effort to actually apply myself to making music.

Takes me an hour a day. I keep the tuner on throughout and spot check intonation.
Excellent and useful feedback. I thought my rambling would be perceived as just that, but it's obvious all of you know exactly where I was coming from. In one of the first local big bands made up mostly of weekend warriors I managed to get in, I was asked to play Begin the Beguine on clarinet. So, even though I couldn't play any other tunes, I worked so hard practicing that one piece I was able to bring it off without too many squeaks and squawks.

I've practiced difficult passages and solos even on sax in order to own that part when played in the ensemble. It does make a lot of sense.

Thanks to all for sharing your thoughts on this issue.