Professional musicians use the term “chops” as a general word describing their physical and/or musical abilities. It’s a good, all purpose word, so you’ll see it throughout this section.  Physical chops are similar to conditioning and strength building exercises athletes use to prepare themselves for their sport. For musicians, they include such things as tone quality, dynamic range, pitch range, flexibility, articulation speed, stick techniques, etc. Basically, any of the physical things necessary for you to play the music you want or need to play. Some skills are specific to each instrument (altissimo saxophone) or instrument family (multiple tongue technique on brass instruments) and still others, which apply to all musicians (controlled dynamic range). Since deadlines are sometimes out of your control, you must be prepared to adjust your focus accordingly. For the deadlines in your control, remember that your physical skills will develop at different rates and your priorities will likely change over time. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to occasionally change your focus areas, to help keep things interesting for you. Plus, this will ensure you are devoting time to developing all of the skills necessary to advance on your instrument.  When working on your skills, look for places in your assigned or chosen music, which directly use the skill you are developing. If you are working on arpeggios, find instances in your music where arpeggios are used to help make the connection between the exercise and the application. Too often, we practice the skills and the parts, but fail to see the connection between the two. The whole idea is to use these skills as a means for expressing musical ideas.

excerpt from “Music Practice Coach,” lanceladuke.com

About The Author

LANCE LADUKE is internationally known as an educator, performer and creator. He teaches at Carnegie Mellon University as Artist Lecturer in Euphonium, Freshman Advisor and Coordinator of Special and Creative Projects. Lance teaches business, marketing and communications as part of the CMU Music Entrepreneurship Program, coaches and mentors a variety of chamber ensembles and is also Adjunct Professor of Euphonium at Duquesne University. Lance was a member of Boston Brass and the US Air Force Band in Washington DC, has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra and currently plays with the River City Brass. He has taught and/or given master classes at some of the world’s finest conservatories, including Juilliard, the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Lance co-wrote and produced “Band Blast Off,” a highly successful band recruiting DVD and maintains an active speaking career, sharing his thoughts on practice, leadership, and self-development. His wildly successful book, “Music Practice Coach, Five Workouts to Get the Most Out of Your Practice Time!” is available as a free PDF at lanceladuke.com. Lance is an Educational Ambassador for Jupiter Band Instruments.

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