NOTE: this advice is good for "normal" times, too (but right now our choices have been unusually limited). If your available band/music opportunities have a long hole in the schedule for any reason, this is good ongoing maintenance. I think many of you have continued with a good practice schedule, but HOW you practice is just as important as how long...perhaps more so.

I think we're all trying to remain positive during the shut-down situation, as we assume bands will be back in our lives before too long. But there are other times when we may be away from ensemble playing for a while, so this is not COVID-only advice. Skills are hard to build, and easy to lose if they are not maintained.

Here is one discipline you should practice all the time: sharpen your sight reading. This is a known "lesson assignment" for anyone planning on a military band audition, of course, but you should continuously work on sight reading for other reasons. For one thing, you actually use pseudo-sight-reading while playing music you are familiar with. For example, as you near the end of each staff line, you need to have read the last few notes on the existing line so your eye can leave that line (while you are still playing it) and mentally queue up notes in the next measure. But beyond that reason, band directors may have gotten "creative" during the shutdown and you may find some unfamiliar music awaits you when you return.

I've learned the hard way that when when I practice in my low-ceiling basement, I'm not really playing a forte when I think I am. My reactions cause me to cut down the volume, and after a while that make me less able to play well at loud volumes and also cuts down my endurance when I am really blowing. Perhaps that doesn't affect everyone, but if it does there are some things you can do. The most dependable solution is to get a practice mute, either the full-size kind (which play the best) or the little travel mutes (which are very handy for some situations, but not as nice to play). Whatever effect the low ceiling has on me is just the opposite when I use one of these mutes. My support and tone's solidity improve. It is probably not necessary, or even good, to use one all the way through your practice. Your sensitivity might suffer.

Playing in tune is more than just playing to please your tuner. While you aren't playing with others, use recorded accompaniments to pieces and play along. Another good technique is to record yourself playing a simple song, like the ones in the middle of the Arban book, but down an octave. Then try to play along with your recording while you play the normal octave. You might learn some things about your intonation in various registers and fingerings.

You could even prepare for other situations while using recorded accompaniments. The Sparke book of Classic Hymns comes with a CD, and those are very useful tunes for me!

I have written piano accompaniments for two popular Sousa marches, so you can tone up your march skills and also get used to playing with an accompaniment. Here are recordings, and the link to purchase them is in the YouTube description.

Fairest of the Fair (my personal favorite):

King Cotton:

There is also the SmartMusic tool, which lets you play along with accompaniments. The software "listens" to you and keeps the accompaniment in sync with what you do, so you don't need to abandon expression to use SmartMusic. It also has a sight-reading training tool:

There are two good excerpt books out now (both legal!!). This is also good practice, using real band excerpts.

Euphonium Excerpts (edited by Barbara Payne, Paul Droste, Brian Bowman, and me):

Practical Guide to Wind Band Excerpts for Euphonium:

I have a playlist where I demonstrate many of these excerpts, and in some I offer a little advice.

And if you think you have an idea what you will be playing next, you might find it at the resource below, if the title is public domain:

Band Public Domain PDF Library:

So don't just bemoan not playing in band - take positive action!