Percussive Arts Society

How to Practice Part II: Triage by Dan McGuire

Directors often tell their students to practice, giving them a laundry list of items that they must improve. An area that is often overlooked is a critical component of student preparation: how should students practice? This article will focus on the concept of “Triage.”

Every day, students must make decisions on how to best utilize their practice time. A fundamental understanding of this approach is that no student can work on everything every day. Younger students in particular can easily become overwhelmed with the volume of material they must learn. This necessitates the ability of students to prioritize assignments so they can continue to improve over time.

For this analogy we will prioritize our practice time in a similar fashion as an emergency room must prioritize their patients. We have three tiers: chest pain, broken bone, paper cut.

This is the assignment that is due soonest and/or has the highest priority. This is what the students will spend most of their time practicing.

This material is important but not critical. This is the “touch on every day” material, or assignments that require a long-term investment of time to master.

These are assignments that are not due in the immediate future and do not require a long-term investment of time to master.

By teaching students to prioritize their assignments, you can help your students feel successful in class and keep them motivated. The next article in in this series will use this concept to help students proactively plan their practice session so that they use their time efficiently.

Dan McGuireDan McGuire serves as Director of Percussion and Assistant Director of Bands at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. The Percussion Ensemble is a two-time winner of the PAS International Percussion Ensemble Competition, performing at PASIC 2013 and 2016, and performing at the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in 2018. McGuire’s students have garnered honors such as winning the Tennessee Statewide Solo Percussion Competition, as well as participating in DCI Top-12 Drum Corps, Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, regional honor bands, and the Tennessee All-State Band. McGuire was on the board of the Tennessee PAS Chapter, serving as Vice-President from 2017–19 and President from 2019–22.

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