Five Habits Musicians Should Practice Daily – Michelle Bingheim

This week’s Five Things Friday reveals a new perspective in the Brass Chicks community – featuring a post from Michelle Bingheim, a trumpet player and music therapy student, on five habits we should all practice every day.


Michelle Bingheim is currently a senior at Western Illinois University. Michelle comes from a musical family and developed a love for music at a young age.  She began her music study with piano, but the trumpet eventually won her over.  Michelle continues to study trumpet and participate in ensembles while earning her degree in music therapy.  She enjoys performing with a variety of ensembles and has developed a special love for playing in brass ensembles/bands.  Michelle plans to become a board certified music therapist upon graduation and serve clients in a special education setting while still pursuing her love of playing trumpet. Outside of music, Michelle enjoys consuming coffee, binge-watching Netflix, spending time with her family, being active at her church, and giving back to her community.

1. Self-Care:

Making/taking time for self-care is extremely important.  This topic is important for all professionals, especially for musicians.  Self-care is important because it helps us strengthen our minds and our bodies.  If our minds and bodies aren’t in the best condition possible, then we cannot perform at our highest level.  Self-care is different for every person.  For some, it may mean starting the day off with a run or going to the gym.  For others, it may mean incorporating healthy eating habits into the day, taking time to read, or watching an episode (or two) of Netflix.  Personally, one of the best things that I like to do for self-care is to start my morning off with a cup of coffee.  While this may seem small, that cup of coffee helps me to get in the right frame of mind for my day of classes, rehearsals, meetings, and homework.

2. Individual Practice Time:

While this may sound like a “common sense” thing to do every day, it can be difficult at times during the semester to make time for individual daily practice, especially as a non-performance major.  I oftentimes find myself focused on assignments for classes or busy with 4 hours of rehearsals. This is often when individual practice time can head to the wayside.  On the days when I am crazy busy and take even a tiny bit of time for individual practice, it helps to keep me on track and remind me of my goals.  With the idea of individual practice time also comes the idea of being efficient, especially on those days when you don’t have as much time as you would like.  On the days when you have a limited amount of time to practice, plan ahead and choose to work on the things that need the most attention!

3. Listen to Music

This may sound like another “common sense” point, but it is often hard to put into practice. A nice time to listen to the repertoire that you are working on is while you are resting your face during those individual practice sessions.  When you’re practicing and your face gets tired or you’re feeling unfocused, take some time for the horn to be off of your face and listen to a recording of whatever you’re working on.  If there isn’t a recording, use the piano and sing your part.  It is important to listen to the repertoire while we work to improve it; doing so helps you with interval training and intonation, as well as overall musicality.  Another method of listening is to put headphones in and play along with the recording. Try playing along with several different recordings to develop a broader sense of musicianship and technique. Always keep in mind that just because you listen to a certain recording, it doesn’t mean that the recording is correct. Do not rely on recordings to learn the music; learn the notes and rhythms first and then listen to the recordings.

It is also important to listen to music for enjoyment.  Each person has a different taste in music, but it is important to listen to other styles/genres of music that you don’t normally perform, because it allows you to become a more well-rounded musician and individual. If you play classical music all day, give yourself a break and listen to other genres you enjoy. This helps to keep music making and listening fresh and fun!

4. Surround Yourself with Positivity

In junior/senior high school, I was fortunate enough to attend Illinois Summer Youth Music and work with the family of Ronald Romm, a founding member of the Canadian Brass and a phenomenal trumpet player.  I remember Ron telling us that his office at the University of Illinois was full of positive quotes/affirmations, but I didn’t believe it until I saw it for myself.  The idea of “I am a great player,” instead of “I will be a great player” changed my work ethic and how I approached music.  When we surround ourselves with positive affirmations, we begin to be more confident and less timid.  Surrounding yourself with positivity allows you to live a more productive life and have a better outlook on your playing. Try printing off positive quotes from Pinterest and taping them up in a collage on your wall so that you see them every morning before you leave for classes.

5. Remember the “WHY”

Begin with the end in mind; keep your goals in the forefront of your mind.  It is important to remember where we are headed so that we stay on track.  None of the things mentioned above matter if we don’t have a plan, or if we don’t know why we are putting in all of this work.  When we are stressed and our bodies are tired after playing for several hours, we have to remind ourselves of the end goal.  It is important to remember why we have taken this path of being a musician and why each of us loves making music. Keep finding new ways to stay inspired and never give up. Progress is not linear; it takes time and dedication. Always remember the phrase, “two steps forward, one step back.” You might not be happy with where you are now, but we all have bad days now and then. It might seem like we’re moving slowly; but that’s alright! It takes a lot of time to become a professional and seasoned musician; however, with the proper motivation and time-management, all of us can reach our goals faster than we think.

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