• Sandra Howe

How to Practise when Coping with Illness Part II

This is the perfect time of year to talk about illness and how it affects our practice. We may suffer for a week or two with a cold or flu that interrupts our practice, or we may be suffering from a more chronic condition which we struggle with daily. Either way we are going to need some clever strategies to help fit practice into our life.

It goes without saying that you should look after yourself first, if you really don’t feel like practising then allow yourself to have a break to fully recover. For those that are interested in some tips and tricks to practise while not feeling up to scratch – read on!

The best strategy is to practise parts rather than the whole, it’s surprising how many ways we can break a skill down into its parts: -

  1. Physical Training

  2. Ear Training

  3. Sight Reading

  4. Comprehension

Last time we will looked at Physical Training and Ear Training. This week, in Part 2 we will cover Sight Reading and Comprehension.

Sight Reading

You do not need to necessarily play your instrument to maintain your sight reading skills while unwell. There are many, many apps available which can help with note recognition, chord recognition and key knowledge. I even have a free Sax Trainer game useful for learning and maintaining note knowledge on the Saxophone.

Another very helpful way is to listen to music while following the sheet music with your eyes. You can imagine yourself playing while you do this. Many youtube videos feature sheet music to follow. You can also tap rhythms out this way and work on improving rhythms you have had difficulty with.


Performance preparations often require a written programme. This needs research on the composer, history and context of the music. It can often lead to a better performance simply due to a more informed knowledge of the music. Often when we practice we devote little time to these areas but during periods of rest (or the unfortunate illness) we can catch up on these important areas.

Read about the music you are currently studying. Read about the composer and the general history surrounding the time the music was written. Listen to original recordings if there are any available and listen to other music by the same composer, in the same genre or era. Armed with this knowledge you will have improved, albeit indirectly.

Mostly importantly, get well soon!

If you are a working musician and you have been affected by illness or injury, or you want to support musicians affected, please have a look at https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/

#illness #howtopractice #musicpracticetips #practicewhenunwell #practicewhenill

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