Preparing for Individual Competition

Mary Karen Clardy

The spring season is filled with solo competitions, and individual preparation outside school band or sectional rehearsals can sometimes be a challenge after learning in a group environment.

Developing personal practice skills builds habits that are key to technical and musical confidence. Try this formula for success to achieve two 30-minute practice sessions each day. Assign five minutes each to various warmup exercises, then 10 minutes of special focus on solo repertoire.

Long Tones:

Alternate long tones in the low and middle registers between sessions to develop embouchure and endurance.

Scales and Arpeggios

Identify the key signature in the competition repertoire and practice the corresponding scale and arpeggio in various rhythm and articulation patterns.

Articulation Exercises

Practice tongue/finger exercises to coordinate difficult patterns in competition repertoire by changing rhythms or syllables to develop evenness.

Vibrato Exercises

Practice scale patterns with and without vibrato to maintain control of speed, width, and vibrato use in competition repertoire.

Competition Repertoire

Devote the last 10 minutes of practice to your specific performance repertoire. Break up the songs into sections and learn them systematically, alternating easy and technically difficult parts to develop consistency throughout the pieces.

Use a smart phone or computer to audio and video record. For immediate feedback, listen to the recording as part of each practice session.

Outstanding ensemble players often lack confidence in individual performance, but learning individual practice techniques builds skills for competitions. Learn to be your own teacher for confidence as a performer!

About author

Mary Karen Clardy

Mary Karen Clardy, professor of flute at the University of North Texas in Denton, appears as a soloist, chamber artist and teacher throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Asia and South America. A renowned author, she has published more than 10 books from European American Music, Leduc, Schott and Universal Edition. Her students are consistent prizewinners in international competitions and occupy prominent orchestral and faculty positions throughout the world. Visit