Instrumental teachers have for years been exhorting their pupils to practise, and despairing if they do not, but how many children really understand what ‘practice’ is? Expecting children to sustain independent learning between lessons is a considerable demand, and one that often becomes a source of friction at home, as practice becomes another chore to add to general homework. Maintaining effective and enjoyable learning between lessons is an important part of playing an instrument, but simply telling children to practise is not sufficient to foster the motivational resources that they will need if they are to make significant progress. Davidson, Howe and Sloboda (1997) point out the high levels of intrinsic motivation – the child’s inner drives – needed to sustain the hours and years of investment required to learn an instrument successfully. This paper will use case studies to explore in depth the strategies in evidence when young brass and woodwind players were observed practising their instruments, allowing a consideration of the methods and behaviour that seem to be most effective, and those that seem to generate less successful practice. A case study approach has been taken in order to explore Hallam’s (1998) assertion that there is a vast range of practice styles, and strategies that benefit one child may not suit another. Detailed studies allow close comparison of the methods and behaviour in evidence, from which broader discussion can be generated, as the three individuals studied here demonstrate through their varying levels of motivation, parental involvement and musical awareness in their practice.