It’s the first question many students and/or their parents ask about music lessons: How much practice is involved? While many music teachers give an estimate of 30 minutes a day, there really is no one answer. So much depends on the individual assignment and the student’s aptitude and goals.
You’ve heard the old punchline to the joke “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.” There’s no question that practice produces better musicians at all levels. It’s especially important for beginners since it allows students to get the most benefit from their music lessons and gain mastery – and enjoyment – of their instrument sooner.
Unfortunately, practicing an instrument can sometimes get put on the back burner. Here are a few tips to help stay on track and get the very most from your time spent practicing.
- Schedule it in. Music practice shouldn’t be something that gets squeezed in after all other distractions and obligations have been met. Students who set aside a specific time every day for practice are far more likely to successfully complete their assignments. Schedule practice for a time of day when you naturally have the most energy and will be able to think and focus most clearly.
- Don’t watch the clock. A goal of practicing for half an hour tends to make even the most motivated student a clock-watcher. It’s not so much the time that matters, as what is accomplished within that time. A better plan is to focus on the assignment at hand, and practice for as long as it takes to confidently finish it. Some days that might be twenty minutes, other days it may take an hour or more.
- Warm up with scales or similar exercises for the first 15 minutes or so, before starting in on your practice assignment. This helps put your mind in a more focused state for learning. A half an hour of focused productivity after your warm up will yield better results than more time spent practicing without concentration.
- Pay attention. Mindless practice wastes everyone’s time. When you’re on autopilot, very little productive learning takes place. Giving your full attention to the assignment at hand not only gets results more quickly, it’s far more interesting. When you’re really concentrating, the time flies by!
- Set goals. A long piece can take patience and perseverance to master. Give yourself a realistic timeframe by counting the number of measures and calculating how many measures you can realistically learn each week. Then make a weekly commitment to the time it will take to learn those measures.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Learning a musical instrument is a challenging but extremely rewarding endeavor. When you’ve mastered a particularly difficult assignment or passage, congratulate yourself and give yourself permission to move on to something more fun.