How Much Should I Practice?

The short answer: you should practice as much as possible and probably a lot more than you are now!

A good rule of thumb for young musicians is to practice every day at least the same length as your lesson.

So, if your lesson is 30 minutes, you practice at least 30 minutes a day. As the lessons get longer, the practicing also increases.

Remember, for every 30 minutes of practice, be sure to take a 5 minute break.

Roar

If you have read any of my blogs, you know I self-identify as a TIGER MOTHER. I make my kids practice every single day unless it’s their birthday, Christmas, or they are vomiting. Minor illnesses like a cold don’t count. The “vomiting rule” makes things clear. You have to be really sick to skip a day of practice.

We have one major exception: vacation. However, I have been known to find a piano in the airport and ask for an impromptu performance (photo below!) Often, we take a plastic fife along for my daughter to play on vacation because her embouchure needs to stay in shape (see ** below).

airport concert
At CMH on the way to DIA, we found a piano. He gave a little concert while wearing a full backpack.

Bumps and bruises are no excuse. Both of my children have gone to urgent care for stitches and still had to come home and practice. Here’s a picture of my son at urgent care after he got seven stitches in his right fingers. When we got home, he practiced with his left hand. It also happened to be his sister’s birthday so she had the day off. 

injury to right fingers but still has to practice with his left hand
left hand is perfectly fine

Consistency in Practice

At our house, consistency is #1. I’m more lenient when it comes to the amount of time the kids practice. They must practice all the music assigned at the lesson plus and outside music (Cadet Orchestra, accompanying, gigs.)

If the music is not prepared for the lesson, we have a serious conversation about preparation. Does she need to learn new woodshedding ideas? Perhaps practicing is happening at the wrong time of day. The later in the evening my daughter practices, the worse it gets because she is tired and her attention is short. We encourage her to practice earlier in the day for better practice sessions. Maybe the music is not prepared because he isn’t spending enough time on it. Occasionally, we get out the timer and set it. Then I have to be hearing music for the entire time under the timer goes off or I start yelling!

**Because my daughter is a flutist, I understand how important consistent practice is. The embouchure we make with our mouths is the thing that makes the sound. Like an athlete, we have to keep exercising the muscles everyday to make them strong. It’s better for a flutist to practice 10 minutes every day for three days than to take two days off and play for 30 minutes on the third day. 

Practice Guidelines

I saw this helpful chart posted by Dr. Suzanne Newcomb, who is my son’s piano teacher.

Final Thoughts

In all honesty, I don’t think I ever made it to the 5+ hours a day, unless you include rehearsal time. My husband, who is a pianist, went through a long period of practicing up to 8 hours every day. We argue about this all the time, but I think that wind players can’t practice as long as pianists. It’s physically exhausting to breathe hard and hold up and instrument. Plus, most of the time flutists are standing to practice. Pianist are always sitting, and never huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf.

Discuss…

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