V.com weekend vote: How long is your typical practice session?

September 8, 2017, 12:11 PM · Question: How long should I practice? Answer: As long as you can!

resting violin

In truth, the answer depends on a whole list of variables: your age, attention span, health and stamina, goals. That said, the more time you spend with your instrument, the better you will play.

To illustrate this, I long ago posted this chart on the bulletin board in my studio. It shows the pace that an average student will progress through the Suzuki books, given their practice habits.

In a nutshell, you can complete all 10 Suzuki books (that brings you through two Mozart concerti) in five years, if you practice two hours or more a day. A devoted but slightly less ambitious student who practices a half-hour to an hour a day can master about a book a year. If you practice only a few days a week, for less than a half-hour, you can expect to be languishing in Book 2, even after 10 years.

So consistency is important, but so is spending a solid chunk of time. What is your typical practice session? What are your thoughts on practice, and where do you find motivation?


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Replies

September 8, 2017 at 07:35 PM · 1-2 hours, although sometimes I venture into the 2-4 hours bracket. Ideally, I prefer two 90-minutes sessions with several hours between them. This isn't always practical, so I will sometimes go up to 3 hours. In practice, this works out to be three 50-minute sessions with two 10-minute breaks. As I've written before, I divide the time equally among three fiddles.

I know from experience the value of consistent practice. I don't like to drill on practice the whole time. Once I've worked hard on something for 20-30 minutes, I like to break up the session with some recreational playing -- something I've already mastered and can have fun with. A couple of motivators: 1) the artists I've heard and like to emulate; 2) the neighbors and friends and passers-by who tell me that they like the music and sometimes sit out on their porches or hang around the driveway to listen.

September 8, 2017 at 07:51 PM · I will typically practice for 1+ hours (more like 75-90 mins), but will break for about 10 mins if I start to feel my mind/focus wander. And, some nights I can only squeeze in a 45-50 minute session. I love the weekends as I'm prone to playing around two full practice sessions one day, and an extended "typical" session another day. Even with lots of practice (which I'm often told during lessons, "I can tell you've practiced a lot!") I find that without regular lessons the progress is not the same. If I had more time to dedicate to practicing, I would certainly practice more than I do now. As it is though, I'm practicing as much as I can given my work/home life.

September 8, 2017 at 07:51 PM · I practice every day, but I tend to go for about 90 minutes during a session and then my fingers get tired. Even so, I usually take out the instrument two or three times a day which means I might actually practice three hours or more. For me, it is not about practicing because I should, but rather because I want. I can be sitting and reading a book and then just get this urge to play. Happens all the time. Delightful!

September 8, 2017 at 08:27 PM · Back when I used to perform with a community orchestra I'd practice 1.5 to 2 hours most days. Family, professional societies and work stole a day or two each month. Now I'm in the 45 - 60 minute every day category since I don't perform and I'm focused on preparing for the lessons I teach and the pieces I play just for my own enjoyment.

I've often wondered at the hour requirement norms that most violinists consider normal or advisable. Setting and achieving a specific goal regardless of the time required has worked better for me in both violin and my professional life. There comes a time when you're just doing it for the clock, and if that is all you are doing then you should be doing something different where you accomplish something.

When I was with the community orchestra there were always sections I worked to improve and doing so took me to the 1.5+ hour session normally. However, there were times when I met my goals in less time and then moved on to other things - like work/profession related stuff.

When I finally get past the next hip replacement I'm considering joining another community orchestra and I'll probably be back to longer practice sessions.

September 8, 2017 at 08:50 PM · I usually practice between 60 - 150 min per day, 5 days a week (excluding the time playing at weekly orchestral rehearsals). I take regular breaks like every 20 min or so. I always put on a practice mute during practice and thus I don't really know the "real sound" it's making. Good for technical work I guess (e.g. intonation, rhythm, bow distribution, etc.).

September 8, 2017 at 09:11 PM · About 2-4 hours, I do a lot of warm up exercises, drills and scales before the piece in working on because I find they really help my intonation and tone production. And this takes quite a while. This is now that my family obligations have eased after kids are off to college. But have to coordinate with wife; with as a hard time with the drills.

My son's teacher at Oberlin Conservatory (now retired) said, "you need to practice at least four hours to get better, three if you want to stay the same, and anything less than that you're depending on your talent.".

September 8, 2017 at 09:12 PM · Normally I spend around 3 hours a day including school orchestra, private lessons, and chamber music. On days when I have a lot of time to kill and don't feel like doing anything else, though, I might go up to 5 hours. I never play for longer than an hour and a half at a time since I start to lose feeling in my right arm due to shoulder injuries.

September 8, 2017 at 09:53 PM · 1 hr a day during the week, about 3 on weekends broken up throughout the day.

During Harvey - 8+ hrs/day.

September 8, 2017 at 10:29 PM · The program I've set myself of scales, technical work, repertoire, etc. seems to take me about 3.5 hours to get through each day. One (the only?) advantage of currently being out of work is that I can set my schedule so that I usually practice for 2 hours in the afternoon (3pm-5pm) and then for 1.5 hours after dinner.

However.... while I almost always complete the first 2 hour session, the second one is often imperilled by either tiredness or laziness and can last anywhere from 0 mins to the full 1.5 hours.

There are also days when the total time for the day comes to ...ummm... ahhh...welllll let's be honest, zero. The end result is that I chose 1-2 hours in the survey, but now, looking at my log, 2-4 hours really would be more accurate.

I should add that when practicing I usually do about 20 minutes, then take a few minutes (~3-5 minutes) break.

On top of this I must add one of the great disadvantages (along with affording non-essentials like food and accommodation) of currently being out of work is that I can't afford a teacher at the moment. Means there's every chance some/a lot of my practice is ingraining bad habits.

Neil

September 8, 2017 at 10:35 PM · Well I try to practice 60-75 minutes but sometimes I don't have time to practice at all so I had to choose "30 min to 1 hour" as my vote. When I miss two or three days in a row I really pay the price.

September 9, 2017 at 12:36 AM · I'm an older violinist who just recently started lessons after years of not practicing. I'm able to practice for one hour a day. I am slowly building my stamina and strength up and my goal is 2 hours per day. I also have unscheduled 'relax' days when I don't practice at all. My schedule at work and home decided these days for me.

September 9, 2017 at 01:57 AM · My goal is 60 mins a day, but I miss 1-2 days a week, so my average is about 45 mins per day.

September 9, 2017 at 07:32 AM · I play for fun and enjoyment - about 30 mins 3 or 4 times a week.

September 9, 2017 at 12:30 PM · As little as I reckon I can get away with for the desired end result! I've long been an advocate of not over-doing it in any activity, taking the view that a suitable period of rest from the activity allows recuperation, both physical and mental. That is why I have no concerns about being away on holiday for a week or two without access to the violin - I'm refreshed when I return and it's like I never got off the bus.

September 9, 2017 at 12:46 PM · I do at least 3 hours a day, with a break day on Saturday. I usually divide my time equally between scales, solo, and studies (such as sightreading and etudes). However, scales and studies tend to take longer some times, resulting in decreasement in the time I practice the solo or an elongated practice session depending on how much I need to work on the solo (as it is the area I need to work on the least). Adjustments are made depending on my progression in each area and how smoothly they go. My philosophy is not to set a certain time to practice, but to practice how much time your perfection for technique, intonation, and smoothness take you. Your practice time depends on how much you need it. In addition, you can go beyond if you really enjoy a certain aspect of practice (for example, if you really enjoy your solo). However do not practice for too long, for it can bring negative consequences to your practice.

Cheers,

Erik

I am just a student who has played the instrument for a few years.

September 9, 2017 at 04:32 PM · "In a nutshell, you can complete all 10 Suzuki books (that brings you through two Mozart concerti) in five years, if you practice two hours or more a day."

My own feeling is that the goal should not be to get through the books as fast as you can. Of course everyone wants rapid progress, but the goal should be to learn to play the violin properly. One also should not expect a plot of book number vs. time to be linear.

September 9, 2017 at 05:51 PM · My practice time varies depending on repertoire load. It can vary from 40-80 minutes depending on repertoire load, success rates, etc. I take short brain breaks when I feel like it, and I take breaks to eat meals.

September 10, 2017 at 08:09 AM · In my childhood I zoomed through the earlier grades on 30mins/day, and this increased to 1hour for the higher grades including grade 8 and the level after that at the time, AMusA. Each of the exams took 1 year to complete with A grading, but AMusA took me 4 years. I never managed more than 1 hour/day due to excessive tension that would leave me too tired to play, particularly my back muscles. I must have been an efficient practiser...

I stopped lessons after AMusA due to anatomical limitations, but it just goes to show that more practice really is needed at very high levels. It also reflects the AMEB's decision in more recent years to add another exam level between Gr8 and AMusA, because the leap was so great in the requirements.

Now in my 5th decade I practise when there is an orchestral or chamber music imperative, and it takes quite some discipline to schedule practice into my day. Then when I do practice my beautiful violin, I wonder why I don't do it more often. Still never more than 1 hour though, even though I'm much less tense than in my youth.

September 10, 2017 at 07:31 PM · I usually practice 1,5-2 hours a day, except one day. I try to practice more, but I'm too tired after work.

September 11, 2017 at 01:40 AM · A week ago I would have said 1-2 hours a day, however, over the weekend I've had some music that is, for me, very hard placed in front of me.

That has changed my practice regime from 'okay.. couple hours is the goal! Lets go' to 'I need to have this above-my-grade-music under my fingers by November', meaning I now practice every chance I get - between classes, before work, during breaks at work....

'Need' and 'Desperation' can be such great motivators. :P

September 13, 2017 at 04:29 PM · Now that community orchestra is back on the fall schedule after having summer off, I find I need to really discipline myself to practice those parts that I can't play. After rehearsals I am much more pleased with my playing and can see the goal to play the piece well is attainable. Yet, at home going over difficult pieces I find I need to YouTube it to make sure I am on track for tempo rhythm and tone. This takes me an hour. I do break for a few minutes (play something fun, get a cup of tea, pet the cat)to get my brain back in gear if I am sloppy and distracted; or making silly beginner mistakes.

During the summer months I'm more inclined to be hiking up a mountain here in NH, so I have to dust off my beautiful violin that took me too long to find.....re-introduce myself to hear her lovely sound again, once orchestra and church group starts up again. My stand partner is 83 years old and plays rings around me. God bless her!!

September 13, 2017 at 04:34 PM · If I am hired to play for a wedding, or other important gig, I will devote every spare moment I have to perfecting the pieces they chose. As soon as I get home from work, I will pop a frozen something in the nuke for dinner and take out my violin. I will listen to a recording and go over and over each piece. The weekend is all about practicing; for hours 'till I am satisfied it's what the bride wants to hear.

I might water the flowers in the garden only to save their lives. I won't dig up weeds or play much with the cat, but go back inside and go over the pieces again and again. I concentrate on relaxing, creating tone.

These 'customers' are paying me to play beautifully, not sloppy while yawning.

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