V.com weekend vote: How do you structure your practicing?

July 13, 2018, 11:56 PM · What is the predominant way that you set up your practicing?


This was the topic of a blog this week by Paul Stein, called Practicing or Wasting Time: Learning the Art of Teaching Yourself.

Some students and musicians thrive by having a set and consistent period of time in which they practice. Others go by the the tasks they need to accomplish, such as repeating passages, without so much attention the clock.

Either way, Stein argued that it's important to engage the mind in the process, not to simply set the clock or to go through a set of tasks mindlessly. Practice works best when you are engaged in providing yourself the musical and technical tools you need to play well, whether you are working to accomplish goals set by yourself or by a teacher. Ultimately, you must find your own goals in practicing.

When you practice, do you mostly go by the clock or by the task? Please participate in the vote and then share your thoughts on how your practice has evolved, what is most effective for you and why you feel that it works.

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July 14, 2018 at 05:13 AM · If I'm working on a piece I'll video record a section, depending how far along I am, maybe a couple of minutes worth, and try to figure out what will make it better and then try recording little bits of maybe 30 seconds to see if I've fixed things. Then check again the longer bit. I started that way of operating in 1996 and it got me into 3 orchestras, St Louis, Rochester and Utah symphony, where I am now. Well, in 1996 it was just audio, I was too cheap to buy a video camera with what might be the wrong format, as I was living abroad.

July 14, 2018 at 01:01 PM · It is a fact of life, for a professional with a family, that practice time is limited. Carving out one hour per day (most days, anyway) helps me organize my schedule in a way that I can get my other work done. Predictable is good -- for me and for my family. Task orientation is fine too, but one very useful life skill is being able to predict, more or less, how long tasks will take, and then breaking larger tasks into smaller ones so that they fit the time you've got available. The two approaches are not orthogonal.

July 14, 2018 at 01:23 PM · I voted "Mostly by having a set time period for practice," although I go by a combination of the two approaches. It helps me to have a definite starting time, like 2:30 PM, and a target ending time, like 4 PM. But within the 90-minute stretch, I allocate minutes according to what I'm trying to accomplish. In a given week, some technical review will take more time, some less -- same for repertoire.

July 14, 2018 at 08:34 PM · Like Jim, I have a set period of time with a structured plan on developing what I am currently working on. Like Paul, I know there are only so many hours in a day and, despite being retired, I live a very structured life with all kinds of activities and commitments.

FWIW: I have learned that the scheduled life is just as important in retirement as it was during my working life - perhaps more important.

July 15, 2018 at 01:31 AM · Scales, Etudes at least 4 chosen from: Dont, Fiorillo, Kreutzer, Gavinies, Wieniawsky and ..... more...

The repertoire, Sonata, Solo Pieces, and a concerto review and any new work...Time can be compressed and reduced to some silent exercises left hand... Right now, no long periods of time, due to injuries....scheduled

July 15, 2018 at 05:53 AM · I answered task-oriented, but the reality is that it's also a set time period. I'm a lawyer with limited free time. Most days I start practicing within 10 minutes after arriving home, and stop at exactly 10pm when my apartment complex requires me to stop. Realistically, this is 30-60 minutes a day. As a result, I tend to pick a small task each night that I believe I can complete in the time I have that night.

July 15, 2018 at 07:39 AM · It’s well established that focused (deliberate) practice is the most effective.

I voted for practice by time because I generally do two 25 minute sessions with a short break.

But I could have voted by task as I often do 30 to 35 minutes in one or both sessions if my concentration and the piece is going well. Occasionally, if I lose focus I cut it shorter.

I don’t think “by time” need suggest mindless practice.


July 15, 2018 at 07:03 PM · Along with others who commented here, I have specific goals for each practice session, however I practice for 78 – 90 minutes each day. It's rather liquid, because I'm somewhat new to all of this, and I keep getting more and more material to play. For a while I played for around 45 - 60 minutes. Then 60 - 75, and so on. So, time simply depends on how much I have to get through, and how long I can keep my focus. After every 30 minutes I stop for a break, go and do something practical like make the beds or do laundry. Then again I also do things completely impractical like read nonsense on my computer or take a nap. When practicing, I focus on scales, arpeggios, and double stops for quite a long time, then concentrate on new material. Once all of that is finished I rotate through music I already know. When I find my concentration start to flake away, I do something I learned from a writer I used to know. He worked on Saturday Night Live. I asked him, “How do you come up with new ideas each day? How do you keep it fresh?” He replied, “We read the newspaper, watch television, and see where we can get ideas. But the most important trick we do is this – at the end of a writing session we leave something unfinished. We just walk away. Then when we get back the next day, we can dig right in and keep it flowing.” I’ve taken this advice into my violin practice. I always stop just before playing something I like, and save that piece for the next session. It helps keep me excited to practice the next day.

July 16, 2018 at 10:29 AM · I voted Task Oriented since my practice involves (amongst others) Ralph Matesky's The Well Tempered String Player for Violin.

Perhaps others may have come across this guided and structured system?

Stewart (70)

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