V.com weekend vote: About how long was your longest practice streak?

July 31, 2020, 4:44 PM · Late summer is a great time to consider making some practice goals. While a lot of us were not able to take vacations during this strange pandemic year, a few of us still might have taken a bit of a practice break. (Of course, others used it as a chance to practice more than ever!)

practice streak

Along these lines, this week the New York Philharmonic announced a Practice 30 Challenge, inviting musicians to get started on August 1 and practice the entire month, every day. Not a bad idea!

One of my students got started on a "practice every day" effort this week, and even just one week was showing major results.

I like to tell people to start with the goal of 21 days, as there is some agreement that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Once you form the practice habit, a few things happen. Practicing becomes a little more rote, because it's a habit. But beyond that, it also becomes a much more attractive proposition, because with all that practicing, you get good at playing. And then playing get fun. And then you want to play more! And then you get even better....It's a virtuous circle.

One of the guests on this upcoming Sunday's episode of Gilharmonic on Violinist.com, our summer show with Gil Shaham, is a five-year-old girl who has practiced 342 days in a row! (Click here to see it!) I'm impressed with her, but I'm extremely impressed with her mother, who definitely played a major role in making that happen!

And practicing and progress are definitely linked; check out this chart that relates practice to progress through the Suzuki books: Practice an hour every day and you'll likely progress through one Suzuki book per year. Two hours - two books per year. Practice 15 minutes a day - in 10 years you'll probably still be stuck in Book 2!

What is your longest practice streak? Was it linked to a goal, such as an audition, performance or the desire to conquer a certain piece of music? Do you have a hard time getting on the practice train? What has helped, when you have hit a practice slump? Please pick the best answer for you, and then tell us any advice, experience or encouragement you would like to share about practice!

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Replies

August 1, 2020 at 01:36 AM · I voted for more than a year.

There was a time when I was practicing at least 3hrs a day - this includes practicing at the office during lunch breaks. Then after work, I would go to my teacher's studio for lessons, then at night practice some more. When I don't have a lesson scheduled with my teacher, I practice about 3.5 hours a day after work. I did all these practicing on weekdays. On weekends, I rested from my violin, and did other fun stuff. I did this routine for 3 yrs.

Those were the days when I was still single. I started playing the violin when I was 7yrs old and continued on until High School (then I had a hiatus during college). But after graduating from college and landing a good paying job, I sought the tutelage of a violin performance teacher/conductor from my local university. I told him my goal was to learn how to play Bach S&P -- not just some simple S&P pieces, but the entire book! I was determined to reach this goal, and so I did all the necessary work and dedicated myself to achieve it.

Nowadays, I only get to practice about 30min at the most (an hour if I have more time). I still get to practice everyday, but not at the same intensity as I once did. Family life and quality time with my wife and kids are wonderfully in the mix now :-). Plus, I also help my kids with their own violin lessons.. lol.

August 1, 2020 at 02:13 AM · During the weekdays I practice every day because it's part of my routine. But my weekend routine is different and I haven't been able to figure out where to fit practice in. I am intrigued by the idea of getting better faster if I practice every day so I'll give it a try. But mostly I feel I make the best progress if the amount of material I am practicing is right for the amount of practice time I have.

August 1, 2020 at 02:44 AM · My youngest has never missed a day. She started shortly after her 4th birthday and just turned 11, so that is around 7 years. My oldest has not missed a day in at least 10 years. Even when they are sick they find a way to do a few minutes of practice. Of course, not every day is a lot of practice or even good practice, but they always practice at least a bit each day, and usually a lot more than a bit. It is just a natural habit to them.

August 1, 2020 at 05:11 AM · I never missed a day when I was a kid, except for a few incident of medical/travel urgency. It wasn't too hard, then, since my time table was pretty much fixed by school anyway.

I still don't really miss a day just for the reason of not wanting to practice. But, life is infinitely more complicated as an adult now, and sadly things with higher priorities, with more urgency, interfere sometimes.

Instead of streaks, I now measure "uptime": the fraction of days I practice over a period of time. Over the last year, I reach over 95% uptime and am quite content with myself (as an amateur).

Personally, I think this is a more practical score. It doesn't discourage me when I have to take a day off, since I don't just go back to zero. It doesn't encourage me to power through pain. It's also more realistically reflect the amount of effort I've put in.

August 1, 2020 at 09:56 AM · One should always practice everyday except when work or life gets in the way(if your parents make you go visit family friend). I'm in HS so don't judge for living with parents, not old enough or mature enough to live alone!

August 1, 2020 at 12:49 PM · It's incredibly motivating to me to read these comments! Since it's August 1, I am going to "start the clock" on a practice streak today. (Susan's comment above reminds me very much about my mom's approach to practicing when I was a kid. She was never heavy-handed, but instilled in me that practicing was something you just did, like brushing your teeth or washing your hands/face. It really didn't occur to me until I was much older that we never really fought about practicing.)

August 1, 2020 at 01:47 PM · I grew up oractising half an hour a day throughout the year. Apart from periods when I didn't practise, that has been about average for me. Occasionally, when I had a performance coming and hadn't recently practised, it became an hour a day.

As a result of mild covid, I find I've forgotten how to play the Mendelssohn (but have been learning the E-major Partita). Hope Felix comes back!

August 1, 2020 at 02:54 PM · Rachel Barton Pine's daughter has a practice streak of over 1000 days!

I selected over one year, because for much of my teenage years, I did not miss a single day of practice. These days that doesn't happen, I miss days here and there, partly because my body cannot cope with 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and I have many more demands on my time!

There are several violinists/violists on Instagram that do the 100 days of practice challenge.

August 1, 2020 at 07:31 PM · I have absolutely no problem motivating to practice. I absolutely love to practice/play. But I seldom even get a month because life interferes. I go on a vacation, or something happens. But my overall practice rate is high. I normally, though, have a summer job that absolutely precludes playing at all for a few months. It makes me all the more anxious to return. But this summer with the virus, I have all the time in the world...

I disagree strongly with the practice every day thought, but I agree with the practice most days idea. Just like in athletic training, we need breaks to recharge the mental spirit, the repair the physical issues, etc.

And amazingly enough, just as with mental practice, a break can mean that one comes back even better than before. The number of times I have taken significant time off, and then came back (with but a slight break-in period--a few days to loosen the fingers so to speak), to find that I could play things I couldn't play before is amazing. By this I mean improvements that can't be argued with by the sceptics: that is to say, not necessarily artistic improvements, but rather very difficult technical challenges that I absolutely couldn't play, let's say, before a summer break, and then I could whizz through.

I call it the osmosis theory of learning.

August 1, 2020 at 08:56 PM · I try to play every day for about 45 minutes. Being over 70 with osteoarthritis my goal is to try and keep what is left of my skills. Right now I can play from half to fourth position - usually pain free. Above fourth is excruciating.

I no longer perform because my hands are no longer reliable. Some days I can play for upwards of an hour, on bad days 15 minutes of warm-up have my hands screaming. Fortunately, the bad days are not frequent but I already have a plan for my violin when I an no longer able to play.

Back in the day when I was much younger daily practice, orchestra rehearsals, lessons, and the occasional solo in church. I played a lot. I miss those days but getting old is adjusting to loss.

August 1, 2020 at 10:43 PM · My 12 year-old daughter is currently on a 3000+ day practice streak. Yes, she has practiced every day since she was a little over three; rain, shine, airports, hotels, no matter what.

Of course, it has taken a lot of effort and coordination within our family to make it happen; but it has been worth it.

August 2, 2020 at 06:07 PM · A year -- although I had one stretch, starting in mid-November 2015, that possibly ran more than a year; but I don't know, because I didn't keep a record. Even in my student years, when I practiced up to 5 hours a day, I took a few breaks per year -- about 1 week each. When I'm coming back to playing after time off, I ease back into it to give the left-hand fingertips enough days to toughen up again.

As a kid, I couldn't wait to practice -- my parents didn't have to tell me to do it. These days, I can fit in 1-1/2 to 3 hours of practicing and playing a day. It helps to be intentional here by setting a starting time and sticking to it.

August 3, 2020 at 04:14 PM · There is a difference between doing a lesson, performing, rehearsing, and individual practice. In my student days I practiced 6 days a week, but not on my lesson day. As a working professional I had my hands on the violin every day for years. My roughest schedule was performing 6 nights a week, every week, with one day completely off per week.

August 4, 2020 at 02:53 PM · My most recent practice streak began with the lockdown--no travel for work since then!

August 5, 2020 at 08:09 PM · I was somewhat surprised at seeing my article about 6 principles for effective practicing listed as additional reading. Josef Gingold told me I might survive in the music business since I worked consistently. I am now retired and have no desire to practice since I can't improve due to shoulder replacement surgery. That was always my rational for practicing: it came down to solving problems.

August 6, 2020 at 01:11 AM · About a year, from late 2007 to late 2008. It's much harder to maintain a practice streak as an adult learner. But 2007-08 was different because mental health struggles kept me from doing anything; playing viola was the only thing (other than eating and going to the bathroom) that I got out of bed to do most days for about a year and a half.

Other than that period, my longest practice streak has been 22 days when I did a 21-day practice challenge on social media.

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