V.com weekend vote: What is the longest amount of time you are able to practice in one day?

January 8, 2023, 1:12 PM · I'll make a confession: even when I was in music school, I never could practice six hours in one day.

And for some reason "six hours" was the number that stuck with me, as the pinnacle of practice. "Great violinists practice six hours a day," this was in my head. There are elite musicians who do practice that much, if not for their whole lives, at least for a period in their development.

practice hours

But most mere mortals have a hard time with that, even as an outlier maximum number of hours. For me, even when I was preparing for a recital or audition, three to three and a half hours was the maximum I could muster in a given day.

Now, I'm talking about practicing, not about playing. Yes, I've had orchestra days with double rehearsals and performances - many hours of playing. But that doesn't count.

Practicing is another thing. Practicing is when you are alone, working on your technique, working on your pieces, doing your repetitions. You have to carve out time for it. And it's intense: you don't get the same kinds of natural breaks as you do in a rehearsal, nor do you have the social aspect of that. It's physically demanding, and it's mentally demanding. And you can't do anything else while you are doing it, including washing the dishes, grocery shopping, caring for children, working for money, socializing with friends... If you catch my drift.

So it's not simply about whether you have the physical or mental stamina for it - although that is a big consideration. It's not just about whether you have the will power or inspiration for it - although that is another big consideration. It's also about whether or not you can set aside that much time and also do the many things you need to do to maintain your existence as a human being.

For this vote, I'm curious about your maximum practice time for a day. This is not about "how much do you practice every day" or about averages. I wanted to know, what is the maximum amount of practice that you have ever been able to do in just one day, and under what circumstances were you able to do that, inspired to do that, forced to do that, etc.

Please participate in the vote, selecting whatever is the closest to your maximum-ever practice day, and then tell us all about it in the comments.

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Replies

January 8, 2023 at 07:41 PM · I would like to practice for longer than an hour, but unfortunately I have to work and also have other things to do as well.

Practice Time also depends on my neighbours, an hour they dont mind and I wouldnt like to put them through any more than that, cant use a mute I have to be able to hear the ringing tones and for me any mute kills it.

I would imagine its the same for most people, I normally spend 15 mins on scales, 2 and 3 octave, and then 5 on double stops, after that old and new stuff, its not enough but what can you do.

January 8, 2023 at 10:13 PM · Longest ever was about 7 hours, some time in early 2008. That was under some very unusual circumstances: I was recovering from severe depression, and practicing viola was the first thing I was able to get myself out of bed to do, so I did a lot of it.

Outside of late 2007 and early 2008, the most I've ever done in one day was somewhere in the 3-4 hour range. But because of on-and-off shoulder injuries since 2017, if I practice more than about 2 hours in a day, I'm unlikely to be able to practice at all the next day, so I try to limit my practice to a sustainable 1 hour now.

January 8, 2023 at 10:29 PM · 40 hours, of course.

January 8, 2023 at 10:56 PM · Maximum-ever practice day: about 6 hours. It was a gray Sunday afternoon, around this time of year - late January or early February - in my second year of high school. My high school chorale and orchestra were preparing the Gabriel Fauré Requiem, which we performed on a Saturday evening at the end of February. This was my first exposure to the score. It’s a winner with me.

The Fauré wasn’t the only item I practiced that day. Our ensemble was also delving into Haydn, Holst, Tchaikovsky, Graun. On top of this, I had my own individual studies and rep to work on for weekly lessons.

I never again practiced 6 hours in 1 day, although, as a music major a few years later, I often put in 5 hours. Now, no longer in school, I can more than stay in shape with 90 minutes to a session - and can fit in 3 hours +/- in 1 day. A few short breaks help a lot. I also split the practice time among 3 fiddles. This gives me a change of perspective - and a change of sound. I like keeping the 3 instruments tuned and played. None of them just sit in their cases for days at a time.

From experience, I know that this discipline does, indeed, take a good deal of mental and physical stamina. I find that it helps to be very intentional about it. I set a definite time to begin and a reasonable time to wrap up.

January 8, 2023 at 11:41 PM · It depends on how you define playing vs. practice. And the distinction is unclear, to say the least. Since I am retired I spend many hours a day playing/practicing. I regard all of it as productive and almost all as enjoyable. It all contributes to the totality of who I am as a violinist. How much of it is practice? That becomes a meaningless question.

January 9, 2023 at 12:28 AM · I can practice for a long time -- if I have the time -- but it's not always with my bow on the string. For example if I have new chamber parts to learn, then I've got to work out fingerings and the like. I spent about an hour on the V2 part of the Brahms No. 2 today, and this evening I'll probably spend another hour on the V1 part of Mozart "The Hunt." I also need to work on bowings for Beethoven Symphony No. 5 because I'm the concertmaster of our community orchestra but I wouldn't call that practicing, and I won't do it today.

January 9, 2023 at 12:29 AM · I have no idea about my practice stamina, having never tried to find out how long I might be strong enough and awake enough. I have rehearsed for 6 hours a day 5 days in a row once (quartet with a coach) but rehearsing is quite different from practice.

I never trust anybody who says practicing is fun and enjoyable. It is work, sometimes rewarding, more often just frustrating like any other work. That is why we need to play for joy, which I think is not practicing at all.

January 9, 2023 at 02:27 AM · Six hours a day when I was on the audition circuit.

January 9, 2023 at 02:56 AM · I don't have any physical issues preventing me from playing multiple hours a day, but I have had some personal mental blockages that have prevented me from actually practicing more than an hour since late 2018, but I won't go into it here. I did practice 2-3 hours a day for an exam back in 2018 but haven't practiced that much since (not including learing orchestra/ensemble music).

January 9, 2023 at 11:12 AM · Re ~ Most Hours a Day Practised {#10}

When full time Concertising globally & under Concert Artist Management in London for All of Europe and South America, added to by US Artist Representation, I recall many situations in Concert Soloist engagements requiring at least 6 hours per day practise plus even 8 hours a day and for Eight Months each and every day when short noticed engaged to record D. Shostakovich's 1st Violin Concerto in a minor, Op. 99, due to never having publicly performed the Shostakovich which at the time had only been introduced in Russia by GOAT of 3, David Oistrakh, Dedicatee of Dimitri Shostakovich's Violin Concerto #1, which set the Highest Standard of performance in this, his Great Masterwork for any younger Violinists! I voted 'More than 6 hours' & due to being a Touring Violin Soloist, making International Concert Tours globally, carrying at a minimum of 6 violin concerto's in a Concert Season to be performed and some recorded which were well ensconced in one's performing Violin Concerti repertoire also including several full violin with piano recital Programme's ~

Maintaining what one can term a 'normal' Violin Soloist's Each Season standard repertoire does require keen attention to All Works most of which are pre-booked yet needing refreshment and Concert level maintenance regularly thus equaling the 'usual' {for myself} 6 hours a day during both Concert Season playing and Summer Festival's with oft Violin Master Class Forums in other locations from one's Seasonal locations which eat up many hours for International Travel and soloist with new orchestra rehearsals once arrived to a foreign City in Country far from home ~

The specific situation which demanded 8 full hours a day of Study and Learning attention was the above mentioned First Shostakovich Violin Concerto in a min, and not all that well known by concert audiences {as it is at this time} on top of one's Seasonal Soloist appearances with Orchestras and Violin/Piano Recital's plus In-between Travel from O'Hare Int'l Airport to the West Coast visiting & helping out my principle teacher - father, who had suffered a massive heart attack in a mid Summer season, barely surviving yet pulling through and so needing our Family very close by which one has never ever regretted since a Shostakovich Violin Concerto #1 Recording which required Travel to Bamberg in Germany with an in-between return to a London engagement & Full Night Rest at friends in London, then flying back home to a thought to be needed long break yet providence hadn't that in mind losing a father just after returning to Chicago & a flight to get there In Time . . .

The musical - technical demands of Shostakovich No 1 were such that Only an 8 hours hard work daily violin practise could prepare me, a seasoned soloist, to 'cold turkey' record this massive Violin Concerto, unknown to me at the time of signing contracts of agreement to first time record with a second only to the Berlin Philharmonic, *Bamberger Symphoniker, for the Sudwestdeutsche {German} Rundfunk and as the time was upon me a sudden change in Conductor's from noted Russian Violist, Rudolph Barshai, superb Conductor taken ill 2 days prior, occurred with Associate Dirigent to Herbert von Karajan and his Berliner Philharmoniker, H. Michael, brought in on very short notice ~ This did require all 8 Months of 8 hours pr day of intense violin practise and Then Some to feel even capable to record {& as with each artist having differing comfort level's before microphones from others} this imposing 4 Movements Violin 'Expose' of the Profound Composer, Shostakovich, with amplified by 12 Double Basses plus doubled Brass Orchestra and proud to be a part of brought some pre-recording nerves!! {There was no time to visit Mr. Milstein to be blessed playing the Violin Concerto to him with what would've been wonderful advisements due schedules pre-booked}, so one relied on a lengthy background of strong acquaintance with the various Symphonies of Shostakovich and Master Recording of David Oistrakh, Dedicatee of the First Violin Concerto of Shostakovich which when released to the concert public and Fans of the Great Oistrakh, became a favourite although not yet regularly programmed by most major orchestras then due unfamiliarity of most violin soloists excepting King David Oistrakh, and by grace, so thankful for The King of Violinists having recorded Shostakovich No 1 with the Son-Conductor of the Composer, Maxim Shostakovich, and whom I would later meet here in Chicago, when he Guest Conducted a well known Summer Festival which was beyond gratifying being invited to stay In Touch via his telephone number given to me by Maxim Shostakovich scribbled on the front cover of my Violin Part to the Concerto by his father, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Note in Russian with bits of mixed in English!!

I only know that Concertising is serious 'business' yet requires great love of the Music from a very tender age amid much playing experience and when very young playing in orchestra to learn how to be a member of a large fellow musicians team whilst also learning their parts whether it be our string cousins or Brass and Woodwinds plus oft percussion starting out & if serious with respected teacher's recognised talent of one at an age which allows much study & growth as a youth with a thirst to play violin well & loving violin concerto's with agility & having musical ear's plus truly good attitudes toward learning, then one has a shot at achieving dreams of playing yet the practise element must be accepted very early on as the Root of All necessary quests for mastery of the instrument and Music composed by Icon's of Great Masterworks with resolve amid Joy in being able to learn with a principle teacher of violin {plus other instruments} with a sort of 'Oath of Allegiance' to stay fidel to the Violin and through the pending vissitudes along the "Road Less Travelled" in one's School Years, giving up parties on weekends to practise while also doing homework in School, and being more or less Goal oriented as are young gymnasts who train non stop for dreams of Olympic Gold with families understanding their ever growing importance of complete discipline to achieve such goals and in the Concert World of Violin with All it means and consistently requires!! Some are born to this rigorous life and others are born to love music and play music yet without the quest to violin conquer the Sibelius; Brahms; Beethoven; Mendelssohn {a perfect violin concerto}; Tchaikovsky; Lalo Symphonie Espagnole; both Vieuxtemps Concerti #4/5; Saint Saens Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso; the Goldmark, S.S Violin Concerto #3; Korngold; Vivaldi Seasons & Walton Violin Concerti plus Prokofiev's I & II; and Shostakovich # 1 + #2, which brings us to closer present day favoured by the violinist concert going public more recent violin concerti and I am sure to have left out some other Major Violin Concerti here yet ask for mercy while I try to finish at this wee 6:05 AM hour on Monday, January 9, 2023, needing to go back to sleep and reviewing my initial Reply minus typo's and punctuation plus many of the everything's I try to do if writing on Laurie Niles' superb V.com website and in the birth of Year 2023 with Gratitude & a Happy Practise New Year to all here!

Respectfully submitted from Chicago ~

..... Elisabeth Matesky .....

Ref: https://www.facebook.com/elisabeth.anne.775?fref=nf

Fwd ~ dg

January 10, 2023 at 03:14 PM · I know what happens to me, 3 hours good, 3-5 hours diminishing returns, more than 5 hours counterproductive

January 10, 2023 at 04:03 PM · I’ll put in an hour to two hours a day. Since I’m retired, you’d think I could knock off four hours or more without any problems, but things don’t roll out that easily. I’ve got too many other things taking me away from the practice room; I have to make coffee in the morning, read the paper, play Wordle, crossword puzzles, other word games, watch Stephen Colbert on YouTube, put in my eye drops, get dressed, take a walk with my wife, sit in a coffee shop and talk with friends, then there’s breakfast, off to the gym to lift some weights, go for a bike ride, make the bed, do some laundry, have lunch, squeeze in a nap, check my email, Facebook, this website, take another walk, yoga class, sip some wine with the neighbors, dinner, try to find something on television that I haven’t already seen, give up and read a book, or the New Yorker, more eyedrops, brush my teeth, the whole bit. Somewhere in there I knock out violin practice. The one thing I can say is that I do get in at least an hour each day. That’s it.

January 12, 2023 at 11:33 AM · Michael - LOL, I see you!

January 14, 2023 at 05:38 AM · Reading Ms. Matesky's reply reminded me of something on a plaque that we had in the Med. Research Lab.;- The 90-90 Rule. - The first 90% of the project takes 90% percent of the time, the last 10% of the work takes another 90% of your time.

There have been many times when practice + rehearsal + performance consumed 6 -8, even 12 hours of a day, but I have never practiced more than 3 hours in a day. Diminishing returns set in rather early. That would be one of several reasons why I was a tier 3 player instead of level 2. Violinists that cannot put in those massive hours would include; Those with day jobs, working orchestra players, students doing a conventional college BA music major instead of the conservatory B.M. track.

My recording studio experience was very different. Most of it was cold sight-reading.

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