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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: How many hours a day do you practice?

April 11, 2009 at 4:57 AM

Yes, I'm going to go there: I'm going to ask you about your devotion to the violin.

I think that James Ehnes said it best: after talking about the incredible amount of time, effort, sweat, money, heartache, possibly even blood...(okay not really) that went into finding the instrument that he found, he said:

"Looking back, there was a lot of time and effort and struggle that went into the process of getting an instrument, but in a way that was the easy part. I mean, the practicing was much harder!"

The practicing was much harder -- those words stuck with me.

It's not easy for anyone. Practicing is the hardest part. Life does not simply set aside two or three hours for practice. It's not easy when you are young, and it's not easy when you are older. There is school, exercise, the basic fact that one must eat and also put bread on the table, there is work of all kinds. And there is procrastination, distractions, children, parties, holidays, falling in love...

But some people find the time, and it usually requires sacrifice: saying "no" to certain things, having discipline. You have to create the habit and then keep it alive.

How are you doing with your practice? How many hours a day are you devoting, these days?

From Samuel Thompson
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 5:13 AM

Funny that you should write that - the practicing is the hard thing.   The work is so wonderful to do, and there is of course no better feeling than spending time with the instrument; however, it is hard, and it seems to get harder as one gets older for so many reasons.

From David Beck
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 6:49 AM

I'm retired and arthritic. My back goes after half an hour. That's my excuse.

Excuse number 2:- Didn't Kreisler say he practised 12 hours a day, 20 years ago or some such ?? No doubt someone out there has the exact quote. Milstein's creed was that we play with the brain as much as with the fingers - just bashing away until fingers bleed is not enough. Maybe thats what you have to do if practising Bartok for a funeral. But then my violins cannot talk like your Gagliano, so they cannot boss me around.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 9:21 AM

See blog.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 12:12 PM

I only have about 45 minutes a day to practice.  I wish it were more; in fact, I usually start around 10:45 (pm) and by 11:30 when I have to stop and go to bed, I'm usually looking at my watch going "no, no, is it already that time?"  I wish I could find a way to arrange my life differently.  But that would mean quitting my job, and I'm not ready to do that.

From Tasmin Little
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 12:31 PM

Parents always ask me how to get their children to practice more - and my response is to tell them that if someone enjoys doing something, they will carry on doing it!  (How difficult is it to get young children to "practice playing football??") When I was studying, I always wanted to practice more if I loved the pieces I was playing - practice shouldn't be a chore!  Practice should be creative - and if you use your brain to work out what the problem is, and your fingers to solve the problem, then the results come much quicker.  When I was 18 years old, I practiced 6-8 hours a day.  Nowadays it's more like 4 hours because I know what's going wrong and how to fix it - well, most of the time anyway!!!


Have a good Easter, everyone.

From Ihnsouk Guim
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 12:32 PM

Are there only 1% of people practicing 5-6 hours? I am sure there are more. They are probably too busy practicing to vote.

From Samuel Thompson
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 12:41 PM

Tasmin - thank you for reinforcing the mind/body connection!  

From Anne Horvath
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 12:37 PM

My daily amount changes because of varying teaching/gig schedules.  I actually created three different practice schedules for myself, according to time available.  The average day is around 3 1/2. 

Speaking of...

From Royce Faina
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 1:54 PM

My practice routine always includes pieces that are a) a work out, and  b) Play; recreation! Stuff I can do well and remembering when it use to be a work out!  Now it's playtime!


From Michael Divino
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 2:15 PM

I think "not enough" should definitely be an option!

I juggle school, martial arts, youth orchestra, school, school, and um, school that all interfere with getting in practice time. It's definitely an annoyance.

From kenneth barry
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 3:19 PM

I am retired and a "born again" student of the violin.  I am 83 ,  and in pretty good health, so  I manage to practice 45 minutes to 2 hours EVERY day.   I only wish I had enjoyed it as much when I started at the age of 9.  Right now I play about as well as I did in the 9th grade of school.  Trying for high school......

From Mili Leitner
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 3:20 PM

 I'm lucky that I can schedule my whole day around practice since I'm taking a year out from formal education before starting at a conservatoire in September. Since the purpose of this year is to get into a good position to enter conservatoire, I'm practicing 5 hours or a little more, except on travelling days, not counting two orchestras I play with. Usually I get all my practice done early in the day when I'm more mentally awake. My practice is very structured so even though 5-6 hours is a lot, I can usually keep my mind focussed (I take breaks every hour or so for at least 30 mins and a long lunch break) and if I was physically able to without destroying my wrist tendons/fingertips, I would like to do more. But I'm not stupid enough to risk tendonitis again :)

From Christopher Ciampoli
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 4:43 PM

I don't udnerstand how people can practice for an hour straight. My mind gets overloaded after 20 minutes of excruciating details, so I walk around and stretch for 3-5 minutes before returning for another 15-20 minutes. I stop practicing as soon as I know I'm not concentrating 100%. I practice violin for 2.5-3 hours like this, and piano for 1.5-2 hours. If I ever play the violin for more than 45 minutes straight, I must be playing not practicing.

I think Leopold Auer said a competent musician doesn't need more than 3 hours a day. I tried to find the exact quote but I couldn't come up with it.

From Manuel Tabora
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 4:53 PM

I think it's important to practice as much as you possibly can from the earliest possible age.

I didn't start playing until I was 12, and then I had too much school stuff going on to practice seriously. The consequence is that by the time I graduated from High School I wasn't good enough to get a full scholarship, so now I'm going to college to learn the violin, but having to work hard to pay for school. Sometimes the last thing that I have time for is practice!

But I'm serious about it now and I do the best I can and I'm hoping that by the time I get my bachelor's I will have caught up enough that I can get a good deal for grad school and really put in the time that I need to. Seriously, a lot of times I think I made a mistake going into music with my limited abilities, but I'm already in this so I'll just give it my best shot and see what happens.

And, if you were wondering, I'm kind of embarrased of saying how much I practice daily...

From Laurie Trlak
Posted on April 11, 2009 at 5:17 PM

I try to get at least two hours of practice in a day. It's not always possible, although sometimes I'll get three in, but I find practice to be very relaxing for me. I start out with scales (about an hour's worth) and then work on Kreutzer (I'm currently on an etude involving double-stops, No. 34, I think) and then I work on repertoire.

It's fairly easy for me to work practice time in; I'm on disability and don't currently have a job, although that may be changing. If it does, I'll have to revisit the whole issue of practice time!


Posted on April 11, 2009 at 10:57 PM

My blog gives the "snow tire blues" excuse for not practicing or even playing either violin or viola the past two days...usually it's an hour of scales, an hour of etudes or studies and an hour of Bach; all before lunch. a siesta and then more good fun. Yes, fun. What was considered a drudgery as a kid studying the instrument is a now a joy...

I do not remember who said this but it goes something like this...

If I do not practice one day, I can tell; if I don't practice two days close professional friends can tell; if I don't practice for three days, everyone can tell

nopity.gif No Pity image by TGrosjean

From Bart Meijer
Posted on April 12, 2009 at 5:56 AM

I missed the "more in weekends" category. During the week, I'm lucky if I can just get my hands on the violin every day. In weekends, I can usually practice for at least three hours.

From BJ Berman
Posted on April 12, 2009 at 8:19 PM

Hi everyone.

Re: practice. I'm stuck with it so I do it whenever I pass the always open fiddle case. I have carpal and cubital (elbow) tunnel syndrome in both arms. Both my neurologist and hand surgeon have written me scrips that say "Practice violin 2-4xper day for 45mins for 31 days, refill 11x, then make appt.". 

Here's the good news. The practicing has kept the symptoms at bay for ten years that we know of, and we don't know how long before that, because it was discovered by doing an emg down both arms to test a condition in my back!! I never knew I had it because of the violin! It's one of the best things you can for your physical and mental health, so go to it and everyone stay well and avoid the most common work caused conditions by PRACTICING!


From Eileen Geriak
Posted on April 12, 2009 at 10:14 PM

Wow....BJ, that might explain why my hands no longer go numb when I sleep at night.  I was afraid that all that playing would only make it worse, but it hasn't.....

I get up at 4am Mon-Fri....take shower, get dressed....spend time with the Lord..........and when my husband heads out of the house for work at 5:15am I pull out the violin and practice until 7:00, when I have to put it down to get ready for work myself.    During my practice time I have a daughter getting ready for High School, then after she leaves, I get my 13 year old son up at 7 so that he can get read school.   We leave together at 7:40, I work in his school.   I also go to church on sunday at 7am and play till folks start showing up at 9.  No ones around to bother so I can really relax and let loose..hehe.   On Sat, I grab any time I can....when I'm not playing I'm usually thinking about playing and wishing I was..........pretty sad

My husband doesn't like when I play so I have to find times when he isn't home......though I do on occasion pull it out anyway in the evening when I have something coming up that I need to practice for.   I'd be on that thing for hours every day if I could...can't wait for summer break !  I'm a teaching assistant and I get summers off !   :-D

From Mirjam Lumkeman
Posted on April 13, 2009 at 8:20 PM

That quote is from Heifetz (when I do not practice one day I hear myself, for two day's the critics can tell, after three day's the audience will hear the difference).

I practice 2-3 hours a day, teach for 4 hours 5 days a week and drive 1000 kilometers weekly, so my time is up  by then, and even more, my energy  ;-)

This Easter holiday I force myself not to touch the violin and to feel not guilty - that's hard! But the garden needs attention, and my family also. And I need some rest.



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