How Much is Too Much?

January 7, 2018, 10:08 AM · Hi all,

I had a general question pertaining to pieces. How much do you practice at once? I know it really does depend on the student and on the student's schedule but how many pieces/etudes/scale exercises do you study at once?


Replies (8)

Edited: January 7, 2018, 10:38 AM · "Scales" is such a generic term that can mean everything from going up and down three octaves in a single key to doing an entire Flesch scale study in two or more keys. With scales the most important thing is to think about what you're trying to get out of them and plan your work accordingly.

With studies, I work on one or two studies at a time, usually with contrasting aims and in different keys. (I really love studies so when I'm being lazy sometimes I'll just play through Mazas and Kreutzer studies I've learned before, for a whole hour or more! So I'm probably the wrong person to ask about studies!)

Under "normal" circumstances I would work on scales 15 min, one of my two studies 15 min, a slow piece or Bach movement 15 min, and a fast piece or concerto movement 15 min. But are circumstances ever normal? I want to prepare a recital but that's not going to happen if I'm only working on two pieces at a time.

January 7, 2018, 10:54 AM · For me, I'd say I'll do two keys a day, with accompanying arpeggios, double stops, etc, exercises (no etudes, my teacher rarely assigns them), and 2-4 pieces of repertoire at a time.
Edited: January 7, 2018, 1:42 PM · A "classic" practice schedule is divided into four segments which get equal time: a mixture of scales and exercises as suits the student, two etudes, a virtuosic showpiece or movement(s) of solo Bach, and a concerto.

That was pretty much the pattern of my childhood.

In adulthood, my practice schedule is much more driven by my performance schedule, and it's more repertoire-heavy. I'm often juggling a concerto, recital repertoire (sonatas, showpieces, etc.), and solo Bach. We do etudes (of late, Paganini Caprices) but I rarely devote practice time to them, so they kind of get shoved aside. I pull out scales and exercises (and the occasional Kreutzer etude and whatnot) when I need to work on some specific aspect I think they'll be helpful for.

January 7, 2018, 6:09 PM · A typical practice schedule for me looks like this:
-Sevcik/Flesch scales (almost exclusively double stops, l.h. pizz, and false harmonics) for around 20-30 minutes.
-A Kreutzer or Rode etude, which I spend around 20 minutes on.
-Movement of Solo Bach (which is basically just me playing with a metronome) for a half-hour.
-Chamber music, which I might spend up to an hour and a half on if I have a lot of time that day. Mostly, it's about 30-40 minutes.
-Symphonic rep, which I don't need to spend TOO much time on (usually, it's just laying the foundation of a passage so I can add tonal details in rehearsal) which takes about 15 minutes.
-Finally, solo rep which takes up the majority of my time. On days where I have a lot of time, it can go up to 2.5-3 hours, but usually I only spend about an hour or so.
January 8, 2018, 3:39 AM · For me is

10 - 20 mins scales (particular key, or 2 keys for actual week), fingerings and arpeggios
20 min piece what I am working for (now it is Rieding's Violin concerto Op. 24),
and then few songs from memory especially for my daughter, she is dancing on it :)

A few scales at the end. It depends on the time, I have a busy days, but this is my 6x week routine, a few days advanced about few more 20mins of playing, choice of taste.

January 8, 2018, 4:32 AM · "How much is too much?"
As soon as either fingers or brain-cells no longer work at their best...
Come back later after walking the dog etc.
January 8, 2018, 1:50 PM · I spend about 20 minutes on scales, Sevcik and Schradieck; 15-20 minutes on etudes (currently Kreutzer - beginning of the book; then the remaining 20+ minutes on rep. I try to end on a few shorter pieces that I play well, to keep them polished, and if a session has been rough for whatever reason is brightens it a bit. Sometimes I don't have an hour-plus, so I will condense the time accordingly. I wish I had more time to practice - I really love working on it all and find it really hard to skip one area of my work when time is crunched.
January 8, 2018, 8:24 PM · I basically don't practice. And, I've never reached an amount of practice where I said afterwards "that was too much to be effective."

However, some ideas:

1) If you start "autopiloting" you probably need to at least take a break. Practice - without conscious effort behind every note or every chunk of notes - is a total waste of time.

2) Pamela's spread is a good one, I think: 1/3 scales, 1/3 etudes, 1/3 repertoire. But this changes in favor of repertoire if you have a performance coming up.

3) If you're starting to play sloppily, even when you're trying to pay careful attention, then it's time to take a break. Sloppy practice = sloppy results.

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