Minimum 'emergency practice'?

June 3, 2018, 6:55 PM · So my partner has recently started tracking my progress on the calendar using stickers. It's quite cute and feels surprisingly validating to get a sticker as part of my belated 100 day challenge.

A couple days ago she asked me what I would consider a 'minimum' amount of practice to be worth a sticker. I then sat down and defined what I would consider my emergency practice, and am curious what other people do/would add if you had only a limited amount of time to practice but were committed to forcing it in.

Mine is:
-4 2 octave scales, F, G, A, B to ensure I practice shifting up to 5th position (whole bow, then 2 in a bow)
-The arpeggios to go with the scales
-Vibrato practice
-1 3 octave scale + it's arpeggio
-Some work on at least one phrase of something I'm working on.

Replies (5)

June 3, 2018, 7:22 PM · If my viola gets out of the case and I play it at all, I count it as practice for the purpose of the 100 days challenge.

But I care much more about making some kind of progress than about just winning an Instagram challenge. So if I have just five minutes, I want to make it count. If I'm doing that minimal five minute practice, I skip scales and spend it all on either one etude or slow practice of one spot in repertoire.

June 3, 2018, 7:51 PM · Your emergency practice, Michael, would be a regular practice for me.

In an emergency practice, with limited time, I would be "eating leftovers". Brushing directly some particular roughnesses of the things I had practiced the previous day..

June 3, 2018, 8:53 PM · Andrew, hilarious! For me the spirit of the 100 day challenge is what I'm chasing. I just finished a degree that for the last three years has done serious damage to my spare time. I would often be in a situation where I would have to choose sleep, practice, or homework. So to me this is just about forcing myself to practice for 100 days in a row - rebuilding the habit, you could say.

I agree, if I had only 5 minutes it would be spent on what immediately needed attention - that nasty run in the next orchestral piece, or a bow change/string crossing that has been exceptionally difficult.


This takes about 20-25 minutes in total, I rush through it and don't waste any time except when there are errors that require me to stop and step back a bit. Somethings I've found that help to save time is to chain each key into just one movement. I set me metronome on 2 clicks at 60bpm and will do whole bows, then on finishing start right back up the scale with a faster speed, then when getting back to the start doing the arpeggio. Sometimes there are hiccups that require it to be broken up, but because this is 'emergency' practice I only stop if it's a large error. I check my notes on the open strings when possible, and if I mess it up twice I play it with a drone (no time to keep starting over and over, it's a rush remember!).

When I have time to do regular practice, each one of those elements would have a block dedicated to it. But of course we do not live in a perfect world :)

Edited: June 4, 2018, 4:37 AM · For almost the entire time that I've played, I've been in either demanding non-music degree programs or busy non-music jobs. There's a day or two most weeks where I practice less than 10 minutes because that's all the time I can spare. There have been times in my life I've averaged under 15 minutes a day for a month, but still squeezed in something on 25 or more days of then month.
June 4, 2018, 7:31 AM · Slow-to-fast basics: a selection of my own 2-minutes per page drills on cales, trills, shifts, chords, vibrato etc.
Some drills expand small movements; others hone down wide ones.

Then repertoire fragments treated as studies.

Etudes? Only with 3 hours ahead of me with nothing better to do..

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