Splitting practice into different sessions per day

March 6, 2020, 12:49 AM · Hi all, this is my second post but probably the last one and I won't bother you guys again. I used to practice 3hrs in one session and 5 on weekends, but now I feel quite exhausted after 1 and a half hours and I get migraines. Is it ok for me to split up my practice? If you've done so please share some tips and experience with doing this.

Replies (6)

March 6, 2020, 12:51 AM · I definitely think it’s better to split it up to avoid injury, and to rejuvenate!
March 6, 2020, 5:00 AM · Splitting your practice up into different sessions makes good sense because you can then concentrate more closely on different aspects of the violin and the music at different times.

One way to split the practice is to work on your scales in various patterns (linear, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, octaves) and with various articulations in one session.

Use another session to work on technical etudes.

Use a third session to work on repertoire.

Use the final session (in my opinion) for sight-reading of music you've never played before. You can find countless collections of melodies of varying degrees of difficulty online for free. I think that sight-reading (which is reading a piece of music for the first time, not repeating it and practicing it) is an often overlooked but very important part of playing an instrument or singing. I feel it should be part of everybody's practice routine because it forces you to use all of your musical tools at once for the most musical outcome instead of concentrating on one or two aspects. And the better sight-reader you become the more versatile you are as a musician and the more employable you are as a last-minute sub for a wide range of musical employment.

I would also ask if you are getting true migraines, which is a medically diagnosable condition for which there are specific medications available, or if you're merely getting intense headaches (which aren't migraines) because of all the mental energy 3-hour and 5-hour practice sessions require.

Be sure you drink water frequently during your practice sessions -- dehydration can often be the cause of headaches and if you couple that with the stress of the intensity you are requiring of yourself it's understandable that you'll get headaches.

Also, whether you're doing marathon 3 and 5 hour practice sessions be sure to rest between pieces and between scales -- our brains need time to process experiences. Also resting between pieces/scales allows our muscles to relax and normal blood-flow to resume and rejuvenate them.

March 6, 2020, 5:08 AM · Splitting up practice sessions is not only good for your body, but good for your mind.

From a personal perspective, I tend to practice in 30 - 45 minute blocks. These are split up into: scales, etudes, Bach (daily!), personal repertoire/exam repertoire, orchestra rep, and then sight reading or for fun stuff. I do gig too, so some practice might be focused on what I am playing coming up.

I do not necessarily do all of these every day, the only daily ones are scales/etudes, Bach and personal rep. Orchestral stuff I only do in small sections, I rarely play through an entire symphony. This is very focussed on those niggly parts that need practice, but generally not for more than 10 minutes. I will move between different pieces that need work, and they might not fill a 45 minute “block” as it were.

In my practice room/study I have water, fruit and limited technology. Phone is in another room and my iPad is used for practice.

Additionally, I always end practice on a positive note, be it playing something familiar that I really enjoy or notebashing my favourite concerto. It is fun and ends on a smile.

I would get these migraines checked out, as David said, it is a diagnosable condition, and medication is around to help.

March 6, 2020, 6:59 AM · Medical checkup: Sure. But don't forget your eyes. Lots of musicians have special glasses just for music. You take your violin and your practice stand with you to the optometrist so they can measure the exact distance of your eyes to the printed page.

Also do a video of yourself practicing for half an hour. Then, play it back. Look at how you are breathing. Try to estimate the generalized strain you're putting on yourself. Are you blinking enough to keep your eyes hydrated? Seriously ... if you do something, even like sitting at a computer, for three hours things can get really weird.

March 6, 2020, 10:22 AM · And there are different solutions to the eyewear problem. I have tried two-- one abandons bifocal/progressive lenses altogether, and just aims to get 30" and beyond correct. Very useful for the opera or films, but irritating if you have to change a string!

The other keeps the short-distance portion, but weakens the rest of the lens. So I give up a bit of long-distance resolution, but it handles mid-range much better. Good for music stands, documents on conference tables, etc.

Your optometrist may have other suggestions, based on your own strengths and weaknesses.

March 6, 2020, 10:46 AM · I think you should head to a doctor if you think you are getting daily migraines from practicing, and ensure that you are playing with correct posture.

Migraines and headaches are not the same thing - knowing what you have going on is key for correct treatment. Migraines involve a host of other symptoms beyond a “really bad headache” and can be reduced in frequency and severity with the right interventions (medication, diet, exercise, rest, staying within one’s physical/mental/emotional “limitations”/boundaries, and so on.) I suffer from both migraines and overwork/tension headaches - and if the tension is bad enough it can be confused for a migraine.

Also, don’t practice for 3+ hours straight without breaks. It’s not good for anyone, least of all someone who tends to get headaches.

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