Practicing early in the morning after you wake up

January 7, 2022, 1:03 PM · Is this a good or bad thing to do? I've tried to practice early in the morning sometimes because I know I won't have much free time that day, but after about 20 minutes I just give up. Everything seems so much worse technically. My fingers seem so much slower, intonation worse, everything just seems off in the morning even after warming up. I feel like if I continue, then I will be practicing in bad habits so I stop. But I also wonder if it would actually be helpful to practice through difficult times. I would love to hear your input on the matter. I usually don't even pick up the violin until after 11AM anymore. It feels so much easier after that time, but I wonder if it's just because I've trained myself to only play later in the day.

Replies (22)

Edited: January 7, 2022, 1:40 PM · It's a good skill to have in general, but especially if you ever plan to perform before noon. You should endeavor to build up the skill of getting in the performing mindset as quickly as possible, so that you are able to perform equally well under as many possible conditions. I hate playing in the morning, but that's where the bulk of my performance opportunities occur. A soloist would be at a disadvantage for matinee performances if they didn't work this out.

It's probably best to do the bulk of your practice when you are at your best, which will vary from person to person, but it's a good idea to practice performing, which can involve doing some targeted practice at awkward times, or even shifting around your practice schedule so that sometimes you work on pieces without warming up, or just switch the order up.

You may never be able to play solo Bach to your highest standard outside in the middle of winter at 4am after someone just hands you a random violin and bow, but you can certainly work on expanding your comfort zone.

Edited: January 7, 2022, 2:07 PM · I think it is worthwhile to do some warmup early in the day - if you can.

I found it hard to play in mornings when I was younger - say, less than 70, but in recent years I find it easier to play early in the day - before noon for sure.

So it is worth re-calibrating this during one's lifetime and keep playing when it works best for you.

January 7, 2022, 3:40 PM · Yes, yes and yes. Do it if you can.
We often recommend before you go to bed so the brain focuses on that during sleep. However, it is not so common to hear the suggestion ‘the moment you wake up.’ Nevertheless, at least according to some great pedagogues such as Toshio Eto this is an extremely powerful device. The mind has not woken up completely, is not getting in the way and over analyzing.
Give it your best shot…:)
January 7, 2022, 3:56 PM · I enjoy practicing in the morning - I find it is more effective that way since my brian and body aren't worn out from the day. But I do a warmup routine of stretches and exercises every morning, and then usually eat breakfast, before practicing so I'm "warmed up" and fed, so then I can truly concentrate.
January 7, 2022, 4:22 PM · Peak dexterity is usually about 5 or 6 hours after waking, I think. But if you're just doing scales, morning is perfect. I always do technique right after waking up and I've gotten used to it. Just leave run-throughs for another time and practise S.L.O.W.
January 7, 2022, 6:26 PM · I believe this is highly individual: A sizable fraction of the population are not morning people. They are often at a disadvantage because of the work schedules that our society imposes on people.

If the O.P. is such a person I suspect morning practice won't be very helpful.

Christian: If somebody can't practice properly before breakfast it does not follow that they will still be incompetent at matinee time (which is well after breakfast).

January 7, 2022, 6:58 PM · Albrecht, I'm making a broader point about becoming more flexible and not depending on your "peak hours". Matinee time would still not be my preference, as I feel strongest in the evening.
January 7, 2022, 7:31 PM · My 11 year old is a night owl, and hates waking up early. Yet, she will do so 3 days a week to practice, because she would otherwise not have the time to do it/she doesn’t want it hanging over her head. If she can do it….
January 7, 2022, 8:06 PM · As some here have stated, it probably varies from person to person.
For me I prefer the mornings and feel more alert and energetic then. After finishing, I feel have rest of the day to do other things, musical or otherwise.
Edited: January 7, 2022, 9:01 PM · It might be helpful to warm up physically before playing by taking a 10 minute brisk walk outside before playing. it might help in establishing a routine of walking and playing. While walking, you can plan what you practice/focus on later.

Edited: January 8, 2022, 3:33 AM · What an interesting topic. We can gain some guidance from the human circadian rhythm, which indicates the following for people who follow average sleeping patterns:

10:00 AM - high level of alertness
2:30 PM - best coordination
3:30 PM - highest reactivity
5:00 PM - greatest cardiovascular efficiency and muscular strength

So, according to this concept, best practicing efficiency would be between 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM.

Edit: if you're wondering how I came up with this, it is part of FAA mandated study, in turn deriving from International Civil Aviation Organization directives, necessary to obtain a commercial drone license.

January 8, 2022, 8:04 AM · IIRC studies of violinists have indicated that technique is best practiced in the morning and repertoire in the afternoon/evening, and that you are best off dividing your practice sessions with a nap in between, which helps solidify the things you worked on in the morning.
January 8, 2022, 8:04 AM · IIRC studies of violinists have indicated that technique is best practiced in the morning and repertoire in the afternoon/evening, and that you are best off dividing your practice sessions with a nap in between, which helps solidify the things you worked on in the morning.
Edited: January 10, 2022, 6:56 AM · Morning practice : not a chance ! I can barely get coordinated enough to brush my teeth at that hour. I leave my violin practice for the evenings after work.
January 10, 2022, 7:48 AM · My daughter has done 45 minutes every day before school since she was 10 0r 11. Getting a bit harder as she has recently turned 13 and her clock is changing.
Pedagogue Amy Beth Horman has an online program called "Violin Breakfast". Sadly she's in CA so times never work for us on the other coast.
January 10, 2022, 7:52 AM · Matthew, sounds like a great opportunity for an east-coaster. Like waking up and doing yoga with someone on TV or YouTube. Could be monetized maybe more easily on a service like Twitch.
January 10, 2022, 10:01 AM · On IG, and she has kids from all over the world. Yes, it would be great if it didn't fall during school day.
Would work for homeschoolers, tho.
Edited: January 11, 2022, 8:01 AM · Remember those (distinctively American) TV commercials that said, "With toast, juice, eggs, bacon, home fries, milk, and a green salad, Chocolate Sugar Bombs provide a complete breakfast"? I'm imagining the same list augmented by "scales and Kreutzer."

Or how about the Folgers Coffee jingle: "The best part of waking up is rosin on your bow!"

Edited: January 11, 2022, 11:19 AM · It's very plausible (that mornings but be more difficult). Circadian rhythms of all sorts of bodily functions could take play in this. Steroids have their peak hours, so why not other things like myosin and actin for muscles? Glucose levels for the brain? Perhaps even fluid levels in the ear?

I personally would like to get into morning practice sessions (say between 8-11am) for organizational reasons but I seem to have a hard time getting into the 'flow'. A 6pm is more optimal for me for now. Probably the mind is still fresh from being flexed at work but that work stress is subsiding and music sort of hops on the intellectual bandwagon. Later on during the evening, however, I notice that "the spirit is willing but the body is spongy and bruised" :D

Edited: January 12, 2022, 5:03 AM · I'm definitely not a morning person, but I was brought up on practivr for half an hour before breakfast. Whether I'd have learnt better if it had been some other time of day, I don't know. The routine did not outlive my teens.
Oh, by the way, i never tried practising early in the morning BEFORE I wake up - At least, I don't think so.
January 14, 2022, 1:57 PM · My practice time now is mid-morning, after coffee and stretching, but before breakfast or lunch. I can only have that schedule because I am retired from the day job. As a student my practice time was 1 hour in the evening. Yes, I now know that is not enough for someone wanting to be a pro. Sometime in high school I tried adding another hour first thing in the morning. I did not see enough improvement to be worth the added misery.
Edited: January 14, 2022, 6:36 PM · I have mentioned this on other discussion threads, but I think it certainly is relevant here, especially to make use of even a few minutes in the morning, when it may be inconvenient or difficult to practice for a full hour. It is an article I got published in The Instrumentalist in 1975.

For 3 minutes a day (minimum, and yes, 3 minutes), pick one tough technical skill to work on. You can do something different each day if you want to.

Do it super slow and with full concentration and focus on getting it perfect. After 3 minutes, do as much (or as little) as you want - you've paid your daily (in this case, morning) dues.

This may seem totally ridiculous. But:

1. You will practice every morning DAILY, no matter how you feel about it (and who doesn't have 3 minutes a day).

2. It will help your concentration, without worrying about that hour or more ahead of you that you may not have.

3. When you do practice more than 3 minutes, it's because you want to, not because you have to.

4. You may not realize it right away, but what you will be practicing every single day (no matter how much time you put in later) is concentration and attention to detail.

5. Just watch what happens after at least a week or two of doing this. It may in fact help your concentration in general, so that you will get used to focusing on something positive every day, rather than be burdened by always focusing on the next hour ahead of you.

Isn't that worth 3 minutes of your time, no matter how busy or otherwise unmotivated a morning you have?
Hope that helps.

PS. And, as an afterthought, have you ever considered that if a person can't give any attention to it in the morning, isn't that going to limit their performance at a morning rehearsal, or a morning lesson, or a morning class, or a morning recording session, or some other morning performance somewhere?

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