Practicing in high school (as a hobby)

Edited: October 8, 2017, 6:57 PM · Hi, I’m in the first year of high school and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up but I know that Violin is not an option for me because to me it is a hobby, and I know that it is not the right career path for me but I still love it very much and I need more practice time but I don’t know how.
I’m not sure what level I would qualify as but I am currently playing Romanian Folk Dances by Bartok.
I also have to balance this with piano and some school clubs.
The clubs don’t take up much time but the main issue is schoolwork. I take longer when doing hw, it’s not because I procrastinate but I am slower in general. I get home around 5 and I need about 3 hours to get through my homework plus a break every 30 min or so because I get headaches when I think too long.
I need to play 1 hr minimum of piano plus 1.5 hr minimum of violin, and get home around 7 on lesson days, and somehow have a small social life on top of that.

It’s a lot to deal with and I wanted to know how others balanced out their music with school without sacrificing too much sleep, because if I sleep less that 7 or 8 hours I’m so tired that studying or practicing becomes meaningless.

Replies (19)

October 8, 2017, 8:11 PM · Haha i don't have an answer for you but this is exactly like my 9th grade son who plays piano and viola...two lessons during the week, orchestra on Monday night, piano trio on Saturday. Normally he would practice a lot on the weekends but he attends the arts and academics magnet high school here and has been getting killed with overwork on the weekends lately e.g. assigned a hundred pages of reading on Friday with significant writing assignments due Monday, more reading and project work during the week. He used to play baseball but not enough time. It's way more work than I normally had in engineering school; i haven't figured out yet if it stays like this for him or if they're just hazing the AG kids in the first quarter :-).

Bottom line, school comes first, then do what you can even if it's 30-45 minutes a day, then try to get in sufficient, quality practice time as you can Fridays-Sundays. Hoping things improve as the year goes on.

October 8, 2017, 8:29 PM · What's your goal with the violin? You're currently at a level that would allow you to play chamber music and in a community orchestra as an adult, and so if you just want to maintain and incrementally improve your skill, reduce your practice time to 30 to 60 minutes a day.
October 8, 2017, 9:44 PM · Get up early and get some work done without sacrificing too much sleep.
October 8, 2017, 11:19 PM · Make sure that you enjoy playing! Don't let it become a burden. If you have a period with a lot of school work cut down a bit on the practicing. Use it as a reward for small goals - "when I have done this chapter I get to play scales for 15 minutes". Perhaps the violin practice could be a way to relax in your hw breaks - activate that other brain half....
October 8, 2017, 11:49 PM · Looks like a very busy schedule!

Was about to ask if you're able to keep up with the schedule, but you mentioned "it's a lot to deal with." Like you, I also need 7-8 hours of sleep otherwise my next day becomes very unproductive. I'm a bit on the "slower" side too. I did fine in school, but that's because I also had to spend more time doing the homework than most of my peers.

My question then is, do you like the violin or the piano more? I think you can reduce time on either one. You have to say the violin because you're on a violin website! Just kidding :P One extra hour a day for yourself can sometimes be that critical for sustaining yourself and not burning out. Sometimes trying to do too much could cause less things getting done (quality vs quantity).

October 9, 2017, 12:11 AM · Don't get too focused on the amount of time you practice. It is more important to practice the right way and not "just" playing on the clock.
Edited: October 9, 2017, 4:38 AM · I dont think we can recommend too much about selfmanagement in that general matter.
Just one thing to think about: Healthy food, enough sports and fresh air are a main key in beeing able to handle a lot of work concentrated.
Most people I know sacrafise healthy food because the time is missing but in the end, you will loose more time than gain if you dont cook well and eat slowly and regulary.
For myself it was always important to not follow plans to strictly as I felt unfree when doing so.
Today I live after the principle: I got the time to make stuff I take for myself to do so.
Edited: October 9, 2017, 4:55 AM · High School is a wonderful time to get involved in ensemble playing. Joining a high school orchestra is a great way to find inspiration and direction for your playing and also to find similarly inclined friends. Some high schools also have chamber music programs; you could look into that. When I was in HS my only "clubs" were orchestra (violin and sometimes cello) and band (baritone horn because our music director had the male violinists take home a baritone horn and learn to read treble clef on it). Our orchestra kind of sucked but we had an award winning 100-piece band.

That started me into ensemble playing 69 years ago and I've not stopped yet. Obviously I recommend it!

Edited: October 9, 2017, 5:01 AM · If you get headaches from your schoolwork you should see an optometrist for a thorough eye exam. If you are doing a lot of your school work on a computer you may need glasses that filter out the blue light of the screen. Or you just might need glasses altogether. And you should use a 15-minute timer to take a one-minute break to stand up, stretch, drink some water (headaches often stem from dehydration), and rest your eyes.

5 PM is late to be getting home from school. Why so late? Are you playing a sport as well?

What you are discovering is that life is about making choices. You cannot do everything. Some of your acquaintances at school may SEEM like they're doing everything, but they might just be good at cutting corners and faking things when the opportunity arises -- knowing which assignments they can afford to ditch, etc. That's a practical skill to have, but if you're using it a lot, it's a sign something is wrong. You don't want to become an "operator" who is constantly looking for the next scam. The other thing that's really hard to measure is whether the kids who are "doing it all" are truly happy or even whether they're being truthful about their activities.

Finally, weekends need to be productive -- both in terms of schoolwork AND catching up on your rest.

October 9, 2017, 3:47 PM · Lots of good advice here!

I think it shows a lot of maturity that you have identified the problem and are seeking solutions.

It's important that you define your priorities and choose accordingly. As others have said, health (both mental and physical) and schoolwork should probably be at the top of your list. After that, you may need to make some sacrifices, e.g., decide to spend less time on piano, violin, extra-curriculars, social life, etc.

October 9, 2017, 8:39 PM · I usually stay after school for some club stuff/homework. My teacher wants me to practice 1 hr 1/2 but on average I practice about 1 hr.

The idea about playing violin as breaks might work for me! Thank you.
I will definitely look into blue light glasses.

Out of curiosity, how much did everyone practice as a kid?

October 9, 2017, 9:27 PM · i am around the same age as you probably a year older and i practice between one and a half hours and two hours depending on how busy i am on that day. two or three months leading up to my (violin) exams i tend to practice up to 4 hours.
October 10, 2017, 9:51 AM · That sounds exhausting. At some point in life, you have to choose what matters to you, and you realize you can't do everything. I think sometimes about what I would have done differently in highschool if I had been serious about violin back then; I think I would have tried to do some kind of independent study or seen if I could have gotten out of some classes, but I wouldn't go so far as to recommend stuff like that to a highschooler.

Just don't sacrifice sleep, and keep your social life going.

(Psst, you might figure out in college that you can aim for B's, still learn your stuff, and keep your sanity)

October 10, 2017, 11:16 AM · Whatever you do, do not sacrifice your sleep. You need your sleep to keep you going, very very few people can run/function optimally on less than 7 hours a night (no matter what they claim, they may be using coffee to get them through their days - which is not a solution).

Try to get as much homework done during your free periods if at all possible, and weave in your practice with taking breaks from homework.

I second going to the eye doc re: headaches.

Also, if this is a hobby/project of love (playing the violin), do not let it stress you out. You can only do what you can do with the time you have, and it is impossible to be able to do everything without making sacrifices elsewhere (sleep, food, health, social life, and so on). Try talking to your parents about this if they are capable of hearing/listening to you.

October 10, 2017, 1:10 PM · Right, most people dont sleep enough. I travel by train daily. Looking in those faces at 6-7 am tells it all.
I sadly have to include myself often too. When I was younger I insisted that 5 hours sleep per night are enough and I did this for many years. Than I tried to get even below by using polyphysic sleep pattern. For my body it worked somehow, but not for my head.
Today I just admit I need about 7.5 hours sleep per night and I still have a high level of productivity (although spending a bit too much time here lately).
October 10, 2017, 2:50 PM · How much did I practice as a kid? Much less than I should have! I had a period of several years where I hardly ever practiced. I took lessons on violin and piano, I played in several orchestras, I played chamber music, but very seldom practiced. I regret that now, but it did teach me to sight read! :-)
October 10, 2017, 5:39 PM · I think I practiced the right amount as a kid -- about one hour per day on violin and piano (each) but I was not really taught quality violin practicing. I just played through stuff. My piano teachers taught me practice skills, some of which were transferable to the violin.
Edited: October 10, 2017, 6:37 PM · One of my music teachers never gave suggestions as to how much time you should spend practicing, but he he did give practice skill suggestions and areas to focus your attention on. I like this idea, personally. I practice violin 45-75 minutes per day, depending on my workload. I also play other instruments and spend at fair bit of time on them. After all, everyone studies and learns differently. Everyone has different sleep patterns and needs. You can also work on homework if you ever have free time at school.
Edited: October 15, 2017, 9:18 PM · Im in highschool too, and since last year, I've been practicing during lunch break (which is around 50 mins at my school). This only works if your school has practice rooms/music rooms that are available for use? Of course its quite a short period of time (I can usually only fit in scales etc) but its still extra time that I save. I also practice after school in the school practice rooms (school finishes 3:15 and I practice until 5) which means that I can focus on study etc when I get home. Every school has different break times of different durations but it is really valuable time. Also,mental practice!! Really helpful on the bus, and walking to and from places. This is helpful if you didn't have time to practice for whatever reason, and actually really helps. :-)

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