Quality, quantity and frequency of practice

Both children and adults in our modern age are experiencing increasing competition in all aspects of life. Overwork can destroy our love for our hobbies; music can easily become one of the chores we are doing and the frustration is bound to build inside us. Reflecting on these simple questions may help you find a positive relationship with your practice sessions.

How much should I practice?

I remember times in high school when we compared how many hours we practised each day as if it was a competition. While peer pressure can be a good motivation it is important to take it with a pinch of salt. Practising too much will increase the risk of injury and likely build tension. A certain quantity is needed to improve, but quality still prevails, especially over physical injury and mental stress.

Is my practice quality practice?

Quality practice is a broad term and each individual should search for it’s appropriate definition. No matter where we are in our musical progress the quality can always be improved. Organising your practice in advance and knowing the goal of each session will give you direction. The goal should be specific and achievable by the end of the session—so, instead of “fix my intonation” which will take a lifetime, think on the scale of “isolate all pitches on third finger and reinforce the correct position of it.” By doing these organised increments of practice combined with breaks you can maximise your productivity during a session. Less is only more when less is more efficient.

How frequently do I practice?

Remember that cramming is not proper practice. Learning something last minute might save us before a lesson or an exam we’ve been dreading, but it won’t encourage long term improvement and motivation. Try to find regular occasions when you can delegate a fixed amount of time and form a habitual pattern. The best way to achieve that is to incorporate the practice session between two activities that you are doing regularly – for example, coming home from school or work and eating dinner.

Why do I practice?

While answering this can be simple for activities in the near future it is important to look at the bigger picture and search for long term goals, such as performing a piece for our friends in couple of months, prepare for an entrance audition or play at a local community centre. Looking further in advance will encourage us to invest time daily and secure the achievement on a long term goal. Setting performance opportunities in the not-too-near future will provide excellent motivation and exercise our goal-oriented practice planning.

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