10 Ways to Cut Your Practice Time in Half

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practice timePractice time is probably the number factor in your music success.

Let me clarify – practice time spent efficiently and effectively is the number one factor in your music success.

Time is a precious commodity and trying to dedicate some of it to your practice can seem daunting. There are so many demands on our time, and practice can easily find itself falling to the bottom of our list.

So once you’ve found time to practice, you want to be sure that you’re spending that time in a way that will help you play your music confidently and enjoy your progress.

Here are 10 simple ways to add efficiency and power to your practice, so you can stop wasting time or practicing in circles, tips to cut your practice time in half or possibly get twice as much done.

  1. Don’t always start from the beginning. It’s likely that the first few bars of your piece are the ones you have done most often and know best. Try working from the middle or the end for a change.
  2. Use a “woodshed” spot as an exercise. If your practice time is so limited that you can’t spend time on scales or etudes, try using a tricky spot from one or two of your pieces as a technical exercise. You can double up by practicing technique and your repertoire at the same time.
  3. Don’t practice anything you don’t have to. If you can play most of a piece well, why spend valuable time working on what doesn’t need it? Choose the spots that need extra work to practice, and just play through the rest.
  4. You don’t have to play every piece every day, or at least not the same way. When you have more music than you can reasonably do in one practice section, divide your music into “play” and “practice” piles. Play through some pieces and practice with more focus on the others. The next day, play through the pieces you practiced, and practice the pieces you played.
  5. Don’t get stuck on one thing. Plan how much time you want to spend on a particular piece, set a timer and then stop when the timer goes off. You’ll do more work on it tomorrow.
  6. Break up your warm-up. I believe in keeping your technical foundation strong, but it you need some extra time, you might try abbreviating your usual technical work. You could create a rotation which covers all the important drills you need to do but spreads them out over several days or a week.
  7. Don’t get trapped into doing it until it’s right. Progress happens over time, over days and maybe weeks. Don’t expect to see progress in one session. Work on it some, and then move on.
  8. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. Turn your phone off or on airplane mode. Don’t try to multitask by doing laundry or making dinner during a practice session.
  9. Never practice something without knowing why or what precisely you are trying to accomplish. Random repetition is a practice “black hole.” Have an objective in mind – maybe dynamics or technique or tempo or relaxation or fingering – each time you repeat a section.
  10. Write out your plan for the next day’s practice when you finish today’s. This will keep you from wasting time trying to remember what you wanted to do. Starting a practice session with a plan makes everything go more smoothly.

One last tip: Remember that you will NEVER get it all done. Practice is by definition a task that’s never complete. That’s why you will need to practice tomorrow too.

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  • Bill

    This was a very helpful message to me, since I don’t have the time to practice. I’ve realized that I spend a lot of time practicing what is gong pretty well. Thanks Anne, kyour suggestions are always very practical. Bill

    Reply

  • Karen DeBraal

    Good advice, even if you have time.

    Reply

  • Christopher Riley

    Very helpful. I had a teacher before, but not now. It can be quite daunting thinking about progress without being told by a teacher. This is awesome information that I am utilizing daily.

    Reply

  • Pam Archbold

    Thank you, Anne. A great list of suggestions, and some were new to me. Especially liked #9

    Reply

  • Karen Berry

    Thank you for your helpful article about practice which I will keep and re-read it often. I find it very difficult to get started, but once I am playing things are usually fine. Sometimes when returning home from a busy day at work I am simply too tired to think about practice. However I try to play every day, even if only for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Ideally I would like to devote an hour a day to practice, but so often time gets in the way. Thank you again not only for your free tips, but your guidance and support at all times. I read and keep your e-mails and blogs; and of course I am friends with you on Facebook.

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