• I am only Unreasonably Persistent •
...Said no one ever!
Whether you’re a student, a professional, an amateur, or anywhere in-between, I’m willing to bet hard money that you have worried about your lack of practice time at some point in your life! You have jobs, families, LIVES, and sometimes the other parts of your life pull you away from practicing as much as you would like to.
I get it. I feel that way ALL THE TIME. I spend at least 1-2 hours per day just driving my car to get from one job to another. That could be prime practice time! I wish this was a post that could alleviate all your stress about finding practice time, but that is WAY beyond my abilities! But, here are some ideas about HOW to practice so that you can get the most out of every second you have with your instrument.
1. Prep for Practice:
On really busy days, I know I’m only going to have 30-60 minutes of practice time. So, I take 10 minutes before going to bed to write down what specific items need the most work. For example, those 3 measures in the Devienne Sonata are killer for me, and I’ve been working hard at improvement in Trevor Wye’s Advanced Practice exercises. So those are on the MUST PLAY list. Then I list some secondary items that I would like to get to if time allows. Planning ahead allows me to really focus my practice time on exercises or rep that needs the most attention, and I don’t use any of my practice time to figure out what I’m going to play that day.
2. Use a timer:
I use a timer for all my practice sessions now. I typically do 25 minutes of playing followed by brief breaks for stretching or reviewing recordings. This helps to keep me focused on specific activities within a small period of time. Additionally, I have been using an interval timer to REALLY focus on small areas of pieces. For example, I want to woodshed some measures in a sonata, so I will create a timer that gives me 2 minutes of playing with 30 seconds of rest. I have to focus on only 1 or 2 measures for 2 minutes, then I get 30 seconds of rest to stretch and pick my next measure(s) to tackle. You can set interval times to do this series for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or more depending on how much time you have. Using interval timers can really help you focus on the exact measures that need the most attention.
3. Stick to those Fundamentals:
Fundamentals of tone and technique help you play everything else more easily. So, consider playing the fundamentals if you only have short amount of time that day, but be mindful! Do you have some repertoire or etudes that are full of harmonic minor scales? Then working on those scales will be beneficial for that particular piece. Maybe you have a piece that’s full of scales in thirds (Mozart, anyone?), or dominant 7th arpeggios, or whole tone scales, etc… Choose your fundamentals based on what you’re working on, so that they pull double duty! You keep up your fundamental skills and are preparing to play them in context of whatever piece you’re working on.
4. Hit multiple birds with one stone:
Use your fundamental exercises wisely. If you’re going to play scale patterns, add in double tonguing or triple tonguing. Maybe you could insert some octave leaps into your long tones to work on flexibility. Play fundamentals with drones to work on intonation. Exercises can be used in multiple ways other than for what they were originally written. Long warm-ups and fundamentals sessions feel wonderful, but we don’t always have that kind of time. So, make all your warm ups and fundamental exercises work in multiple ways.
5. Be gentle with yourself:
Honestly, this should probably be number one. You are a busy person. You have to make choices everyday about what you will accomplish, and sometimes that means that you HAVE to choose something (like going to the grocery store, taking your kids to practices, visiting your family, etc) over practicing. You know what? THAT IS OK! Yes, I said it. It is ok to go spend time with people you love instead of practicing, and I’m sticking to it! So, you only practiced 30 minutes today because you had to make the grocery trip? Ok. Now you have healthy, delicious food to keep you going throughout your week. Your life is full of so many amazing, wonderful things, and giving yourself permission to enjoy them (instead of beating yourself up for not practicing enough) will truly help you feel less stressed and allow you to have more productive practice sessions! If you’re using your time wisely, you can accomplish a lot in 30 minutes. So, when you feel that twinge of guilt over not practicing long enough, remember that you practice efficiently and you deserve to have fun and buy groceries. Speaking of…our refrigerator is so empty. I’m pretty sure I saw a tumbleweed fall out of it the last time I opened the door.
Until next week…