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10 Ways to Cut Your Practice Time in Half

practicing Oct 29, 2017

Practice 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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