Practicing: The Long & Short of It

I love to read articles and books about the art & science of practicing. It is no surprise that there are myriad philosophies on this topic. I think it is best to start out with the understanding that, ultimately, every person needs to figure out what works best for themselves. I suggest that you start by doing some online research on the subject of practicing music & see what you find. Use these writings to gain perspective on what approach you are going to take. Remember that it takes time to fine tune a process once it is implemented, so allow for that to be part of the process itself.

One of the main things that comes up in any discussion of how to practice is the length of time one sits & practices. There seems to be a lot of different ideas about this, but I feel it boils down to determining just how long can you maintain an effective level of focus & concentration. You should try a few sessions of different lengths of time and see what works for you. It does seem, that for almost everyone, that it is always beneficial to take breaks. Give your mind & body a chance to rest & regroup. Since focus & concentration are so important to the practicing process, you will be better served by taking frequent short breaks, especially if you are spending a few hours in one sitting.

You can try structuring your practice into multiple mini-sessions and do them throughout the day, or week. Some people will practice for 20 to 30 minutes, two or three times a day. This is obviously very good for avoiding getting burnt out like you could from a really long session. However, if you are the type who likes practice marathons, then I think you should go for it.

For me, it depends on what I am working on. If it is a defined piece of music, I will chunk it down into small sections & work on each and then put them back together (see blog post Chunking It Down). I will take mini-breaks (2-3 minutes) in between each “chunk.” If I am practicing improvisation, I might put on a drum loop & freely play for over an hour. I end up in a pretty deep profound space when I sit & do that for that length of time.

At the end of the day, it’s all about results. If you make consistent progress using your practice strategy, then you have found your center. And making progress is a big part of what motivates you to do it all again the next day.

This topic of practicing is one that I will visit frequently in this blog, as it is vast in scope & depth. It’s ultimately up to you to create the kind of practice experience you have. Soon I will be addressing the art & science of creating practice schedules, or regimens.
(wait… those words seem scary as I write them down… let’s call them “playing sessions”… this is suppose to be fun, remember?!)



Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field