You read that correctly. While I do have a chart of recommended amounts of daily practice time on my studio policies page, that’s just a basic guideline. Because it’s not so much about the quantity as the quality. Well, ok, if you don’t put in the quantity, you won’t get anywhere, but if the quantity is also high quality, you’ll get so much farther. Personally, I am of the mindset that life is too short to waste, so I want to use my time as efficiently as possible. Work smarter, not harder. 🙂
Many of my students want to just play their pieces over and over and call that practice. Because they generally don’t practice more than 30 min.-1 hr./day, they don’t realize the toll it can take on your muscles. Not only is that not practice, it will just wear you out physically when you start to increase the time you spend practicing each day.
I figured out the most efficient practice process for me in college. I have tweaked it along the way, but my process has generally stayed the same. Because of that process, I am able to learn a lot of repertoire quicker than most. (If you’re interested, that process is coming in the next post.)
Being an avid multitasker, many years ago I tried practicing while watching TV. No good. I neither retained what I was watching nor what I was practicing. Time wasted. Practicing really does need 100% of your attention in the moment.
But even beyond that, a couple of years ago, I added score study to the process, and that has made my physical practice time exponentially more efficient. So now I’m learning even more music even faster! (Side benefit: it has also improved my sight-reading!)
Of course, I knew in the back of my head that score study was a useful practice tool, but until I developed a process for myself for score study, I didn’t appreciate how powerful it is. Especially when in a typical semester, I play for 10-15 vocalists (4-6 songs each), as well as 10-30 instrumentalists, the physical practice time required can get to be debilitating, particularly at the end of the semester. I have been physically injured over the years (more on how to deal with that in a later post!). Being able to cut out some of that physical practice time by making some of it mental is amazing.
And when you factor in that score study can be done anywhere (in a hallway, in a car, while someone is talking about the piece you are about to sightread, etc.), it becomes that much more amazing – you are no longer restricted to the practice room or wherever you have an instrument to practice…you can practice ANYWHERE!
Sometimes I forget to do my score study, or I think I don’t have time to study a score and need to just jump in and get to practicing; I regret it every time. Things that would have been easily resolved by just following my score-studying process beforehand become obstacles to be overcome, prolonging the practice process instead of cutting time off as desired.
Not only does score study save practice time, but it also makes rehearsal time more efficient! And again – it can be done ANYWHERE! Save yourself some time – study your scores before you sit down to practice them, and activate your brain while you’re practicing!