Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Build a Regular Practice Schedule Part 2 of 2

Yesterday we looked at ways to build a regular practice routine into the day of a moderately busy young student anywhere from ages 5 to 18. Today we will be looking at possible practice schedules of college age students and adults.

University Music Majors

When a student enters a university, college, or conservatory as a music student, a certain amount of commitment is already expected given the amount of time and money needed to obtain a Bachelor's degree in music. Here are some optimal practice time allocations for the college-age student:
  • Early morning before classes start. Let's face it--looking for practice time in a school of music sucks. Everyone wants a room, and not many are available at peak times of the day. A great strategy is to arrive at school first thing in the morning and start practicing before anyone else arrives and before classes start. That way, you can take advantage of optimal early-morning concentration and embark on going to classes with a fair amount of work already done.
  • Between classes. If you go to a school that schedules regular practice room times, you can take advantage of holes in your schedule to book practice time at the beginning of the year and plan practice time just like you would any other academic commitment. This is a bit more difficult if you attend a school that has first-come-first-served unbooked practice rooms, which sometimes require the creation of secret practice room societies in order to actually acquire a room.
  • Weekends. The weekly prime practice time, especially if you don't have to go to work. Show up in the morning and practice until you drop.
  • Late nights. For college students, often the best practice work gets done in the evening, as students adjust to the night-owl schedule. Arrive at your room right after dinner and keep on practicing until you and your buddies decide to go to the pub. Works every time.

One of the largest groups of people learning how to play an instrument or sing these days consists of adults, some of whom come back to it after years of hiatus. What makes matters harder for many adults is how to fit in caring for kids with fitting in a practice schedule. This is a big issue with many of my semi-professional advanced students. Morning for parents and working adults can be sheer madness and practicing tends not to be an option unless you are retired. Here are some ways to make a grown-up practice routine happen:
  • Practice for short durations when the kids are sleeping or involved in independent activities. For parents of babies and toddlers, the mid-afternoon nap is a great time to have some quality time to sit down and get some work done.
  • Practice when the kids are at school.
  • Practice in the evening. Early bedtimes are useful for this if you have younger kids.
Yesterday, I received a comment regarding how "super-busy" music teachers can schedule practice time. Here is my response:
  • If you're a music teacher, one of the best times to schedule quality practice time is an hour or so before a block of students. Practicing beforehand will not only warm up your playing mechanism, but get your mind going as to how you can better impart ideas. Practicing after teaching is another okay time to get work done, although you might not want to think of anything music-related once your last student leaves. It's important to remember that every successful music teacher must still move forward artistically and regular practice is the place to do that.
Above all, learning to find practice times as an adult requires advance planning and a clever balancing act...

Tomorrow I'll talk about how to warm up at the beginning of a session.

Next: Warming Up


  1. Anonymous8:24 AM

    For me as a music student, and as a young adult, the biggest thing for me is "Just do it" - to stop getting interested in other things, and just get your practice done. Shut down the computer, turn off the tv, and get another hour in. Speaking of which... I should probably grab another hour.

  2. "Arrive at your room right after dinner and keep on practicing until you and your buddies decide to go to the pub."

    You just summed up my senior year at Eastman...

  3. Yes, going to the pub has a certain therapeutic effect after long hours spent at the piano.

  4. This sure brings back memories. The closer we got to juries, it was not uncommon to see half of the music majors down in the "catacombs" of the University of Lethbridge - practicing, composing and doing harmonic analysis well into the wee hours of the night.

    We had a communal tea kettle and would practice until someone knocked on the door to say, "I NEED A BREAK!"

    Hmm, I'll try that idea of practicing before a block of students. My dog and I usually take a walk before teaching to clear my head, but I could move that up and do more than warm-ups before the kidlets arrive. Thanks!