This is the big question on every musician’s mind: how long do I have to practice? I know that when I was younger and taking lessons, I would often try to fill the time that my teacher required with as little work as possible. Lazy student? Yep, I was. So how do I answer the question of practice time? Here are some of my thoughts:
1. How old is the student? Obviously, a 4 year old student will not be able to focus on practicing for as long of time as a 14 year old student. Generally, the older the student, the longer he/she should practice.
2. How long has the student been taking lessons? Is the student someone who has been taking lessons for several years? Or is she a student who started taking lessons last week? An intermediate student will need to practice a little longer than a beginner student.
3. How much time does the student spend just playing the piano / violin for fun? And how much time is spent focusing on what is hard? There is a vast difference between sitting down and playing your instrument for fun and actually practicing your instrument. I love to see and hear that my students love to play their instruments at home for fun. That is wonderful! Isn’t part of the reason we want to learn to play an instrument so that we can have fun playing it? Yes! But that isn’t necessarily practicing. Practice time should be a time of focusing on little sections of a piece or scale that needs work. Focused practice means practice maybe one or two measures at a time until you can’t get it wrong.
Pulling it all together, the answer really does vary from student to student. I love to see students spend little chunks of time every day in focused practicing of what is hard for them and then spend other chunks of time playing their instrument for fun. The quality of a little practice is so much better than a large quantity of unfocused practice.