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What's a realistic daily practice commitment?


LiveMusic

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Taking up piano again after a 37 year hiatus. At age ten, I took lessons for a year or so.

 

I find it difficult to practice more than 20 minutes at a time. I kinda get bored. Or maybe it's my back, having to sit up straight like that. I certainly have PLENTY to learn and I have tons of desire. I'm sure I want to advance TOO fast.

 

I found my old notebook journal that my piano teacher had me keep way back when. In there, she made me keep a log of my daily practice. Wow. Surprising to me, I averaged only 120 minutes weekly. That's less than 20 minutes daily. I'm surprised I got as good as I did. I was no virtuoso but I did get to playing pretty good as a young feller before I quit due to silly peer pressure.

 

Everything I do, I'm a workaholic. Whether it's work or pleaure, I really dig in. I don't know why I can't sit on that bench longer. I certainly am putting in more than 20 minutes daily now. It's more like an hour or so but most of that is reading.

 

What can I do to be able to practice more... time at the piano?

 

What do you think is a reasonable practice level (daily average) for someone who wants to advance as fast as possible? I'm interested in pop/rock/country music. Not classical piano.

 

I'm considering taking lessons again. Maybe that'll help.

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I tried to teach myself for way too long (15 years). I played in bands of varying levels of professionalism for many of those, and I think that helped me get to where I did, being forced to stretch myself and practice, but I really started to improve dramatically when I started taking lessons (blues/jazz/rock). I find that I am having much more productive practice time ( about 1 1/2 hrs per day), and am improving my playing and writing skills so much faster. I too am an overachiever, and was getting frustrated in how long it was taking to advance in my skills.

 

My recommendation - lessons. That will pretty much dictate how long a productive practice session will be.

 

Jay (another one, not the one that usually signs this way)

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I remember reading an interview with some famous classical pianist who said that he usually practiced in 15 minute intervals to keep his concentration fresh.

 

I think if you structured your practice so that you had a goal to achieve, worked on that, then when fatigued worked on something less demanding, you'd get an adequate amount of practice.

 

Always play something you play well and enjoy sometime during the day. Play it very slowly besides up to tempo. Vary the tempos you practice at.

 

Also, find someone patient to jam with. You need to play in other environments than practicing.

 

Get an audience, whether it's your spouse, significant other, children or friends and occasionally impose on them the burden (pleasure) of listening to you perform. Performing for someone else forces you to concentrate to a depth that practicing never does.

 

Joe

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Practice daily. How long is tough to say, but attitude will make more difference than the amount of time -- be aware of that. Sit at the instrument when you know you are ready to learn that day. You'll get much more out of your lessons that way. And, like has been said already, record yourself. It could even be with a cheap cassette deck from Radio Shack, but the insight you'll gain will be better than what anything else could do for you.
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If your bench and keyboard are at the proper height, and if you're sitting comfortably, your back shouldn't get stiff after only 20 minutes. If you're slumping, on the other hand, or tensing your shoulders, practice can turn into torture. A good teacher will help you work out these factors.

 

A poorly maintained or inadequately responsive instrument can also be a source of trouble. If you're using a piano, have a registered technician not only tune it but regulate the action.

 

My main frustration is that I don't have MORE time to practice. An hour every morning just leaves me frustrated.

 

Possibly a teacher could help you set some goals that would get you motivated. Possibly you need to try some other type of repertoire, or a different style (pop instead of classical) to get you inspired. Possibly you need to be more patient with yourself -- work on easier pieces, drill shorter passages more, etc., rather than expecting to be able to jam.

 

A friend of mine, who had tried and tried to stick to her piano practice regimen, recently took up accordion. She loves it! She can't wait to do it. If you're not enjoying practice, change something around.

 

--Jim Aikin

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The 20-minute a day thing will work fine as long as it's true practice, and not just the same thing over and over again. I frequently would do 7-8 20 minutes a day back in the old days.

 

My instructor never considered playing stuff I knew as practice. If you play the same song 3 times in that 20 minutes, that's wasted time. If you know something, don't play that as "practice." Go on to something else that you don't know, or need work on, and try that.

 

The structure is important. I used to to this:

1st practice - McFarren Scale and Arpeggio Manual to warm up.

2nd - New stuff assigned by my instructor. (Just to get familiar with it.)

3rd - Review stuff assigned by my instrucor that needed improvement.

Somewhere in here, I'd screw around and play what I wanted.

4th - Back to the new stuff.

5th - New music assigned by instructor.

Somewhere in here, I'd screw around and play what I wanted. Had to go back and play stuff that I could, after messing up what the teacher gave me.

6th - New music assigned by instructor...

 

Ad nauseum. It worked for me, YMMV

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unlike horn players or vocalists and those whose parts wear out with use, pianists, string players, guitarists, etc. (at least jazzers, legits, and the like) can practice 6-8 hours and routinely do. frankly 20 minutes a day isn't enough to tread water, although there is only so much time in the day and you do what you can. but the points made here re concentration and idle time are important ones. but i'll tell you a quick story: Pablo Casals, one of the most important musicians of the last century, as he aged would start the day as a stooped old man, arthritic, achy, and get out of bed tired and sluggish, he'd go to the piano (he was a cellist, of course) and play some bach, preludes, fugues, etc. and would be visibly transformed into the vital powerhouse he was known to be.

 

point here is, don't look for excuses (too tired, not in the mood, not concentrating, blah blah blah) not to spend your time practicing "just that one day". make your practice time inviolable, sacrosanct and priority number one. but use it wisely. if your not making progress, change gears. if your head's not there, drill that lick into your hands, or practice your chord inversions. always, always always strive to play musically, and frequently vary tempos, rhythmic patterns, with heavy emphasis on playing slowly.

 

work with your teacher to develop a long term plan and short term goals. and have a point to what ever it is your practicing. be it nailing the rhythm, mastering a lick, memorizing changes, or perfecting the phrasing. it's hard work, and the comment about an audience is excellent. helps keep your eyes on the prize. play with your ears, not your hands. i have a priest friend who always said how much he envied me when i was a child and he was the pastor of my parish that i could play (i always thought he was humoring me, cause priests are supposed to try to make kids feel better about themselves). then at the age of 60 he took up the piano, he's been at it for six years now , and what do you know, he can play the piano now quite passably. (my mother in law tried it to not quite the same results, but she's trying. very trying. but that's a different forum.)

 

enjoy!

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Originally posted by LiveMusic:

Taking up piano again after a 37 year hiatus. At age ten, I took lessons for a year or so.

 

I find it difficult to practice more than 20 minutes at a time. I kinda get bored. Or maybe it's my back, having to sit up straight like that. I certainly have PLENTY to learn and I have tons of desire. I'm sure I want to advance TOO fast.

 

I found my old notebook journal that my piano teacher had me keep way back when. In there, she made me keep a log of my daily practice. Wow. Surprising to me, I averaged only 120 minutes weekly. That's less than 20 minutes daily. I'm surprised I got as good as I did. I was no virtuoso but I did get to playing pretty good as a young feller before I quit due to silly peer pressure.

 

Everything I do, I'm a workaholic. Whether it's work or pleaure, I really dig in.

 

You sound like a very pragmatic, results-oriented person. That can be both good and bad. It's good because you're motivated to get started. It can be bad, however, because results-oriented people CAN sometimes be impatient. Impatience is the nemesis of improvement, because improvement takes time.

 

Let me play the devil's advocate for a moment. I'm not trying to be harsh, but I want you to think about something. You played the piano for a year in the early 60's. Despite making what you felt was good progress, you quit, and you haven't been back to it for 37 years. I'm wondering what it is that's prompting you to start up again. You might want to ask yourself whether this is REALLY what you want to do. Do you have the HUNGER for this instrument that will keep you practicing when you could be doing any number of easier, more entertaining activities? I'm sure that time is short for you, as it is for most of us. You CAN make progress with a small investment of time as long as you practice seriously and consistently. I would echo the comments of others who have responded; if you're noodling and playing what you know, you're not practicing. If you only have 20 minutes a day, you'll need to focus on the weakest areas of your technique and work on them. When they improve, re-evaluate and work on your new weak spots. (There are ALWAYS new weak spots!)

 

But please consider whether you really want to do this before you start, because improvement will only come with dedication. Not "gung ho" dedication, but consistent, thorough practice over an extended period of time. You'll make more progress playing 20 minutes a day for five years than you will playing 2 hours a day for one year, even though it's the same number of hours in total. Again, improvement takes time. Be patient, and focus on working out problem areas in your technique, and you'll find yourself playing better and better as time goes on.

 

One more thought on keeping things interesting. As you progress, you should look into some "music minus one" recordings (e.g., Jamey Aebersold http://www.jazzbooks.com ) or use some autoaccompanyment software like Band-in-a Box ( http://www.pgmusic.com ). Use them once or twice a week to add some fun - and new challenges - to you practice sessions.

 

By the way, I'm a bassist, not a pianist, but these concepts translate to all instruments. Good luck. Maybe we'll be jamming together someday.

 

This message has been edited by dansouth@yahoo.com on 03-07-2001 at 07:12 PM

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