How long to practise?

It is so important to be clear to students about one’s practice expectations.

The problem is, that these can and do change.

Most of my students remember hearing me tell them to practise five or ten minutes daily.  This is indeed what I say, when they are beginners!

The problem occurs two, three or five years later, when the student believes that this is still true.

Unfortunately, with increasing skill and level of difficulty, comes increasing practice commitment.  The teacher expects it, and only sometimes remembers to communicate it to the student.

Even last week, when I was reiterating the need for more practice to a student, he still only heard what he wanted to hear.  I said “twenty to thirty minutes” and he told his mother that I said “twenty minutes”.

So what is reasonable, and what is practical?

It is difficult to say in these busy times, when students probably learn at least two instruments, have several sporting commitments, and also have the lure of the internet, X-box and TV.

I have students attempting higher grades who cannot manage much more than half an hour’s practice most days.  In the olden days when I was learning, this was a laughable amount.  I got up at 5:30am every day of my life, aged 11 to 18, and did at least an hour’s practice before breakfast.  When preparing for exams, the amount increased to anything from four to eight hours.

So I am finding again and again, that I must educate my students both in music, and in how to acquire music.  And the acquisition of musical skills and mastery does not happen without considerable time and effort.

But in so many ways, my discipline to music training has had a flow on effect in my life and taught me so much about perseverance, commitment and work.  I really do believe that anything worthwhile requires effort, and it is part of my job to share this outlook with my students, and to endeavour to inspire this in them.

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