David Motto’s Practice Tip of the Week:
Making Long Practice Sessions Efficient
Advantages of Long Practice Sessions
While you can accomplish a great deal in a short amount of practice time, there are advantages to long practice sessions.
Aside from the obvious fact that you can cover more material in three hours than in fifteen minutes, there is a more intriguing reason to experience a long practice session:
There seems to be a mental change that occurs after playing your instrument for about two hours. A kind of clarity, expressiveness, and creativity can well up—seemingly out of nowhere.
Getting in the Zone
Some musicians describe this state as being “in the zone,” the same way athletes describe peak experiences. While in this zone you play in a heightened state of awareness and see new possibilities.
Insights about your technique and phrasing occur. You may notice connections between various items you’re practicing.
You pay attention to your muscles in a special way. Fantastic ideas for a new song, solo, or technique instantly and mysteriously enter your mind.
Whatever the reason for these experiences, they are definitely worth having and seldom occur during short practice sessions.
Playing for long periods of time every day may not be possible for you, but you should give yourself this experience every now and then.
Building Up to a Long Practice Session
If practicing for three hours at a time seems too daunting, you can build up to it. For instance, if you’re currently putting in twenty minutes a day, shoot for thirty. Try that for a week or two. Then, go for forty-five minutes. If you’re practicing one hour per day, try an hour and a half and go through this same build-up process.
For many people, more challenging than the stamina needed for a long practice session is finding a way to have 2 – 3 hours in a row available to devote to music.
If this sounds familiar to you, here’s my suggestion: Schedule the long practice session on your calendar. Make an appointment with yourself to do something that’s important to you. And, keep that appointment!
To make big strides in your playing, the quality of your practicing is the #1 issue to focus on. And radically increasing the quantity of your practicing is another strategy to help you achieve breakthroughs. Long practice sessions – done in the right way – give you both quality and quantity.
Crucial Information about Long Practice Sessions
Scientific research reveals that people have a difficult time focusing and concentrating at the level needed to make improvements in your musical skills for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time.
What this means for us while we’re in the practice room is a strategy that can forever change your musical life.
This is the strategy:
Plan your practice time in 10 minute increments.
If you’re practicing for 60 minutes, think of using your time for six 10-minute items that you will focus completely on.
If you follow this week’s Practice Tip and practice for 3 hours, that will translate to about fifteen 10-minute periods of intense focus (with a minute or two of “off time” in between and a short break every 30 or 60 minutes).
This concept of 10 minutes of highly focused practicing is a central idea in my Ten Minute Virtuoso books. I recommend that beginners (and anyone having trouble practicing daily) play for 10 minutes a day, every day, instead of practicing for one or two hours once a week.
And, if you’re already practicing for multiple hours a day, try the 10-minute high-focus strategy and see if you have more breakthroughs in your playing. I bet you will have those breakthroughs.
To Your Musical Success!