Part 2 of 4: What needs to be considered?
BY MEGHAN VANCE • MAY 22, 2023
As stated in part one, it is helpful to keep in mind that practice is more than mere repetition. In part one, we also claimed that “It depends” is the best answer to the question “How Much Should My Student Practice?” So what does it depend on?
It depends on the student’s instrument.
This is not to say that any instrument is easier than another to master. Some instruments, however, demand physical actions that can only be performed so many times before they either injure the performer or make the practice ineffective. Wind and brass players can cause their lips to bleed, string players can cause their fingers to bleed, vocalists can ruin their voice by over-practicing, and any instrument played with bad position or technique can cause lasting injuries to the student. It is therefore important that students not play longer than their instrument (and level on that instrument) allow them to play safely and effectively.
It depends on the student’s physical abilities.
Practicing often involves the repetition of a physical movement. This exercise of specific muscles, like any other exercise, causes muscle fatigue. As students progress, their physical endurance increases, and they are able to practice more.
It depends on the student’s emotional and mental endurance.
Like any other muscle, the brain also gets fatigued. It is difficult for students to problem-solve if they are no longer thinking clearly, whether due to being tired, being frustrated, or being distracted. Taking breaks or splitting the day’s practice into multiple practice sessions is a great way to combat these issues. Nevertheless, every student has a limit on how much practice they can handle well each day.
It depends on the student’s repertoire level.
As beginners, students often are assigned short material and problems best solved in small sections (such as notes, fingerings, and rhythms). More advanced students often are assigned longer material, and advanced problems (such as articulation or phrasing) may demand that the student practice in large sections.
It depends on the student’s goals.
If the student is only taking lessons to have fun, thirty minutes per day should be enough for them to see their progress and enjoy their music. If a student is interested in playing more difficult repertoire (such as well-known classical pieces, movie soundtrack pieces, or challenging genres such as pop and rock), they may need to practice more to reach that repertoire and solve its advanced problems. If a student is interested in pursuing music as a career, they’ll need to practice enough to be on par with their peers, with whom they’ll eventually compete for scholarships, jobs, and career opportunities.
In part three, we’ll look more closely at student goals in order to answer the questions “How Much Should My Student Practice?”