Originally posted by Ted:
I do very little that could be termed "practice"; I prefer "real" playing. I have five to ten minutes in the morning on my silent practice clavier most days, which activity is sufficient to keep my physical technique at an operative level. Once at the piano I like to make music.
I'm pretty similar, even though I'm only a beginner on piano. Mr Super-Hunky's description of "snacking" fits me too.
I have no organised practice schedule, plan or strict curriculum, and I never have had, for any instrument. This probably sounds like a recipe for disastrous dabbling, but it has worked for me. I suspect that it has worked for many others too.
I have a number of instruments that I'm trying to make progress on, so it's quite random. I might pick up a guitar and play for a few minutes - or even just a few seconds (in fact I did just that between paragraphs above). I might have a half hour session at the drums, or a good long go at the keyboard. But then one or the other might get ignored for days, or weeks (months with clarinet). I hardly ever stick to 'exercises' as such, but turn everything into a little piece of music. So, for instance, I'd never just play scales straight just for the sake of it, I'd always run up and down them whilst varying the rhythm and dynamics to see what I can find, maybe add a chord or two to see how they fit in various combinations and then start dodging about and making up tunes for a while, and so on. Finding out what doesn't work is as useful as discovering what does. What's even better is taking what doesn't work and twisting it around until it does.
I find this all rather like riding a bicycle - I don't forget all the techique in between. Rusty of course, but that doesn't take all that long to oil up again. Of course, I'm not a virtuoso at anything - but I don't aim to be either. My goal is all round enjoyment of music as a hobby, the knowledge required to write songs, and the ability to play at least some of the parts.
I didn't start at all until I was 58 either. Also often thought to be a big handicap. But after 2 years I was a good enough guitarist to be invited to join a local group, and we played in public. Nothing fancy, but it sure was fun, and still is (I'm 61 now and we play every week).
I don't think that it matters what your style, schedule or curriculum is just as long as it suits you and it stays motivating. Keep your motivation and enjoyment up and you'll usually succeed in progressing to your goals. Lose your interest and motivation and you're out of the race.