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#1208300 - 05/29/09 08:28 PM Finding time to practice
HooDoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 57
Loc: Los Angeles
Hi Everyone,

I was curious to see if the readers of this forum had any insight into how many hours of practice per day or week they feel is necessary to maintain and improve their playing.

My situation is that I'm married with two young children plus I have a full-time job with a long commute. It seems there aren't enough hours in the day to get to the keyboard, and not surprisingly, any improvement in my playing is frustratingly slow. Some weeknights, after dinner and the kids are put to bed, I don't have the energy to practice at all. Weekends are better and I may get a few hours in but it is seldom uninterrupted as the kids understandably want their daddy's attention.

Of course I could just wait for retirement to find the time to practice.... Oh wait! My 401K just tanked with the stock market and I'll have to work until I'm 80.

Is anyone else in the same situation?

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#1208306 - 05/29/09 08:42 PM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: HooDoo]
nitekatt2008z Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/24/08
Posts: 552
I think the answer must be, what are your attainable goals and what is realistic for the level you want to achieve? The busier people's schedules are, the challenge is to budget time set aside to practice the piano without interruptions.

Are you also taking lessons or just moving at your own self pace? Do you just want to play for fun or do you have professional dreams to perform for an audience.

The old rule is; it's better to spend 15-30 minutes practice daily for 5 days, than to cram 4 hours one day a week. You have to keep things moving along consistently to get the desired results. That's about all the advice I can offer. I'm sure someone else on the forum might have some ideas for you.

Since I play professionally and get paid for it, I have to stay in shape and spend more time at the keyboard for that reason.


#1208311 - 05/29/09 08:49 PM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: nitekatt2008z]
HooDoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 57
Loc: Los Angeles
Thanks Katt. It's just a hobby for my own enjoyment so I don't need to achieve any great proficiency. I'll try to follow the rule you quoted. I've been trying to cram everything in on the weekends when I should probably be more disciplined about it and spend at least 15-30 minutes a day as you suggest.

#1209865 - 06/01/09 04:19 PM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: HooDoo]
beausa Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/08/09
Posts: 10
Loc: NJ
Hi HooDoo,

I am a little bit in the same situation except that I am the mom.

I have:
A Full time job
A 2 year old daughter
A very short commute (lucky me) but I have to pick up my daughter, make dinner and put my little one to bed
A dear husband

I practice the piano 4 times a week after my little one goes to bed. Lucky me my husband loves Hockey so he can watch his hockey (almost every night) without feeling "alone" while I practice.
This is true that sometimes I am tired but I usually force myself and I found that after the first 10-15 minutes I am very pleased practicing.

I think you should try to find a routine, so practice is part of your day.

Good luck and have fun,


#1210244 - 06/02/09 10:36 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: beausa]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4748
Loc: San Jose, CA
Bea is on the money. I find that having a regular time to practice is a big help, the body and mind come to expect it and crank up for it--- same reason I went to the gym at the same hour each time. My practice time is somewhat structured, too: I have a certain amount of time I give to each of the aspects I'm trying to advance with.

It's kind of like making a deal with yourself, or a little commitment; that helps make it happen. Of course, you have to be flexible about it.

My deal with my teacher was, an hour a day, five days a week. "That's what it takes," she told me... and it's not at all unreasonable. It creates momentum on your practice (once the moment-of-inertia is overcome) that will drag you forward even at times you feel less like it. It's like starting a potter's wheel, hard at first, but once you get it going it keeps going.

You could also think to yourself that it's not taking time away from your kids, but that it's giving them the benefit of a good example. Very powerful, and you don't have to say a word.

Van Cliburn said, "You never get anywhere watching the clock. You have to lose yourself in practicing, so you look up and wonder where the time went." There's something in that... but we aren't all Van Cliburn.

#1217270 - 06/14/09 04:54 PM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: Jeff Clef]
PianoBliss Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/14/09
Posts: 4
It might also be that you just need to "play it by ear" (pun intended!! haha) everyday and just take a few minutes here and there whenever you can.

Also, I would "definitely" practice while your kids are around to hear!! Studies show that "live" music in the house is very therapeutic, and your kids might also take an interest by hearing you play. Whether they do or not, I would think seeing and hearing their dad express creativity would be a good thing. I just think the idea of growing up with a parent that plays the piano is really cool. smile

Also, you might have been joking about the money thing, but if you leave your money invested and don't pull it out, I think you'll be glad. Things have been much, much worse in the past... This video by Dave Ramsey shows why and might relieve some fear. smile http://www.townhallforhope.com/

Good luck practicing!

Edited by PianoBliss (06/14/09 04:55 PM)

#1217505 - 06/15/09 09:15 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: PianoBliss]
Mike Saville Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 12/05/08
Posts: 15
Loc: Cornwall, UK
I think others are right when they talk about regular sessions - however for these sessions I would plan what you are going to acheive - rather than how much time it will take. Please don't be one of those people that says that have practised for 30mins a day and yet appear to have achieved nothing.

This will require a little more flexibility than purely putting time aside but it will be much more beneficial in the long run.

As an example if you have scales to learn, don't say 'I'm going to practice scales for 15mins'. Rather 'I'm going to practice D major contrary motion until I have played it 3 times correctly'.

Given your lifestyle I would also consider trying to use mental practice techniques. Learn notes, fingerings and theory in your head away from the piano - you could do this on your commute? This will be very beneficial when you come to sit in front of the piano.
Mike Saville
How To Practise

#1217526 - 06/15/09 10:15 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: Mike Saville]
knotty Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 3041
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
So when the kids are in bed and you are too tired to practice, what do you do?

On the frustratingly slow progress part, it's important to learn how to enjoy practice. Remove progress from the equation and enjoy practice.

I'd encourage you to play everyday, if only for 10 minutes. If you only have 10 minutes, go to the most essential thing.

Pick up that Kenny Werner book called "Effortless Mastery" for some ideas on motivation. It's a quick read.

#1217530 - 06/15/09 10:21 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: knotty]
David Raingeard Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/02/09
Posts: 10
If you haven't the time to sit on the keyboard, just do some kinesthetic exercises for getting your fingers into a better shape, also upload to your iphone the solos, pieces or tunes that you want to learn and listen to them all the time you can. So the time that you can spend on the keyboard, will be quality time.

#1217558 - 06/15/09 11:02 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: David Raingeard]
Kennard19 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/11/09
Posts: 10
The "squeeze a tennis ball in your pocket" is another great way to strenght your fingers without sitting at the piano.
Kennard McDonald

#1218903 - 06/17/09 09:25 PM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: Kennard19]
HooDoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 57
Loc: Los Angeles
Good advice, all. Thanks!

#1218954 - 06/18/09 12:22 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: Kennard19]
rocket88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 3747
Originally Posted By: Kennard19
The "squeeze a tennis ball in your pocket" is another great way to strenght your fingers without sitting at the piano.

That is completely wrong advice. Completely. For the piano you do not need a hand that can squeeze powerfully. Perhaps to squeeze the juice out of oranges with your hand you need that, but not to play the piano. Depressing the keys of the piano actually takes very little effort.

What you do need is independent movement of the fingers, and a quiet relaxed hand and wrist.
Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.

A Boogie-Woogie: https://youtu.be/UhVkxZIVe-g

#1219399 - 06/18/09 10:48 PM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: rocket88]
derekp Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/28/08
Posts: 106
Loc: Chicago Area
See if you can get up an hour earlier -- sometimes it is easier to practice in the morning than it is at the end of an exhausting day. Also, split your practice time in two sessions. One session would be the type of practice that you don't want an audience, such as practicing scales or drilling in a difficult section of a piece. The second session would be a performance session, used to polish off pieces that sound reasonably good. This session you can comfortably do with others around. So you end up needing to find private time for only half your practices.

#1219466 - 06/19/09 04:05 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: derekp]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1457
I agree with rocket.. I know so many people who's done hand strengthening exercises and ended up hurting themselves... It might be okay if its something that is closely monitored by your teacher.. but otherwise strongly urge you not to do any of them
Piano is supposed to be learned on the piano. It's like riding a bike, you want to concentrate on the coordination first, because with the right coordination you don't require that much strength to do it right.

like others have said. its that constant daily practice that gives you long term results. The biggest thing is patience.. think of it as a lifelong journey, and don't be in such a rush to learn difficult things.. you will be fine

#1219525 - 06/19/09 09:02 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: PianoBliss]
Larry B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/03/09
Posts: 382
Loc: Boston
Originally Posted By: PianoBliss
It might also be that you just need to "play it by ear" (pun intended!! haha) everyday and just take a few minutes here and there whenever you can.

I strongly agree with this. I think that in many of our busy lives, we have a hard time finding a regular hour to schedule every day.

My working analogy for this is working out, about which my wife has changed my thinking. I used to want to go out and run 5 miles each time, and feel the burn and feel like I accomplished something. But scheduling that time can be difficult. What my wife would say is, "let's go out and do 1 mile - we have time for that." At first, my thought was, "Why bother? That's not much of a workout." But I've learned that a mile run, then some pushups before bed may not exactly be training for the olympics, but it is a whole lot better than nothing. If that's what I can do, then I'm glad I did it.

Practice ends up the same for me. I will touch the piano every day. Some days I get to play for two hours in one sitting (and don't even notice the passage of time!). Other days, I'm lucky to get in a few minutes before running out the door for work, followed by a few minutes when I come home and am waiting for the water to boil on the stove, and then a few more minutes just before we head out the door to wherever, etc etc.

Point is, anything is better than nothing, and setting the high bar of "must set aside an hour" might end up reducing the amount of practice we actually get!

#1219538 - 06/19/09 09:25 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: Larry B]
Kennard19 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 06/11/09
Posts: 10
Rocket, Maybe my point was not taken. I did (and do) a lot of ball squeezing, it helps me to stress out and meanwhile I'm gaining strength on my fingers, which makes me think that I'm doing something to improve my playing.

I'm not trying to say "study the piano withot touching it". If you haven't time for spending the time that you think on the piano, at least spend time doing things that make your head practice the piano.
Kennard McDonald

#1220834 - 06/22/09 02:08 AM Re: Finding time to practice [Re: Kennard19]
Larisa Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/03/08
Posts: 498
Loc: Philadelphia
Also, have some goal to work towards - a jam session with friends, a nursing-home concert, or more serious gigs if you're so inclined. I practice a lot more now that I play at festivals. An impending public performance can make you find all sorts of practice time in all sorts of nooks and crannies. smile


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