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Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478104 02/14/09 08:07 PM
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I’m a piano performance major, but am having a lot of trouble with managing and balancing my time, between practicing, studying, and relaxing (am I allowed to do that?).

I’d really like to practice between 4-6 hours per day, preferably closer to 5-6, though.

But then I’m taking 7 classes. OK, only about 4 of them besides my lessons require studying right now, but still. I don’t know when to fit in everything. Further, this is only a skeleton of what I will be taking next semester. Most of my major classes won’t start until the fall, so I’ll be taking 10 or so then.

So here are my questions for other piano performance majors.

  • How much do you practice?
  • How often do you take breaks?
  • How much do you do other studying for core classes and other music classes?
  • Do you get to relax at all? If so, when and how much?
  • How much do you sleep?
  • How do you stay motivated to work so hard? How do you push yourself?


I’m considering cutting my sleep a bit, but am afraid of it being unhealthy and also that I won’t be able to focus as well. Right now I try to get 7 hours.

Right now, I try to take a 5 minute break every 30 minutes, with a longer 10 minute break on the hour. The five minute break is usually just to regroup, sometimes can serve as a bathroom break, and can often be shorter. The 10 minute break every hour, I usually try to go out into the lounge since I don’t know that many music majors yet. I’m also thinking of using that time to summarize my prior two practice sessions (the 30 minute groups), since I keep a practice journal.

I try to start by 8:00 AM. I pack up all my stuff in the morning, for the day, because I know that once I go back to my room, my motivation is dead. I’m usually good up until 5:00, but struggle to do much after dinner. Theoretically, I’d like to go until 10:00-11:00 at night, but also need to fit studying in there somewhere, and wonder if I can ever have some downtime.

I asked another music major about this once, and he said he basically doesn’t study for other classes. That answer isn’t very acceptable to me, though, no matter how much I hate my core classes.

He also said he gets about 5 hours of sleep. I tried that, and promptly fell to sleep in my ancient history class.

Anyway, I’m trying to figure this out before my more rigorous schedule next semester. Any help you can provide with this would be much appreciated.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478105 02/14/09 10:04 PM
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Depends upon which school you're in, who your teacher is, what your repertoire is and (to a great extent) who you're up against...

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478106 02/14/09 10:17 PM
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Originally posted by Auntie Lynn:
Depends upon which school you're in, who your teacher is, what your repertoire is and (to a great extent) who you're up against...
Sorry, but I don’t understand how that matters much? I want to become as good as I possibly can be, long-term, so it doesn’t have much relevance to only this semester, I don’t think.

I attend Duquesne University, though.

My jury pieces for this semester include:

  • Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No. 2
  • Rachmaninoff: Polichinelle
  • Scarlatti: Sonata K.380


I’ll receive a technical piece 6 weeks before the jury that I have to work on myself, as well.

Further, the concerto has to be perfected for a competition in October.

Still, I’m trying to generalize it as much as possible. I think the common thread for all music majors is their busy schedule, and for performance majors, the hours of practice. So, I want to know how they balance everything according to their priority (e.g., practice, study, extracurricular).

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478107 02/14/09 10:29 PM
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It all depends where you're at now, your level of playing in college you're in. When I was piano undergrad, I learned that it's not how much your practice but how well you practice. And trust me, there is no need to practice more than 4 hours a day TOPS. Why? Because it's too tiring physically for your hands. In those 4 hours - max. 3 hours of playing with small breaks in between, the rest - away from piano, practice in your head. Amazingly, I did get to relax and slept well (if you consider 8 hours of sleep enough, which I do). I did well in all my other classes and graduated with honors. If I were to do it again, I'd be less into getting high marks and more into spending time with friends and being immersed into the whole college-life experience. First year is tough, you'll get it all sorted out and I think it'll be less stressful after that. Understand that it'll always be a very hectic schedule, so don't let stress get to you!


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Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478108 02/14/09 10:34 PM
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I agree with lilac wholeheartedly. Make sure you are practicing to learn and not to isolate. Get some pointers on effective practicing. Music schools are CHOCK FULL of mediocre pianists who practice day and night and are full of false humility (I call it pretense) and who leave the practice pianos covered in dirt and dried blood.

Some questions:

What do you want to do when you get out of school? What do you envision yourself doing? What other classes do you think would be important to take in order to achieve that vision? These are important questions to ask yourself in order to put the importance of your other classes in perspective.


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Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478109 02/14/09 11:06 PM
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I don't get it. 7 classes would be around 21 hours, and 10 classes would be closer to 30.

I have never seen a curriculum that requires that kind of course load.

A 5-6 hour practice schedule is not possible with the kind of course load you're attempting, so either you're trying to graduate early or your academic advisor is trying to kill you. You might need to take summer classes or add a year to your degree, but there's a point at which time management alone cannot fix the problem.

I believe you've reached that point.

$0.02


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Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478110 02/14/09 11:08 PM
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Originally posted by lilac:
It all depends where you're at now, your level of playing in college you're in.
See my previous post for those answers.

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When I was piano undergrad, I learned that it's not how much your practice but how well you practice.
Yeah, I understand. I've also seen the suggestion that pianists should practice between 4-6 hours, though. If you have enough material to go through, you can't really get it done if you don't practice enough. But of course efficient practice is important, too.

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And trust me, there is no need to practice more than 4 hours a day TOPS. Why? Because it's too tiring physically for your hands. In those 4 hours - max. 3 hours of playing with small breaks in between, the rest - away from piano, practice in your head. Amazingly, I did get to relax and slept well (if you consider 8 hours of sleep enough, which I do). I did well in all my other classes and graduated with honors. If I were to do it again, I'd be less into getting high marks and more into spending time with friends and being immersed into the whole college-life experience. First year is tough, you'll get it all sorted out and I think it'll be less stressful after that. Understand that it'll always be a very hectic schedule, so don't let stress get to you!
Thanks, but I don't understand your "4 - max. 3 hours a day" remark. Are you saying between 3-4 hours?

Anyway, I do appreciate your comments. I don't think I would do more than 6, but I just feel like 4 is a minimum, especially with more advanced repertoire.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478111 02/14/09 11:14 PM
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Originally posted by U S A P T:
I agree with lilac wholeheartedly. Make sure you are practicing to learn and not to isolate. Get some pointers on effective practicing. Music schools are CHOCK FULL of mediocre pianists who practice day and night and are full of false humility (I call it pretense) and who leave the practice pianos covered in dirt and dried blood.

Some questions:

What do you want to do when you get out of school? What do you envision yourself doing? What other classes do you think would be important to take in order to achieve that vision? These are important questions to ask yourself in order to put the importance of your other classes in perspective.
Thanks. What exactly do you mean to learn and not to isolate?

As for what I want to do, well, whatever I can. But I want to perform, ideally. Concert pianist preferrably or to be in an orchestra, but anything I can get, I guess. I perform strictly classical music, though.

But that's why I want to do the best I can before I graduate. I know chances are slim as it is for a pianist, so I'm trying to do the best I can.

My piano teacher has remarked that I am better than some of her grad students. I take her seriously because she is definitely not one to compliment. It gives me hope that I can get even better, but I want to make sure I'm doing enough to maximize my potential.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478112 02/14/09 11:19 PM
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Originally posted by Kreisler:
I don't get it. 7 classes would be around 21 hours, and 10 classes would be closer to 30.

I have never seen a curriculum that requires that kind of course load.

A 5-6 hour practice schedule is not possible with the kind of course load you're attempting, so either you're trying to graduate early or your academic advisor is trying to kill you. You might need to take summer classes or add a year to your degree, but there's a point at which time management alone cannot fix the problem.

I believe you've reached that point.

$0.02
Thanks, but this is how it is for all music majors. And mine is a relatively light course load comparatively.

However, you are misunderstanding, because it's only 14 credits I am taking. Unfortunately many of the classes are 0, 1, or 2 credits. Only my piano lessons are 3 credits, which require a minimum of 3 hours per day practice (they say a minimum of 1 hour per day per credit).

Considering every semester after this, I will have to take 17-18 credits, it will be considerably busier than this semester, which is why I'm trying to figure it out now, in preparation for next semester.

And I've not even taken musicianship yet. eek

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478113 02/14/09 11:42 PM
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Thanks, but this is how it is for all music majors. And mine is a relatively light course load comparatively.

However, you are misunderstanding, because it's only 14 credits I am taking. Unfortunately many of the classes are 0, 1, or 2 credits. Only my piano lessons are 3 credits, which require a minimum of 3 hours per day practice (they say a minimum of 1 hour per day per credit).

Considering every semester after this, I will have to take 17-18 credits, it will be considerably busier than this semester, which is why I'm trying to figure it out now, in preparation for next semester.

And I've not even taken musicianship yet. eek
Kreisler knows, I believe he is faculty smile

I'm a piano major and run into the same problems you do. My school really sucks because it is one of the more academically focused conservatories. I'm only taking 14 credits a week, but even the 1 hour courses require a BS amount of time. Take choir for example. This schedule was from a week ago with auditions. Friday, rehearsal 4-5. Saturday they needed us to sing for auditioning conductors from 9-11. Monday, rehearsal 4-5. Tuesday 4-6 for auditions. Wednesday, 4-6 for concert dress rehearsal, Thursday 1-2:40 for concert, and friday 4-5. I only get 1 credit for that which is total crap.

Also, we don't even get credit for studio class which is mandatory and 2 hours long each week.

Get a load of my last Tuesday, for example:

9:00-9:50 Piano Pedagogy
10:10:50 Music History
12:00-12:50 Music Theory
1:00-2:40 Chamber Singers concert
3:00-6:00 Lesson

It totally sucks. Now that's a particularly bad day, But generally, that's what my schedule looks like minus the chamber singers concert (happens 3 times a quarter).

Basically, sleep 5 hours and cram for exams the week before. Personally, I use a zoom H4 to record lectures that I have a tendency to fall asleep to. That way I can go a back and listen to them to get the stuff I missed.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478114 02/14/09 11:49 PM
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Originally posted by Kreisler:
I don't get it. 7 classes would be around 21 hours, and 10 classes would be closer to 30.

I have never seen a curriculum that requires that kind of course load.

A 5-6 hour practice schedule is not possible with the kind of course load you're attempting, so either you're trying to graduate early or your academic advisor is trying to kill you. You might need to take summer classes or add a year to your degree, but there's a point at which time management alone cannot fix the problem.

I believe you've reached that point.

$0.02
As piano performer mentioned above,not all classes are 3 credit hours each. Right now I'm taking 12 credits and I've got 7 classes plus my 0 credit hour recital attendance requirement. Breakdown is 2 credits theory, 1 musicianship, 3 music history, 1 choir, 2 private lessons, 2 keyboard skills (score reading, harmonization, etc, pain in the butt), 1 credit chamber music.

Notice there's all music classes, I'm doing that so I don't have to choose between studying and practicing because most classes I take for music don't need study. I think the only class I really need to study for is history since theory I catch on fast to those concepts. Rest of the time I practice.

However, as kreisler said, if you think your classes overload you, take some in the summer and take longer to graduate. If you are indeed trying for a performance degree, then that should be your priority. General education stuff I put off in the summer for when I don't have music classes to deal with.

As far as time management, I get a lot of my practicing out of the way before my first class starts at 9:30 (I'm usually practicing by 7:30), then I go back in the evenings to practice from maybe 6 or 6:30 until 9 or 9:30. Studying I put off until an exam comes around...in which case I use the weekend or just take an evening off of practicing the week of an exam (but not a morning) to study what I need.


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Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478115 02/14/09 11:52 PM
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Originally posted by computerpro3:

Kreisler knows, I believe he is faculty smile
Oops, I appologize. I assumed ignorance of the major because every music major I know of complain of all the work and the few credits earned for it.

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I'm a piano major and run into the same problems you do. My school really sucks because it is one of the more academically focused conservatories. I'm only taking 14 credits a week, but even the 1 hour courses require a BS amount of time. Take choir for example. Friday, rehearsal 4-5. Saturday they needed us to sing for auditioning conductors from 9-11. Monday, rehearsal 4-5. Tuesday 4-6 for auditions. Wednesday, 4-6 for concert dress rehearsal, Thursday 12-1:40 for concert, and friday 4-5. I only get 1 credit for that which is total crap.

Also, we don't even get credit for studio class which is mandatory and 2 hours long each week.

Basically, sleep 5 hours and cram for exams the week before.
Yeah, sounds much more realistic of what I'm experiencing.

Music majors usually only take 1 or 2 core classes a semester where I go. But there are about 30 credits of cores required, I think.

Choir for me isn't quite as crazy, but it takes the time of a 3 credit class, when it is only 1. Of course we have more rehearsals and such as the concert approaches.

I have a performance seminar, that we have to attend 10 of, but is 0 credits. Choir is 1 credit. World music is 2. piano ensemble is 2. Piano lessons are 3, as are my two core classes. All my core classes are honors because I'm in the "honors college."

My fear of cramming for studying is that I'd get less practicing that week, especially when many exams are coming up in close succession. I thought it'd be easier to just study over time, and have a stable practice routine.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478116 02/15/09 12:00 AM
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We all have 24 hours a day.

If you do 6 hours of piano a day, then you have 18 hours left.

Say you sleep 7 hours, that gives you 11 hours.

You need to eat, shower (I hope you do), groom, lets say you don't need to cook so put this at 3 hours.

So how would you like to use your remaining 8 hours?

Some of it will be spent on classes during the week, some of it will be spent on doing assignment during the weekend.

I think it is more of a matter of looking critically at how you spend your time and come up with a workable schedule and STICK to that schedule.

And make changes to that schedule if you find its not working for you.

If you find you cannot do both things perfectly because of time constraints... you will need to make a decision as to which one is more important to you.

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#478117 02/15/09 12:01 AM
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Originally posted by AdlerAugen:

However, as kreisler said, if you think your classes overload you, take some in the summer and take longer to graduate. If you are indeed trying for a performance degree, then that should be your priority. General education stuff I put off in the summer for when I don't have music classes to deal with.

As far as time management, I get a lot of my practicing out of the way before my first class starts at 9:30 (I'm usually practicing by 7:30), then I go back in the evenings to practice from maybe 6 or 6:30 until 9 or 9:30. Studying I put off until an exam comes around...in which case I use the weekend or just take an evening off of practicing the week of an exam (but not a morning) to study what I need.
Great ideas, thanks. Well, I just took two cores this semester because I was only able to take 8 credits of music. The major classes like musicianship and such don't really start until the fall. Luckily I don't really have that many cores left.

Unfortunately at least one of my core classes require reading every week, as does the world music class. But I guess that shouldn't take that long, usually only 2 hours or so.

Studying has never been my strong point (i.e., I never study), so I have no much how much would be required if I would split it up over the week. I'm blessed to be able to learn things rather easily and quickly. I could do without the stress of it, though, which is my point of trying to figure out how much of both practice and study to do.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478118 02/15/09 12:23 AM
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Originally posted by allegro_concerto:
We all have 24 hours a day.

If you do 6 hours of piano a day, then you have 18 hours left.

Say you sleep 7 hours, that gives you 11 hours.

You need to eat, shower (I hope you do), groom, lets say you don't need to cook so put this at 3 hours

So how would you like to use your remaining 8 hours?

Some of it will be spent on classes during the week, some of it will spent on doing assignment during the weekend.

I think it is more of a matter of looking critically at how you spend your time and come up with a workable schedule and STICK to that schedule.

And make changes to that schedule if you find its not working for you.

If you find you cannot do both things perfectly because of time constraints... you will need to make a decision as to which one is more important to you.
You capture exactly the type of thinking and analysis I've been doing.

I stopped critically thinking about how much time I spend throughout the day, because I realized there are minutes going from class to class, checking email in the morning, packing all my stuff up for the day, that seem unimportant when doing such analysis, but really add up to quite a bit of time.

So I started splitting up my time every day between 8:00 in the morning, which is the time I’ve decided I can usually begin my day with regularity, and whatever time I decide I want to end.

Also, unfortunately, 6 hours in the practice room don’t always mean 6 hours of practice. I take breaks every 30-60 minutes, which also add up. I usually go 30 minutes, take a 5 minute break, practice another 30 minutes, and take a 10 minute break. That’s 15 minutes per hour of practice. In 6 hours, that is barely 5. That is, if you apply the ratio of 60 minutes per 75 minutes to 6 hours (which is 0.8), you get 4 hours and 48 minutes. Even if I remove those 5 minute breaks on the 30 minute mark, that adds about 20 minutes.

So OK, taking the average Monday:

8:00-9:00, approx. 45-50 minutes. I need time to get to my 9:00 class and get ready.

9:00-10:50 is my class.

11:00-12:05: 60 minutes

12:05: Lunch

After lunch I have to go to health services for a shot I have to take daily, so I usually get out of there by 1:15.

Let’s say 30 minutes between 1:15 and the time I have to leave for my class at 2:00.

I have class from 2:00-2:50, and 3:00-3:50.

45 minutes between the end of that class and dinner.

Say 45 minutes at 6:00.

I have a meeting at 7:00 every Monday, for approximately an hour.

Let’s say time I can resume practice is about 8:15 by the time I get out of there and down to the music school.

Now it is tricky, because I can either practice until 11:00, or end early and study. Let’s just say I go until 11:00. That’s going to be about 2 hours and 15 minutes when considering breaks.

OK, that’s going to be about 6 hours, so that’s great, but that’s without any studying at all, an dalso I’ll pretty much get back to my dorm and go to bed. Let's say I get to bed by 11:30, and get up at about 6:30 in the morning.

I’m exploring how plausible it is to work all week without any downtime at all, and take minimal downtime on the weekends. I’ve found when I try to go without free time, though, the pendulum generally swings the other way and I just don’t want to work. Then I get burned out.

So, in short, the above schedule is the maximum possible, but unlikely. And that is one of my easier days. Take Tuesdays, for instance, when I have 4 hours of classes, plus a chapter meeting for 1.5-2 hours, which I've been skipping lately, since otherwise, I only really have 6 hours to split between practice and studying.

Believe me, I’ve been through this type of analysis countless times. The solution is either to do less studying, never get free time, or to get less sleep.

Sorry for the long post, but your reply is very similar to the type of thinking I’ve been doing.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
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Pianoperformer: You have to keep in mind that your challenges are greater than those of a sighted piano major. This means that some of the activities required in your studies will take more time than for a fully sighted student. But first, whatever you do, don't cut back on your sleep. Lack of sleep is not only bad for your health, it also affects your ability to memorize and retain things.

Perhaps you should arrange to take a lighter load per semester if you are feeling overwhelmed. I visited your blog and was impressed by how organized you are in your practice routine. Five hours of practice per day doesn't seem like too much since you do take regular breaks. Taking a lighter load and taking longer to graduate (if you can afford it!) will free up some time for relaxation and the study of academic subjects.


"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP
Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478120 02/15/09 12:42 AM
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You gotta stop taking so many practice breaks. Go for a solid 60 minutes, take a 10min break. Rinse and repeat.

My teacher is a heavy advocate of focused practicing - he likens it to boiling water. It takes a heck of lot more time and effort to get water boiling than to keep it boiling. You don't want to get to where the water is starting to bubble and then turn down the heat.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478121 02/15/09 01:15 AM
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How about this instead, your post sounds like you don't have access to piano at where you live, so I will assume you can only do piano practices at school. I assume you can play the piano anytime at music school as well. Or maybe beg the caretaker to give you a key!

First of all, how about go to bed at 9 PM.

Wake up at 4 AM. Eat breakfast, exercise and shower.

Arrive music school at 5 AM and do 4 hours of piano.

9 AM is your class.

11:00 AM-12:05 PM
Do another hour of piano.

Use the remaining time during the day to study your other subjects.

If you wish to do so, you can squeeze another hour of piano practice if you want during the day.

Also, on weekend, you can study your other subjects as you won't have classes then.

I don't know about you but your schedule won't work for me because:

1) I find it hard to do fragmentary piano practices during the day. It is like boiling water, if you cool it down too often, you don't get the full benefit of practice.

2) At the end of the day, I am usually pretty tired, and piano practice is probably the last thing I would want to do. I probably won't do an effective piano practice if I am tired and will be more prone to making mistakes.

So wherever possible I would try to squeeze my practice session into one block and preferably at a time when I can concentrate fully on my piano practice.

In any case, I think it is more important and beneficial to do an effective piano practice.

Obviously, the above is only really a suggestion and it won't necessary work for you, as we are all very different in our work habits!

Good luck with your piano studies!

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478122 02/15/09 01:16 AM
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Originally posted by jazzyprof:
Pianoperformer: You have to keep in mind that your challenges are greater than those of a sighted piano major. This means that some of the activities required in your studies will take more time than for a fully sighted student.
That's true, though I'm not sure how much of an effect that'd have. It even might be a slight advantage in that I already have all my material memorized, so it's pure drilling and technique, and of course reviewing the piece for musicality. Though it's harder for jumps and such since I can never look where I'm landing.

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But first, whatever you do, don't cut back on your sleep. Lack of sleep is not only bad for your health, it also affects your ability to memorize and retain things.
Which aptly summarizes my concern. I certainly can't have my ability to memorize affected for obvious reasons, and I know it can't be good over-all, no matter how many music majors I meet that say they sleep 5 hours a night.

Quote
Perhaps you should arrange to take a lighter load per semester if you are feeling overwhelmed. I visited your blog and was impressed by how organized you are in your practice routine. Five hours of practice per day doesn't seem like too much since you do take regular breaks. Taking a lighter load and taking longer to graduate (if you can afford it!) will free up some time for relaxation and the study of academic subjects.
Thanks. I am a very organized person, which is sometimes to my detriment, but that's exactly why I'm scheduling so meticulously.

Unfortunately I can't really afford summer classes because grants won't cover that. But I shouldn't have many more core classes. I've already taken about 21 credits of them includin gwhat I'm taking this semester.

I think what I need to experiment with is how much study I need at a minimum, and how much free time I need to prevent getting burned out. I've certainly been busier. In the second semester of my freshman year, I pledged a fraternity, so I was busy from whenever I started in the morning, until midnight, every weekday, for about 5 weeks.

I'm also trying to find somewhere to study. As I mentioned, as long as I stay out of my room, I can generally work all day, as long as I bring enough water and also my medication. But I usually study in my room, though, once I step in my room, my motivation drains immediately. I unfortunately can't really get to the library, though maybe it'd be best if I learned how. I'm considering just studying in the music school lounge.

Re: Piano performance majors, please help me learn to manage my time.
#478123 02/15/09 01:22 AM
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Originally posted by computerpro3:
You gotta stop taking so many practice breaks. Go for a solid 60 minutes, take a 10min break. Rinse and repeat.

My teacher is a heavy advocate of focused practicing - he likens it to boiling water. It takes a heck of lot more time and effort to get water boiling than to keep it boiling. You don't want to get to where the water is starting to bubble and then turn down the heat.
Perhaps, though I'm not convinced. I tend to switch focuses every 30 minutes. I find 30 minutes is long enough for just about anything. It's perfect for technical work, and fine for working on isolated sections of a piece.

True, I could just go directly into the next 30 minutes, I suppose. I was just going off of what my piano teacher had said. She said never sit at the piano for longer than an hour at a time, but that she tends to break every 30 minutes.

Also, I fear that 60 minutes of rather technically intense practice may shorten my durability, therefore not being able to practice as long. I can try it, though.

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