How much should I practice?

It’s a question I get asked a lot.

It’s also a question I ask myself a lot.

And of course, there’s no straightforward answer.

Everyone is put together differently, thinks about music differently, is at different stages of their learning, and has different needs when it comes to practice.

But from the parent wondering if they should push their non-practicing child to practice more, to the student who is serious about forging a career in the music business, to the adult who is looking to rekindle the love they once had for playing the piano, it is a very important question.

And while I’m not going to attempt to answer it for everyone, what I will do is share some things that have worked and indeed do work for me.

The best thing I have discovered about practice in the last few years is Mike Walker’s practice cake. A tutor at Sligo Jazz in the last few years, Mike recommends that you divide up your practice sessions into slices, just like a cake. Below is a picture of my practice cake for this week.

The idea being that you don’t practice one thing only, but divide your time up into bite-size chunks, giving yourself more of a chance to focus properly on each before moving on.

So, for example, I promised a student recently that I would learn the piano solo in this piece (50 secs in), and so for the transcribe section of my cake, I slow down the video, listen closely to the notes the pianist is playing, and try and reproduce them, to the point where I can play along with the track at full speed.

So I have a clear goal here, and when I achieve it to the standard I want, I either move on to another solo I want to transcribe, or I replace the transcribe slice of my cake with another area of mp playing on which I wish to work.

More about this in next Thursday’s blog, or if you’re a part of the new private Facebook learning group (especially for students and subscribers to my online tuition site), you will get a closer look at my practice schedules this coming Sunday.

Because we will all get more out of our practice if we have an idea of what we want to get out of it, and shape it to achieve those aims.